After almost a decade after acquiring the “Pantaloons” brand along with a dozen or more in-house Private Labels from Kishore Biyani’s Future Group, Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Ltd. (ABFRL) has finally changed the brand’s retail identity with the opening of it’s 73rd Store at Bongaigaon in Assam. The company operates over 360 outlets across India
In 1997, Kishore Biyani and his cousins opened one of India’s first “Department store” at Ballygunge in the erstwhile Kolkata. Pantaloons was actually a varied way of pronouncing “patloon” which in colloquial Hindi language means trousers. The company used to make pant-lengths in the early 90s which Kishore and his brothers would go and sell on their scooters to MBOs – multi brand outlets which would sell material for shirts and trousers, which would then get stitched by neighbourhood tailors. The business was usually at its peak during Indian festivals when consumers would but the clothes and would get them stitched. During wedding seasons, the “cost of stitching” would go up due to peak demand. Ironically, the same company which sold trouser and shirt lengths went on to become India’s largest and most popular apparel retail chain with multiple formats such as Pantaloons, Central Department Stores and most lately, FBB – Fashion at Big Bazaar to cater to Tier 3/4/5 markets.
ABFRL acquired Pantaloons for Rs. 1,600 Crores which would help Kishore Biyani pare debt back then. With a handful of brands under its kitty such as Louis Philippe, Van Heusen and Peter England, Aditya Birla has been on an acquisition spree with ace designer labels Tarun Tahiliani and Sabyasachi being the latest, setting clear the market leadership in branded apparel retail, with direct competition coming from Arvind Mills and Reliance Brands. The company has been building muscle in the offline and online space, striking a strategic partnership with Walmart owned Flipkart in which the latter took a 7.8% stake for Rs. 1,500 Cr. to strengthen its portfolio of Flipkart Fashion. With newer stores of Pantaloons and a host of International brand stores such as Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, Simon Carter and so on, the group seems to be getting ready for a full fledged “phygital” model of retailing in the years to come.