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March 27, 2000


The Rediff Business Interview/V Krishnan

'Clinton wears our T-shirts. We rule the export market. Nothing can stop us from succeeding in India now'

A product of GTN Textiles, Hyderabad When Bill Clinton visited Hyderabad, focus was largely on the infotech industry. But one city-based apparel firm, GTN Textiles Limited, suddenly made news: T-shirts made by it are acquired by an American firm that sells them under the famous Cutter & Buck brand. This is the brand that Clinton the golfer wears.

Email this report to a friend So much so that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Naidu, while making his presentation to Clinton at a CII-organised meet in Hyderabad, chose to project this as an instance of the Hyderabadis' world class entrepreneurial ability. GTN's cotton mercerised cotton clothing, it transpires, matches world standards.

T-shirt made by GTN Textiles of 'Cyberabad' Clinton carried back with him not only the sweet memories of Cyberabad's Deccani hospitality, but also two pairs of Cutter & Buck golf T-shirts presented to him by Naidu.

The company is planning a marketing blitz to cash in on the awareness created by the Clinton visit.

V Krishnan, general manager, GTN Textiles, spoke to Syed Amin Jafri, on the Patodias who own the firm, GTN's clothing line, and the spirit of the Indian enterprise.

When and how did GTN Textiles get into the exports business?

GTN Textiles Limited is a 34-year-old company; it was established in 1966. Till five years ago, it was exclusively into cotton yarn. That is still our core business. Cotton yarn has been the company's bedrock. The company continues to be the national leader in fine-count cotton yarn exports. It has won the Textile Export Promotion Council Award for the best export effort in fine-count cotton yarn since 1984. GTN Textiles's machinery

In 1995, the company got into the mercerising business. Mercerised cotton has greater lustre and sheen than normal cotton yarn. It is a linear yarn. It involves a tedious refining process. It is the best and purest form of cotton. Mercerised cottons are usually used in the West and the affluent East for lifestyle garments, golf and yachting garments, and party-wear. Mercerised cotton looks quite like silk.

How was it that GTN got the Cutter & Buck connection?

For the first two-and-a-half years after we set up the mercerising facility, we exported mercerised yarn only. Mercerised yarn consumers are high-end consumers. We started knitting and weaving in the last two-and-a-half years and got into garments recently. We gravitated towards golf and yachting apparel for value-addition.

Down the line, we met Cutter & Buck -- which owns a leading golf-wear brand. It is one of the top accredited golf brands, which include Bobby Jones, Greg Norman, etc. It is the highest unit-value product with price realisation ranging between $85 and $140 per garment. We went on to have tie-ups with AM Player, the French brand Yves Saint Laurent and other brands like Lerros and Louis Estere.

GTN has entered the domestic market as well with its golf and lifestyle wear shirts recently.

We made a foray into the domestic market, too, with the launch of our Cotstyle; 100-per cent cotton mercerised brand, just a few months ago. We make the domestic and export merchandise with the same material and same care. In Europe and America, the price ranges between $50 and $125 per garment. The domestic prices range between Rs 750 and Rs 1,200 per garment. Cotstyle is a men's shirt range for party and occasional wear, a kind of foreign-specific brand with very fine cottons produced for the first time in India. Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton is said to wear shirts made by your company.

American President Bill Clinton wears Cutter & Buck shirts. Presently, these double-mercerised golf shirts are being exclusively made by GTN in Hyderabad. It was a month ago that Cutter & Buck's vice-president John Wrinkle, during a visit to the city, told us about the President's preference for their brand of shirts, particularly for the T-shirts that are manufactured by us.

When told that Clinton uses these shirts, we took the opportunity to inform Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu about it. We made four especially crafted shirts and the chief minister during the US President's trip to Hyderabad presented these to Bill Clinton. The chief minister was generous enough to mention at the Hitec City function that Clinton uses these shirts. We are proud that our garments find a place in the US President's wardrobe. GTN Textiles unit in Hyderabad

What are the GTN investments now? What are its exports and domestic turnover?

Our model garment unit was set up a few years ago. About Rs 30 million was the ballpark amount invested in the garmenting unit. Our core competence is in very high-quality yarn and the mercerising process.

The overall investment in our production facilities is Rs 1.40 billion. We have 140,000 spindles spread across four locations -- Hyderabad, Nagpur, Palghat and Kochi. We have mercerising unit in Shadnagar, south of Hyderabad. We do the knitting at Patancheru, weaving in Medchal and garment-making in Balanagar, all in and around Hyderabad.

We have taken the domestic initiative in 1999. The international market will continue to be our major focus in the short-term. We source the best cottons from all over the world: Egyptian Giza, American Pima, cottons from Australia, etc. We make very fine yarn and our quality is our unique selling proposition or USP.

In the year ended March 1999, the company had a turnover of Rs 3.20 billion. Eighty-five per cent of this was from exports. Garment exports fetched Rs 100 million last year. The figure may go up to Rs 250 million in the current financial year, which closes on March 31, 2000.

GTN Textiles is still a marginal operator in the domestic garments sector. What are your plans to make it a key player?

The garment unit has the capacity to manufacture 75,000 garments per month and this business is picking up. We intend to make substantial progress on this front. As we move towards a free market and quota regimes are done away with in four years from now, export revenues will fetch 75 per cent and domestic sales 25 per cent of our turnover.

We don't have any competition in our niche at the moment. There are some big names like the Madura brands, Zodiac, etc, in the branded shirt segment, but they are not exclusively in the mercerised cottons sector. We are very fibre-specific brand. We would actually be looking for shelf space along with them.

Does GTN have technical or financial collaboration with foreign firms?

As of today, we do not have any collaboration with anyone. Apart from very distinctive product, we initially had collaboration with Italians, the acknowledged world leaders in this segment, in terms of process and technology and fashioning of the garments.

We have the necessary edge in supply chain and product quality. Our ability for turnaround in designs is higher. It should bring up more editions and repeat orders with great frequencies.

Cotstyle is our baby. We would like to make the baby stand and walk. When it starts doing that, we will have options of expansion through brand extension or introduction of new brands.

We have the most modern, state-of-the-art mercerised unit. Our company is very strong financially. We are a publicly listed company with very strong fundamentals and financials. We have felt no need to rope in a foreign collaborator or investor so far.

Who could be your competitors in the domestic segment in the coming months?

I don't see anybody posing any competition. The mercerised cotton segment is a highly process-centric segment. You should be passionate enough to be there and good at that. Ours is an extremely product-centric business with the mercerised yarn refined beyond any other cotton yarn.

We don't see any proliferation in the domestic market. It is going to be a niche market for us. We are ready and strong enough to take on any competition. It will be very difficult for foreign brands to come to India and match our prices. They are mainly brand-focussed and not process-centric, unlike us.

At present, we make shirts and T-shirts. During the year 2000, we will certainly introduce three more products -- trousers, socks and jackets. We will also have adaptations for women's wear.

Which are your export markets?

We are a major exporter to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the US and Canada. We are also quite dominant in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. By the year-end, we will be exporting to Ireland also, though we don't have much of a presence in the UK. We also plan to enter the South American markets soon.

The Patodias, promoters of GTN Textiles

Who are the men behind the GTN's success story?

I would attribute the company's success to B K Patodia, vice-chairman and managing director (left, in the photograph alongside), who is based in Bombay, and M K Patodia, managing director, who is based in Hyderabad. Thanks to them, the company has been doing so well.

It is M K Patodia who devoted lots of his time and passionately worked for setting up the mercerised cotton facility: a visionary move into a business that has begun to pay so handsomely. We have a very strong presence in the exports market right now and nothing stops us from emerging as a dominant force in the domestic market.


GTN Textiles Web site

Clinton's favourite: GTN's collection of t-shirts

Cutter & Buck Web site


Bill Clinton's India visit: full


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