By  on July 22, 2010

As SKNL’S vice chairman and largest shareholder, Nitin Kasliwal has always thought big.

“I had it in me to be the largest industrialist” in India, he said, “and I wanted to create something substantial.”

SKNL’s equity position in HMX Group is one step in that direction, but it’s unlikely to be the last. Through organic growth and additional acquisitions, he intends over the next five years to expand SKNL into a $5 billion business, about five times last year’s level, and the U.S. will play a key role in reaching that goal, through HMX and other businesses.

“The U.S. market is the largest consumer market in the world. If you sell well in the U.S., the volumes are enormous,” he explained. He noted that his firm invested in HMX because it was a “phenomenal opportunity” to make inroads in the U.S.

What sorts of businesses might draw his interest? “My tastes are simple,” he told WWD. “I go for the best. I work to afford it if I can’t [afford it] now.”

Under the umbrella of SKNL — or S. Kumars Nationwide Ltd. — is the 100 percent owned subsidiary SKNL International, which houses Leggiuno in Italy, HMX Group in the U.S. and SKNL in the U.K., and a 74.4 percent stake in the Indian operations of Scottish textile firm Reid & Taylor, which will be floated in India before the end of the calendar year. The British unit recently formed a venture with Donna Karan International for worldwide licensing of DKNY men’s wear.

Based in Mumbai and listed in India on the Bombay Stock Exchange, the core Indian operations include consumer textiles, ready-to-wear, home textiles and fine cotton and natural fiber shirtings businesses.

According to an investment presentation made this month,SKNL has had a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent over the last three years, and expects to double earnings per share by 2012. SKNL has a total debt-to-net-worth ratio of 1-to-1, and a weighted average cost of debt at just 10 percent.

Kasliwal, 49, isn’t ruling out the possibility of floating the SKNL International unit at some point, but said it would be for the sole purpose of “raising cash at a lower level without SKNL giving up control.”

The breadth of its operations enables the firm to reap the rewards of the entire value creation chain, from the procurement of raw materials to spinning and finishing, as well as the manufacture of apparel for wholesale and for sale at its retail sites.

SKNL has more than 10,000 employees worldwide. The businesses in India cater to all socioeconomic segments of society, from high-end luxury to the value chain, but have a bigger presence among the Indian middle class.

Global acquisitions bring the portfolio to 37 brands, including Stephens Brothers, Kruger, Belmonte and the brands under the HMX umbrella.

Kasliwal said he views the “entire world as a global sourcing” base, but he’s also a believer in keeping teams for different operations segregated and focused on the local markets.

“We never Indian-ize our business. Italians work at our Italian firms,” he explained.

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