Raymond disrupts 95-year old legacy

The makers of ‘the complete man’ are transforming from inside to stay two steps ahead in future business.


From British India to Free India and now Tech India, Raymond has seen it all. Born in 1925 and now just a few years left to complete a century, the Company has transformed from being an Indian textile business to a global conglomerate.

In possession of a robust legacy, how do they stay agile in the disruptive era? Aren’t legacy and agility two sides of a coin, or rather, parallel tracks of a railway engine that can never meet? HRKatha spoke to K A Narayan, president – HR at Raymond, who has led the workforce for over a decade.

Raymond, synonymous with ‘The Complete Man’, is creating powerful women leaders to work shoulder to shoulder with men in the organisation. Gender-inclusive workforce features in all powerful business trends. In fact, only by achieving that can a company expect to get on the fast lane to success.

Raymond launches ‘Shakti’

Shakti is a mythological character that embodies the active feminine energy of Shiva and is regarded as the great divine mother. In an exclusive interview with HRKatha, Narayan explains the purpose of Shakti and how it has helped them create powerful women leaders.

“We believe that every woman has infinite energy (Shakti), and through an innovative programme called ‘Shakti’, we inspire them to manifest the same. The dual objective of ‘Shakti’ is to create powerful women leaders and develop men leaders to use that feminine energy,” narrates Narayan.

Narayan hits the bull’s eye when he points that the problem with diversity at work is a result of women leaders hitting a glass ceiling. In the corporate hierarchy, many women hold positions till the GM level but above that the numbers diminish rapidly.

K Narayan

“We believe that every woman has infinite energy (Shakti), and through an innovative programme called ‘Shakti’, we inspire them to manifest the same. The dual objective of ‘Shakti’ is to create powerful women leaders and develop men leaders to use that feminine energy”

‘Shakti’, which is now in its third month, promises to inspire more than 150 leaders through powerful sessions. Different forms of ‘Shakti’ or the energy possessed by Durga, are tapped and focussed on each month. The purpose of this nine-month programme is to develop the same energies (one character each month) in each of the women in the workforce.

‘Shakti’s’ success depends upon the mindset of the men in the organisation. “We are sensitising the men to deal with biases and understand women better. Though it is too early to talk about the outcome, discussions with senior management teams are helping us identify and reform biased attitudes— from hiring and promotion to giving them importance in meetings. This, along with feedback from women is helping us create a circle of action,” enthuses Narayan.

New Raymond

Directly relating employee engagement to business outcome, the new Raymond has seen phenomenal growth. It has looked at key business deliverables and based its engagement initiatives around that. Based on an extensive survey of employee feedback, new polices were formulated to transform the culture and in the last five years the market cap has trebled.

There is enough objective proof that employee-engagement initiatives have helped improve performances and that has taken the growth curve upward.

The Company is persevering to create a talent pipeline for functions and business to disrupt its processes. “We are looking at creating a pool of 20–25 young leaders over the two to three years. There is a robust selection process in place for it with a three-fold approach of three Es— education, experience and exposure,” explains Narayan.

Raymond has curated a separate offering to create functional and business leaders through learning programmes at Cambridge University, stints outside the industry, and association with NGOs to create holistic leaders. The programme is divided into phases. The first nine-month phase is over and now the second phase is on. The Company has tied up with Cornell University, and sent a cohort of 20–25 people for a field immersion to understand different markets and the latest developments in the retail and digital spaces.

The purpose behind the leadership development initiative is to create futuristic competent leaders for the 2020 road map. In Narayan’s words, “In the last four years, we have had to do critical lateral hiring for the top leadership roles, but now we want to be more prepared for the future. Not only has our organic growth been great, but we are extremely bullish about the future. With new business initiatives on the cards, it is imperative that we develop future leaders to keep our position intact in the fast lane of growth,” concludes Narayan.

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