Woodland might even look at IPO to support their expansion plan

Woodland was started in Quebec, Canada for making winter boots and entered India in 1992. It has been a nodal identity—as a maker of tough shoes— at a time when footwear and outdoor footwear in particular was mostly unorganised. Harkirat Singh, MD, elaborates the company’s current operations and investment plans for brand growth in a chat with Pankaj Joshi.

How does your turnover get distributed across different segments?

Woodland as a brand stands for different outdoor products— shoes, garments— and within our revenue of Rs 1,200 crore, 75 per cent comes from India and 5 per cent from subcontinent markets. We have stores in Hong Kong, China, the Middle East and the Russia-CIS markets which give us a 20 per cent share. Recently we have initiated a tie-up with a Chinese company which has 5,000 stores and for starters we will get access to 200 of those.

All over India, we have 600 stores owned and operated by the company. Within this, there are around 25 being run on the franchisee model, largely in Kashmir and in the North-East states. Beyond this, we have a shop-in-shop presence across 4,000 multi-brand stores. We also have an e-commerce presence which we believe will scale up. India roughly contributes 75 per cent of our revenue and within that 60 per cent comes from our own stores, around 15 per cent from e-commerce and balance 25 per cent from wholesale segment/ multi-brand store sales.

In terms of product contribution, shoes lead the way with 55-60 per cent and garments have around 30-35 per cent. The remainder is from our new product lines—backpacks, belts, bags, shoe care range, bikes, tents, sleeping bags. We aim to offer a one-point solution for the entire gamut of outdoor products. We want Woodland to be identified as an outdoor activity company.

Can you provide a perspective of how you evolved and the current holding structure of the group?

We started in Canada, but since around 20 years the India entity has been the main company. Our Indian company does not have any outside investors. We have separate overseas entities for our Asia Pacific operations, our CIS market operations and the Middle East operations, and all of these are 100 per cent subsidiaries. Regarding our growth, we have seen a sustained 15-20 per cent growth on annual basis over the past five years to our current level of operations. There was a temporary blip but we think 15 per cent growth would be achieved in the current financial year as well.

What is the current investment made in the Indian business?

The group today has an asset base of over USD 100 million. Our annual investment budget would be in the range of Rs 100 crore. Firstly, we are going in for some bigger format stores, which we term as experience stores, which would showcase our entire range. Right now we have 50 such stores and would want to double that figure in three years. You can estimate that investment in 2,000 sq feet store would have an investment outlay of around Rs 1.5-2 crore. We are looking at 30-40 new stores a year. Then is the addition to the manufacturing back-end, where we estimate an annual investment of Rs 20-30 crore. With investments in stock etc, you can see how the figure comes to Rs 100 crore annually. Manufacturing ramp-up is vital to support our export efforts as well. There is growth in all our export markets and we believe we have a competitive advantage through our understanding— designs, buying trends, preferences— which is not easy to replicate in a short period.

How has Indian market evolved for Woodland?

When we entered the market, there were hardly any brands in the outdoor segment to speak of. We were sort of pioneers in the sense that we aspired to build customer trust in a high-quality outdoor footwear brand. Today of course the segment is much more organised and has many brands. There is lots of action, because even big global names are looking at India and China as future markets. We believe that our consistent emphasis on quality is appreciated and will continue to differentiate our brand.

If you look at retail in general, India has a long way ahead in terms of growth prospects. India is a highly diverse market by itself and there is lots of scope for many brands. There is a distinct lifestyle trend that has evolved especially in the past 7-10 years— fitness, travel, outdoor, a youth-oriented target segment has emerged. The opportunity today goes beyond retail and e-commerce to new geographies in India, mainly in tier II and III towns. Outdoor and fitness are no longer metro-based aspirations.

How would Woodland finance Rs 500 crore expansion plan?

We have targeted a four-year roll out for our Rs 500 crore expansion plan and within the context of that time frame we would be able to fund it largely on our own. The contours of investment will be dependent on the individual market opportunities across our activity spectrum. However, if we foresee aggressive growth opportunities and we may speed up our plans, then we may need external funding. In that case, the private equity or IPO routes become important options for us. We are looking at an aggregate revenue size of Rs 2,500 crore as the fruition target of this investment plan. Within that, we do not see any drastic movements in the contribution patterns of different product lines and geographies.

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