Noel Tata, who built Trent into a Rs 1000 crore company and launched a slew of brands such as Sisley and Zara in India, is looking at launching global brands in Tata International, the exports and trading arm of Tata Group which he heads.
Tata International Wolverine Brands, a joint venture between Tata International and US-based Wolverine World Wide, plans to launch more brands from Wolverine’s portfolio in India.
"We have a pipeline of brands. We will launch more brands when the JV is ready to absorb additional brands," said Sanjay Mehra, Managing Director of Tata International Wolverine Brands.
Wolverine World Wide has 16 brands under it and those include Bates, Harley-Davidson Footwear, Cat, Hush Puppies among others. " We will not launch Hush Puppies which is currently managed by Bata," Mehra said.
The JV launched apparel, footwear and accessories under the premium brand 'Cat' from Wolverine stable on Friday and looking to launch another brand in the next 3-4 months.
"The next brand will also have products for head to toe," Mehra said.
In April last year, Tata International entered into a joint venture with NYSE listed Wolverine Worldwide. The 50:50 JV will also had an arrangement with another Tata group firm, Trent Ltd, which operates lifestyle chain Westside.
Noel Tata was managing director of Trent before taking over as MD of Tata International in July 2010.
Tata had successfully launched Zara in India with a JV with Spain’s Inditex group and followed it up with JV announcement with the same group for Massimo Dutti stores. Tata was also instrumental in getting a franchisee agreement with UK’s Tesco to provide back end support to Trent’s Star Bazaar stores.
However, Trent’s venture with Italy’s Benetton Group to open and run Sisley stores in India did not see desired success as the former started winding down the stores last year.
Tata’s stint at Tata International and Trent have similarities. After he joined Tata International, the company ventured into footwear retailing under the ‘Tashi’ brand. Tata International acquired 76 per cent stake each in Bachi Shoes India (BSIPL) and Euro Shoe Components (ESCPL) in late 2010. In 2011, the company acquired 51 per cent stake in Portugal’s Move-on shoes.
However, Tata International had to scale down its footwear retailing venture as most of the stores were rendered commercially unviable.
“Tata has hands on approach in retail and good understanding of global brands. But it is conservative and that’s why the scale and size of Trent and Tata International has not been commensurate with Tata group’s size and scale," said Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak Advisors, a retail consultant.
Meanwhile, Tata-Wolverine JV has already opened some pilot locations and is looking to launch Cat stores in the next two months, Mehra said. The stores will have a size of 800 to 1200 sq ft size and the combine will evolve from there. The JV has targeted 10-15 top cities to open stores, he said.
The combine is also looking at opening shop-in-shops in department stores, he said. The JV has already done pilot launch in Westside stores and is in active negotiations with three to four department stores, he said.
"CAT will be a profitable brand in the mid term," Mehra said. Cat's price will range from Rs 3000 to Rs 10,000 in footwear and T Shirts will be available for Rs 900 and jackets will be sold for Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 a piece, he said.
For the industry perception that Cat is not widely known in India and the JV could find it difficult to scale up, Mehra said: "Customer studies have found that the brand is well known and even retailers are bullish about opening Cat stores."
"There is no direct competition in the segment and we have got very positive response," he said