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Genesis Colors: Success Beyond Satya Paul

Though the company is far from a one-brand wonder, Satya Paul continues to be its calling card

Published: Sep 2, 2013 06:39:19 AM IST
Updated: Aug 24, 2013 12:49:21 PM IST
Genesis Colors: Success Beyond Satya Paul
Image: Amit Verma
Sanjay Kapoor, MD of Genesis Luxury, wants to add 25 stores in each of the next two years

One of India’s largest fashion retailers in the premium and luxury segment is, ironically, not a familiar name to the average shopper. Ask about Genesis Colors and you are likely to draw a blank. But mention Satya Paul and you are on familiar terrain. Designer brand trumps company brand: That is the Genesis business model.

Here’s how it works. Although founded in 2001, the Genesis story began in 2002 with the launch of a revamped Satya Paul. Named after the designer who created it in 1985, the brand had established itself in the Indian fashion firmament before it came under Genesis’s fold. But it was only after 2002 that Satya Paul scaled up to become, arguably, the country’s leading homegrown fashion brand in the high-end segment. And Genesis’s biggest success. It has 30 exclusive stores in India, the largest network for any domestic premium brand, and accounts for 30 percent of Genesis’s Rs 310 crore revenue (for 2012-13).
The scale is unique for the upscale end of the Indian apparel sector which is dotted with designers, many of whom are celebrities but often fail to create a successful business. This segment constitutes about 25 percent of India’s premium/luxury market, worth $5 billion, says Ankur Bisen, head of retail and consumer products, Technopak, a management consulting firm.

Given Satya Paul’s stature, Genesis could have stayed a one-hit wonder. But it didn’t let that happen. In 2008, it created Bwitch, a lingerie brand which is claimed to be the second biggest in its category and the fastest growing. Around the same time, it began distributing premium international brands through Genesis Luxury.

Of the 21 brands in Genesis’s portfolio—the largest of its kind—14 are from the luxury segment and include Giorgio Armani, Canali, Burberry and Jimmy Choo. It has 130 exclusive brand stores in 20 cities, and expects to cross Rs 400 crore in revenue in 2013-14.

Genesis has three founders: Sanjay Kapoor, MD of Genesis Luxury; Jyoti Narula, MD of Genesis Colors, the Indian brand arm; and chief designer Puneet Nanda, Satya Paul’s son, who exited the business last year.  

“This business is not rocket science,” says Kapoor. “It is all about execution.” A simple approach that has made them a favourite of foreign brands seeking partners in India. It helps that Kapoor and Narula had worked at Citibank and have a perspective on cost management. Genesis was not always the first choice but came in after the brands’ earlier partners failed to deliver.

The founders, along with Nikhil Mehra, COO of the luxury division, and Rajiv Grover, COO of the Indian brands division, are a team that Vikram Godse, MD of Mayfield Fund, says is the industry’s best. Mayfield invested in Genesis in 2008. “They have turned around international brands in India because they understand the consumer,” says Godse. This reflected in their search for retail space and in subtle refashioning of the products.

Genesis Colors: Success Beyond Satya Paul
Kapoor admits to failures but maintains that his team’s ability to sustain a 28-year-old brand like Satya Paul, and keep it relevant, is rare.

The central problem for this segment, says Technopak’s Bisen, is lack of appropriate real estate. “Even so-called high streets in India do not have an environment that will pull customers,” he says. Kapoor and his team shut down their high street outlets and sought out the best malls. In most, brands distributed by Genesis get most footfalls, the company claims.
Kapoor made another interesting move last December by roping in 24-year-old Masaba Gupta (daughter of veteran actress Neena Gupta and former cricketer Viv Richards) to replace Nanda. Critics saw this as an attention-seeking tactic but Grover disagrees, saying, “We have been able to reinvent the brand and it has become as popular with youngsters as it is with the older generation.”

One reason why Genesis has not been at the forefront is because it has been focussed on helping sell the brands it sells. Few designers understand the need to control costs, manage inventory and rationalise supply chains. Kapoor says, “Suits need to marry art to make this business successful.” This segment too needs experts in finance and operations.

Many local companies believed that the equity of an international brand would be enough to attract customers and make money. Not so, especially when the customer is well travelled and has had access to these brands for years. Genesis has brought in that understanding without straying into the limelight.

Though Kapoor wants to add around 25 outlets in each of the next two years, he will be limited by the lack of quality malls. “Also, while premium malls in good locations are few, real estate also accounts for our biggest costs,” he says. And this has hurt margins. The Ebitda at 10 percent is half of the international average. But then, brand building is a long-term business.

(This story appears in the 06 September, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Zahra Noorani

    Placed an online order a month back for gifts for an upcoming wedding at #SatyaPaul, and hadn\'t heard anything about it. So, I decided to contact them via email. Got no response. Messaged them on Facebook., delayed response from them saying they are looking into the matter and will get back to me. And that was 4 days back. Called them, and was told I will receive a callback with an update. Never got a call from them. Called them again, and was told that 2 of my sarees hadn\'t passed the quality check and hence the delay. I asked why I wasn\'t informed, and their response was that their system was down. It is hard to believe that a company that has an online presence and is one of the most reputed fashion houses had their system down for a month. Asked if their phones were down, too? Was assured by the manager that I will get an email with a choice of sarees I can pick from and my package will be mailed on Friday, August 8th, so I can have delivery by the 10th. Checked my email all day, and nothing. So I called back, and after hanging up on me 4 times, on my 5th call I was told that the person I need to speak with is busy and could I callback in half an hour. I reminded the person at the other end that I am calling from Canada and it was 2:12 am, at my end. Finally was transferred to the Gurmeet, and she told me she was emailing me in the next 30 minutes. Checked my email, and the email stated that she was having technical issues and couldn\'t attach the pictures. Also requested me to be patient. I\'ve not experienced such poor customer service for an online order, ever. This is a first. It is definitely unacceptable that a fashion house this reputable, has no accountability. Appalled and disappointed with the lack of courtesy and customer service. If anyone has an idea how to resolve this, it would be greatly appreciated.

    on Aug 7, 2014
  • S M Khalid

    Need improvement in customer service n the quality of the product. Some of The products which are available at your stores are not value for money, as per my opinion the quality team are not doing their job or they are underperforming. Hope my comment will definitely help in the improvement of quality of the product n improvement in the quality department.

    on Jul 9, 2014
  • Ani

    I handpaint sarees, wish to work with you. Please guide

    on Nov 1, 2019