Ex-Pantaloon CEO Bhatia roped in to head Future Fashion entity

With the sale of Pantaloons underway, Kishore Biyani plans to recruit the services of Pantaloons CEO Kailash Bhatia to head ‘Future Fashion’. The move is an outcome of the plan to consolidate the various fashion businesses of India’s largest listed retailer, into a separate entity that will be listed on the domestic stock exchanges.

Bhatia was perhaps the only non-Biyani family professional in Future group to have a board berth on Pantaloon Retail (India). “He has the required expertise to revamp the supply chain and merchandise of the new fashion business,” said at least three senior industry officials in the know of the development. The group would replicate the Pantaloon format private label strategy through Big Bazaar, Central and Brand Factory stores, which are now being revamped to include higher share of fashion merchandise across the country.

When contacted on his cell phone Bhatia said, “I cannot speak now. I am busy.” He did not reply to a subsequent text message sent to him seeking responses for the story. “We have not taken any decision on the new CEO,” a Future group spokesperson told Financial Chronicle.

Future Fashion consists of fashion retail formats such as Central, Brand Factory, Indus League and other fashion investments held by Future Ventures. Future Fashion will control the fashion businesses of PRIL consisting of Central, Brand Factory, aLL and Planet Sports formats, fashion brands, sourcing and distribution businesses, and the fashion businesses of Future Ventures India (FVIL) consisting of Indus League, Lee Cooper, Celio, Holii, Indus Tree and strategic investments in AND, Biba and Turtle, the group had said earlier. All these businesses would be demerged from PRIL and FVIL to form Future Fashion.

“He is the senior most people in our fashion business so it’s logical that he would head it. This company will be the largest fashion company in India and has good business potential,” said a top Future group official.

Kailash Bhatia has been whole time director at PRIL since April 1, 2010. He is the co-founder of ColorPlus brand, with over three decades of experience in the fashion business. Pantaloons was the most profitable format for PRIL and Biyani’s move to get Bhatia to run the groups integrated fashion business is being seen as a move to focus on boosting profitability in the challenging business.

“No matter who they appoint, Kishore Biyani will call the shots in Future Group,” said Abneesh Roy, associate director of Edelweiss Capital. The bigger challenge for them is to offload the debt burden and bring in a foreign partner, added Roy.

Ashish Dikshit, president of Madura Fashion & Lifestyle will head Pantaloons after the completion of the legal procedures, according to senior industry officials. Future group officials said that the approvals from the courts for sale of the Pantaloons format stores business to Kumar Mangalam Birla are expected to be received by end of February. Till then a joint team of officials from both groups are overseeing the business.