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The Unusual Billionaires

Case Study: Page Industries

Like all the other chapters, Mukherjea has once again not failed to capture the interest of the readers through a brief yet interesting story of the company Page Industries. 

 

For Page Industries, the roots went back to the Philippines during the time of World War II. During this time, V. Lilaram & Co. (led by Genomals) is used to import garments from neighboring countries and sell them to the Japanese and American Forces in Manila, the capital of Philippines. The most popular among them was undergarments by Jockey Inc. Soon, Jockey became popular with the local population in the Philippines. Seeing these developments, Jockey International gave exclusive license to the Genomals to form a company and launch the brand in India. Thus, forming Page Industries. Interesting fact, the company’s name Page Industries was derived from the initials of the name of promoter’s mother Parpati Genomal.

 

Let’s now understand the company better, by dividing it into Phases.

 

Phase 1: 1959-92

As described earlier, Genomals used to purchase and sell Jockey products in the Philippines. This led to the company providing them manufacturing rights for the Philippines in 1959. Since, the company was a licensee of Jockey International, this meant that it had access to all the innovations the company did sitting in the US. Jockey International was amongst the first companies in the world to display underwear prominently on shop floors, designed men’s briefs, stitching brand name on the waistband, bikini briefs for men, etc. These all had a role to play in expanding Genomal’s business in the Philippines. 

 

To the credit of Genomals, they experimented with the concession model of retailing which is shop-in shop model, which allowed the brand to have a separate identity in the stores in the Philippines.

 

Now, the author moves to India, and tells us that Jockey did not initiate its Indian journey with Genomals. Instead, they first entered India in 1962 with Associated Apparels. However, due to unfavorable foreign policies of the Indian government during that time, the company decided to move out in the tenth year itself. This gave competitors like VIP, Rupa, Liberty, etc. to flourish in the absence of Jockey.

 

Jockey re-entered India only post 1991 liberalization.

 

Phase 2: 1993-97

Even though Genomals had clarified that they had never lived in India or done business here, Jockey International was keen to work with them since they trusted them and shared similar visions and values. The then President of Jockey International, Rick Hosley, rightly predicted that Genomals will lead that biggest licensee of Jockey in the world.

 

Before starting the operations, Genomal toured India in 1993 and researched about the undergarments market with the help of market research firm MARG. The response was positive and encouraging. Thus, Page Industries was incorporated in 1994 and set up the manufacturing plant in Bengaluru.

 

The promoters took a differentiated route on the distribution front. Rather than going after wholesale distributors, they chose individual distributors as they wanted to regulate the sales channel. Their products marketed at the shop as exclusive display fixtures and bold in-store marketing were also new to the Indian markets.

 

Between 1995 and 1997, Genomal built his core team to scale up execution. Pius Thomas, from telecom operator BPL, joined the company to look after finance. Shekhar Tiwari joined from Eureka Forbes to take charge of marketing and sales, and Vedji Ticku, also from Eureka Forbes, joined in 1997 as sales manager for the south zone. Thomas went on to become the CFO in 2012, while Ticku took over as CEO in 2016.

 

Phase 3: 1997-2003

Like all new entrants, Page too had its own issues. The major one of those was establishing relationships with high quality raw material suppliers. The high cost of advertisement too remained a concern as the competition was cut throat on margins. 

 

But, it seems the luck was in favor of Page Industries. In 1997, TTK Tantex and in 2002 Associated Apparel fell prey to labor strikes and both exited the innerwear market, clearing northern and western India market for Jockey. 

 

In the next three years, Page doubled its sales with a retail network of 10,000 outlets. Now, once established, it was now time for them to gain market share.

 

Phase 4: 2004-15

In these 11 years (2004 to 2015), Page’s revenues grew at an impressive CAGR of 35%. The major driver to this revenue growth was the launch of at least one new product every year. During this period, the efficiency of the company as measured by the sales per employee matrix also improved consistently as the company focused on automation, technology and data analytics.

 

What also led to the company's high growth during this period was focused advertising. This also made the company stand out from the new foreign brands that entered India during this period like UCB, Fruit of Loom, Calvin Klein, etc.

 

During this period, the company also entered the UAE market and signed one more license agreement with Speedo International. 

 

Let us now come to the ending section of this chapter and find out the secret sauce of Page Industries that makes it so successful.

 

1. Focus on core business: Genomals have restricted themselves from unnecessary diversifications and remained committed to their business of innerwear. This led them to gain a 20-year extension of their license in 2010 compared to a normal practice of 5-year extensions by Jockey International.

 

2. Deepening Competitive Moats: Mukherjea uses the IBAS framework for this.

 

Innovation

The pace of new launches, quality and innovations in the products have kept the page ahead of its competitors. Representatives from Page Industries, Jockey USA and Jockey’s other licensees in different countries meet twice a year to discuss technology related to product development. Page itself has a 20 member R&D team to focus on innovations. Some unique strategies used by Page are free lunch to its workers, making its own elastic, both of these are uncommon in the garment industry.

 

Brand

Page Industries has well succeeded in maintaining the aspirational value of the brand Jockey over a long period of time. They are very conscious of the price point of the customers and do allow massive discounts by the retailers. Even the unsold inventory is sold by Page at a discount not higher than 40% in the second’s market. They consistently spend 5% of their sales on advertisements.

 

Architecture

Page’s strong relation with the labor force stands as a huge competitive advantage. They also try to empower the subordinates to bring out the best out of the team.

 

Strategic Asset

Mukherjea regards Page’s relation with Jockey as its biggest strategic asset. For Jockey, Page is the biggest franchisee.

 

3. Capital Allocation

The company is very strict with respect to the capital allocation and does not invest in projects that are non-core to the existing businesses. Also, the management has kept a threshold of 20% ROCE in order to undertake any new project. The company is not averse to borrowing, however, they have an internal policy to keep the D/E ratio at 1:2 or 50% with repayment of borrowing within five years. The company has also maintained a high dividend payout ratio of 50%+.

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