Having spent three years in the yarn division and then an MBA from London Business School, Sagrika Jain, the fourth generation of Ludhiana-based textile conglomerate Vardhman Group, has recently taken charge as Executive Director of Vardhman Textiles Limited. Exactly three years ago, Apparel Resources (AR) interviewed her prior to her higher studies which was focused more on her personal performance and entrepreneurial bent but now as she is very much part of the management, this time in an exclusive discussion, she thoroughly shared the company’s strategy regarding product offerings, market and sustainability. And it is heartening to see how she is taking care of the company holistically, not only the business part but also the social reforming part. Sagrika is very well aware of the responsibility on her, so she is immersing herself in this business to become a catalyst to take it to the next level.
AR: Vardhman has focused on moving from commodity to value-added product lines. Apart from regular products, the company has also ventured into products like travel shield range of fabrics, functional fibres to fit in the athleisure segment. What is the achievement in these segments and are you satisfied with the progress? What’s new in the pipeline in this direction?
Sagrika: If we see the last few years, we have achieved remarkable progress. Before 2015, the company’s focus was on cotton and on bottoms. Then once we decided to increase capacities, we realised that to fuel this expansion, we had to diversify.
We have successfully enriched our product basket to include value-added products and offer multi-blends including cellulosic, recycled and different varieties of polyesters, lots of functional fibres, nylon etc. From menswear and bottoms, we have pivoted and got tops, womenswear and kidswear in our fold. Fabric for product categories like activewear and outerwear is very much in our portfolio as well.
We are happy to display variety and innovations in Textrum. To see the full gamut of products has been very encouraging and overwhelming in a very positive way. Though we have made good progress but as an entrepreneur, I think one can never be satisfied with the progress because some form of dissatisfaction keeps allowing you to grow further. So, our strong innovation cell and raw material research department is constantly on the lookout for new, advanced materials, keeping factors such as overall demand and interest of our buyers, commercial scalability in mind.
Moving forward, regarding the product portfolio, some of the major developments are in progress and we will disclose details about them at the right time.
AR: What is your assessment of Vardhman Textiles’ fulfilment of responsibility in the context of sustainability given that sustainability is a pervasive phenomenon and the textile industry is widely regarded as one of the most polluted industries.
Sagrika: Sustainability has been in our DNA even before it became fashionable. And for us, sustainability does not just mean sustainable products or sustainable processes, it means sustainability in the true sense covering all aspects. Right from selecting machines and raw materials, our focus is on sustainability, so every decision in the company has been taken in light of this. All systems are in place for the same, be it ZLD, solar power etc. Our Higg index score is 80-plus which is in the top bracket. A lot of our collections are built keeping sustainability at the core. Recently, we set up a cotton recycling plant, Vardhman ReNova for processing post-industrial waste.
Even if any initiative or project needs some extra capital due to the sustainable aspects, the company ventures into that project without any hesitation.
Similarly, on the social sustainability front, we are very proud of our achievements. We have now reached a female workforce of about 40 per cent at the worker level, Vardhman is among the pioneers when it comes to hiring women for night shift and we have certain facilities which are 100 per cent women-led. We are very clear that we need more women workers because if you look at our social construct also, women are in a ratio of almost 50:50. This should reflect in work as well. We have to be the leaders in society in this regard. We are also quite open to conversations about diversity, inclusion and equity. And we focus on inclusion hiring women from multiple underprivileged societies.
Another interesting initiative is our PACE program in collaboration with GAP where we have covered 2000 women already. The program focuses on holistic advancement of women by covering essential aspects such as health and hygiene, decision-making, problem-solving, financial literacy etc.
Our CSR arm is running a very successful project on menstrual health management called Project Nandini which not only includes hardware such as vending and disposable machines, but also software such as mindset shift and awareness. So far we have covered 25,000 women under this project and have plans to continue expanding.
Overall things are taking shape more aggressively and we are also in touch with experts. In future, our efforts and thrust will increase for sustainability and it will always be the centre piece for us.
Four Generations of Vardhman Group
AR: Data digitisation also has been your priority area. How has it helped you so far and what’s next on your radar?
Sagrika: Interestingly, 90 per cent of the data that is generated is not used and there is no doubt that what can’t be measured can’t be improved. And I am content to say that we are a very data-centric organisation. The major decisions we take are based on data analysis. It is helping us not just in monitoring, but also taking important decisions and this leads to more productivity. Data usage also creates comfort amongst our professionals as with the help of data, things are more transparent and traditional reporting has been reduced.
We are successfully using IoT in our Spinning and Weaving units, thus leading to reduction of maintenance costs. Digitalised sampling and developments helped us to reduce wastage and improve lead time. Moving forward, we are migrating to a more advanced ERP and also extending IoT to Processing. Natific’s Digital Colour Technology is another software we are using that has enabled digital colour matching.
AR: Indian domestic market is growing well. What are your efforts to grow here and increase your share in the same?
Sagrika: We have a mandate that at least 40 per cent of our sales needs to be purely domestic and we have a dedicated design and marketing team for the Indian market. Even in our Textrum event, we had a fantastic line-up of domestic brands and buying houses.
The way big Indian players are growing in organised retail and international brands are constantly entering and flourishing in India, the domestic market will grow like anything. We are proud citizens of India and we believe in honourable Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ push. We have our eyes on emerging Indian brands and our efforts continue to grow along with them.
|Vardhman Group’s textiles operations are spread across 6 states including Punjab, Himachal, MP, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh. With around 1.13 million spindle count and Rs. 9622 crore revenue from operations in FY 2021-22, it has a strong hold on yarn, fabric, sewing thread and garments.|
AR: Going forward, do you want to carry forward the systems set by your family or do you have a different way of leadership and want to set your own standards in the business? What is the major difference in working style and thought process that you see between yourself and the previous generations of the group?
Sagrika: The kind of legacy and the kind of immense respect that Vardhman has makes me feel very motivated to give more and to continue to add value.
I am still getting inducted into the organisation and my journey has just begun. My endeavour is to first learn and appreciate what my previous generations have set, and then blend the old with the new. The systems that they have built up are very, very robust and I’m quite proud of them and this will always be my starting point.
Following an open-door policy and listening to team and being accessible towards them have helped me go a long way because my teams are extremely supportive and they help me grow. In line with my generation, my thrust will be more towards a work-life balance. To give your best at work, your life needs to be wholesome. There is a real business case for it as happy employees are more productive.
As an organisation we believe in manufacturing excellence. My goal would be to also pivot more towards fashion and market forces. I aim to marry our superior technical capabilities with innovation and design.
Another change I would like to bring is in the area of diversity, inclusion and equity by having women representation at senior positions. This is the need of the hour and something that is close to my heart.