By Phyllida Jay| May 31, 2012
Ravi Thakran, from LVMH's private equity fund, L Capital, tells Forbes India that he is applying his knowledge from building luxury brands to other aspirational products
Designation: Managing partner of L Capital Asia—the LVMH sponsored private equity fund
Education: MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
Career: Worked as group president for South Asia, South East Asia & the Middle East for the LVMH Group and director for Groupe Arnault in Asia. Earlier, he has worked with the Tata Group, Swatch Group and Nike.
Interests: Socialising, travelling, reading, hiking, food and wine with friends, collecting art and public speaking
Q. Tell us about L Capital’s recent purchase of an 8 percent stake (valued at a reported Rs 100-125 crore) in Fabindia. Why is an ethnic wear retail chain important to the private equity fund of a luxury conglomerate?
First of all, it is important to remember that the mandate of L Capital is different [from LVMH]. LVMH’s mandate is to be the global leader and absolute authority in luxury. But at L Capital, we’re not only about luxury, but also aspirational consumption, meaning layers below luxury. We believe that the knowledge we have in building luxury brands, market channels, building innovative products and creative solutions to reach the market is relevant not just to luxury. In Asia, entrepreneurs have learnt very well how to produce good quality products at reasonable prices. What they have not learnt very well is how to build great brands. Can we, with our know-how, help these companies grow faster and become more profitable if we bring this value-add to them?
Secondly, we want to work with companies, which are signature brands in their own countries; those that have the potential to translate internationally. In that space, we found Fabindia to be a fantastic company. I believe Fabindia is a great story of a commercial good marrying a social good, a company that gives livelihood to 40,000-plus artisans without NGO and Aid help or grants is a great enterprise and business model.
Q. What do you see as other growth areas For L Capital’s private equity investments in India?
So far, there haven’t been many companies aimed at kids’ apparel and toys; it’s not an organised sector. There is one company Lilliput: We signed a term sheet on Lilliput, but it has been in the media for the wrong reasons.
Q. To clarify, what exactly is L Capital’s current position in relation to the company?
We are closely studying Lilliput now, so we can say yes, we are looking at Lilliput very seriously. And we need to see how we can ring-fence ourselves from any toxicity that has happened in the past, and still build the company for the future.
Q. Why, despite the controversies surrounding it, do you think Lilliput is still worth considering?
The market category is underleveraged and underpenetrated. But this category is potentially huge and we see a phenomenal secularity in its growth trend. Despite all the controversies, Lilliput is a leader in the category. There is a lot of intellectual property out there, which can be exploited to build it further. Yes, the brand has been damaged in the minds of the financial community and the media, but not really the consumer. Would we still do it? Question mark as of now… if not them, we would invest behind someone else; for sure we would want to invest in kids wear.