Noel Tata does a Trent at Tata International

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 05, 2013 05:08 hrs


Noel Tata, who had built Trent into a Rs 1,000-crore company and launched a slew of brands in India such as Sisley and Zara, is now considering launching global brands from Tata International, the exports and trading arm of the Tata Group.


Tata International Wolverine Brands, a joint venture (JV) of Tata International and US-based Wolverine WorldWide, 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.

Before taking charge as managing director of Tata International in July 2010, Noel Tata was managing director of Trent.

Wolverine WorldWide has 16 brands, including Bates, Harley-Davidson Footwear, Cat and Hush Puppies. “We will not launch Hush Puppies, currently managed by Bata,” Mehra said.

On Friday, the JV had launched apparel, footwear and accessories under Wolverine’s premium brand Cat. It is considering launching another brand in the next three to four months. “The next brand will also have products for head to toe,” Mehra said.

In April 2012, Tata International had entered into a JV with New York Stock Exchange-listed Wolverine Worldwide. The 50:50 JV has an arrangement with Trent, which operates lifestyle chain Westside.

Noel Tata had launched the Zara brand in India through a JV with Spain’s Inditex group. He had followed this with another JV with the Inditex group, for Massimo Dutti stores. Tata was also instrumental in signing a franchisee agreement with UK’s Tesco to provide back-end support for Trent’s Star Bazaar stores.

Trent’s venture with Italy’s Benetton Group to run Sisley stores in India, however, didn’t see much success.

After Tata joined Tata International, the company ventured into footwear retail, under the Tashi’ brand. In late 2010, Tata International acquired 76 per cent stake each in Bachi Shoes India and Euro Shoe Components. In 2011, the company acquired a 51 per cent stake in Portugal’s Move-on shoes.

Tata International had to scale down its footwear retailing venture, as most of the stores were rendered commercially unviable.

“Tata has a hands-on approach in retail and a good understanding of global brands. But he is conservative, and that’s why the scale and size of Trent and Tata International have not been commensurate with the Tata group’s size and scale,” said Arvind Singhal, chairman of Technopak Advisors, a retail consultant.

Meanwhile, the Tata-Wolverine JV has chosen a few pilot locations and is considering opening Cat stores in the next two months, Mehra said. The stores would have a size of 800-1,200 sq ft. The JV was targeting 10-15 top cities, he added. The JV also planned to adopt the shop-in-shop’ format in department stores, he said, adding a pilot project had already been launched in Westside stores and the JV was in talks with three to four departmental stores.

“Cat will be a profitable brand in the mid term,” Mehra said. For Cat footwear, prices would range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 10,000, while T-shirts would be available for Rs 900. Jackets would be sold for Rs 3,000-4,000 a piece, Mehra said. On the perception that Cat wasn’t widely known in India and the JV would find it difficult to scale up, he said, “Customer studies have found the brand is well known and even retailers are bullish about opening Cat stores.”

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