“We have a Lot of Surprises in Store for Investors”
What was your defining moment?
To my mind comes an incident when in 2014 Mr. Ajay Thakur, who was heading BSE SME approached and convinced us the benefits of a listed company. We were already running a private limited company last 20 years with almost Rs 50 crore turnovers growing at 20 per cent and it never came to our thoughts. He made us believe that yes, we can go to altogether a new orbit. That too easily. Listing changed our perception, gave wings to our dreams. You can call that our defining moment.
- BSE/ NSE Code: 539399/ BELLACASA
- Face Value: Rs 10
- CMP: Rs 186
- 52 Weeks H/L (Rs): 213/ 60
- Market Cap: Rs 214 crore
Please elaborate on the impact of Covid and lockdown?
That was the worst time and it affected all the sectors. No one was spared. But now the worst is behind us and we don’t want to even remember those times. We’ve moved forward and now there is no problem as such on orders and supply front which in fact never was. But you see Covid has derailed the long-term plans. For us, the second lockdown was not as bad as the first one when for three months – April May, and June everything had come to a standstill. We were closed for 90 days last year and from July onwards started functioning with 100 percent strength. It continued but this year again from April to June it has to be reduced to 50 per cent. Now we are fully functioning with the complete Covid protocol.
So two quarters, one each in two financial years, were worst hit – one was completely washout and the second was partial. So you see the production was going on though there was no logistical support to carry on goods to the desired destination. The stock kept on piling as all the malls, shops, and other outlets were closed; even buyers had restrictions to move from homes. Domestically the inventory was dispatched in the next quarter; however, there was no effect on exports. So altogether it was a bad time but that’s part of the business.
You are a veteran in this industry – almost 45 years, and that’s a long time. How do you reflect on the journey?
My journey has been quite exciting as I was always on the move. It has been very satisfactory also to see the result of those efforts. We, as a team, have always tried our best to take the turnover up and up and to scale up our profit. Now when I look back I’m not only satisfied but also feel proud that we really have succeeded at all the fronts and got the required results in whatever we planned. We were constantly engaged in innovation, creating new designs, acquiring new clients, and with a strict financial discipline maintained timely delivery. So I can only say these 45 years were well spent and I’m happy to be where I’m.
But how did it all start?
We used to trade in Madura Coats. Then we started manufacturing bedclothes, curtains, etc. The next step was setting up an automatic quilting plant. The idea came when I visited China and saw the machines. I was fascinated with its fast movements but at the same time also apprehensive whether we could operate it in India. Anyway, I decided to bring it here. They were kind enough to provide training to our staff and thus the first machine plant was set up in Jaipur though we had till that day no orders. As soon as the word was out orders kept pouring in and we were functioning to full capacity within days. Then companies like Bombay Dyeing joined hands and there was no looking back. Later we added embroidery machines to avoid getting any work done outside.
So we have everything in-house. It makes our customers happy as they get all their requirements fulfilled in one place. It has always happened that whenever we expanded our capacity the demand was already more than that. Thus we always had overcapacity demand because customers are impressed with our in-house design team, our quality, timely delivery, and all under one roof arrangements. But we don’t like to depend on a single client so we try to have a good list. Right now most of the big boys are with us like Aaditya Birla Fashions, Reliance, D’ Mart, Life Style, Hyper City, etc. You name and we’ve them.
What changes have you observed in the last two decades?
A lot of changes have happened in these years. Earlier people used to buy clothes and take it to tailors for stitching. They didn’t have much choice to choose from as there was no organized retail. So in a way when retail was organized, it brought a revolutionary change. We also entered in the fray around the same time in local retail chains like Reliance, Life Style, Vishal Mega Mart, D Mart, etc. They are exclusively selling our brands. All of them are good paymasters, following a 7 days’ pay schedule.
How did Bella Casa come into being and how so fast it has created such a strong position in spite of stiff competition?
As I said earlier we were into manufacturing and trading for many private labels, doing job works. Later we created our own brand Bella Casa in 2015 just before going public on the SME platform with Jacqueline Fernandez as brand ambassador. Since March this year, Shraddha Kapoor is the brand ambassador.
We had issued shares at Rs 14 with a face value of Rs 10 when the company could have asked Rs 55-60, the figure our books were showing. But we wanted our shareholders to gain. Now the share is trading around Rs 200, certainly, investors are rewarded well in last 6 years.
To answer the second part of your question I must say that in Gray we are experts since we had been dealing in that for last 60 years. We procure at the lowest possible rates; we get good terms and we are preferred due to our long associations with the vendors. So no one can compete with us. And the same goes with printing. We get it done in Ahmedabad. Here we asked for a 30,000 square meter plot to set up an integrated unit but the proposal was not accepted by Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation (RIICO), as the printing process needs a lot of water. And here you know water is scarce. Anyway, we find no issue in Ahmedabad as we get preferential treatment.
The company is engaged in a vast portfolio – all of them need a continuous change in product design at a very fast speed. How you are tackling the issue?
These days fashion, design, and style change almost every other week. Since we’ve our own design team and they keep creating new designs, new styles so we’re able to keep pace with the changing times. We offer our clients fabrics which they haven’t seen before in the market. Recently we entered in ethnic wear and we’re making waves in that segment also.
What are your future plans after the Covid crisis gets fully over?
My understanding is that the Covid crisis is already over. With a billion vaccinated populations, I don’t think Covid would ever be a threat anymore. So it’s not going to come back as people say. Even if there is a chance to come back its impact would be very mild and it would be treated like any other sickness. Already Covid has thrown back the Indian economy at least two years back. Now our focus is on work and works alone. We’ve already wasted two quarters and a lot of time in getting back to normalcy. We are trying to recoup the lost time and we’ve partially succeeded in our efforts.
Any expansion plan?
There is no CAPEX plan for at least another two years. But after that, we’ll certainly enhance our capacity because by that time we’ll be utilizing the present capacity in full. Secondly, we don’t believe in taking so much debt and prefer to work with our own capital.
How Bella Casa is contributing in the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat Scheme?
You’ll be surprised that now the big importers are getting their merchandise from us. The China route is almost dried and secondly, they have come to sense that everything is available here at comparatively better terms with better products and service. On the other side, duty manipulation is not possible besides the diminishing China craze. So you can say it is a blessing in disguise. No one can stop working and wait for China to open up like it was. They’ve to keep moving so they focused locally and those who came to us are very satisfied with our services. Now, this is what you can call our contribution towards the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat Scheme.
Any plan to venture into e-commerce?
We are already having a massive presence on e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, etc. besides selling directly from our own website. We’re into e-commerce for the last 4-5 years, but recently there is a gradual increase in the number of orders. This platform contributes around 20 percent to our topline so we sell around Rs 40 crore worth of products on this channel.
How you can summarise Bella Casa’s business philosophy?
Our business philosophy, if you would like to call it, has always been to procure new fabrics, constant innovation in the manufacturing process, deliver accurate quality products with modern designs, and follow a timely delivery schedule come what may. All this could not be possible without the creative support of working staff. So we are very concerned to provide all the facilities to our people. They must be paid in time, get the usual benefits due to them, and have a wonderful cordial atmosphere on the floor. I must mention here that we never sack anyone and give them the choice to work as many hours as they wish. During Covid also there was no salary cut even for the period when the factory was closed. We’ve also provided medical facilities to those who came in the Corona grip. So anyone who comes in the premise never leaves it. In this complex, around 2000 people are working, out of that a good number of female employees. We never had any labor problems or shortage of labor. With the expanded facility we will recruit another 500 people that would take our count to 2500.
How you’ll address your investors?
We’ve one anchor investor – Mr. Charandeep Singh, the ex-owner of Bank of Punjab which later merged with Centurion which again was merged with HDFC Bank. Along with his friend Varun Daga he holds around 16 percent of the company. We also have a dozen HNIs holding big chunks but no one is on board. We hold around 68 percent, 22-23 per cent is held by big HNIs, then most of our employees have a large number of shares; thus the floating stock is not much, maybe around 6 per cent only. Whosoever knows us never sells. They know the potential and worth of the company. I can assure our investors that our rating is good and our payout is good. HDFC has provided us around Rs 60 crore exposure but we hardly use half of that. Recently we’ve created capacity worth around Rs 400 crore with internal accruals. Right now we’re hardly utilizing half of this capacity owing to Covid and other obvious reasons. Our financial discipline is very robust. We follow the timeline very strictly, be it salaries, vendors, banks, or government revenue. It is possible as I said earlier because there is no cash flow issue. Also, I must mention that we had been paying 20 percent dividend, barring last year for obviously Covid reason, and it’s a part of our policy.
Please share your projection for this financial year.
This financial year we are hoping to clock around Rs 225-250 crore turnover, next year it should be Rs 350 crore and certainly, we’ll be able to cross the sentimental barrier of the Rs 500 crore mark in 2024.
It will happen as gradually we would be able to increase the utilization percentage which in turn will translate into increased revenue. Hopefully, the utilization percentage will increase around 70 per cent this FY. As one quarter was bad so I can’t claim any figure but if I speak in a layman’s language right now we are dispatching Rs one crore worth of goods each day. If we take it as our run rate then it works out 365 crore turnover. So you see we are in fact on the above-stated journey.