Sanjay Lalbhai is effortlessly stylish. The dapper 63-year-old is dressed for this meeting in trendy nylon trousers he picked up in Japan, an ultra-lightweight black blazer and white linen shirt. “I shop both at home and overseas. I like checking out new brands, apart from wearing my own,” he says. Shopping for clothes can be a bit of a busman’s holiday, though, given the Arvind Group chairman’s line of business – at last count, it had a portfolio of around 30 apparel brands, many of them global high street icons on licence to the Ahmedabad-based apparel and retail major. But Lalbhai’s not complaining; Arvind has come a long way from when he took over in the 1980s. Lalbhai transformed the family- owned cotton textiles company into one of the world’s largest denim manufacturers and then, a few years later, steered it out of humongous debt and oversupply into the apparel and retail business. The strategy is working: in FY17, Arvind Lifestyle Brands clocked revenue of ₹2,900 crore, 26% more than the previous year. Profit, too, has doubled from ₹29 crore to ₹58 crore during the same period. Not bad at all for a company, which at a group level, had a debt of ₹2,270 crore and a loss of ₹70 crore in 2002.
Precisely why eyebrows are being raised