P N RAO to reinforce its position as the finest suit maker in the country
Like all legendary and iconic brands that have grown and stood the test of time growing in strength, P N RAO had a humble beginning in the 1923. Founded by late Pishe Narayan Rao (hence the brand name P N RAO), P N RAO initially started off a women’s wear brand catering to the clothing requirement of British ladies who went to the races. Over time, the founder’s eldest son late Panduranga Rao learnt the art of men’s suits pattern making and the brand eventually branched off into men’s suits and till date it has remained focused in offering the finest range of men’s suits. In this interview with Divya Shetty, Ketan Pishe and Naveen Pishe, Partners of P N RAO, discuss the company’s centennial year celebration and their future growth plans.
Could you elaborate on the journey of P N RAO
From a humble beginning in 1923 from a 100 sq. ft store on M G Road, Bangalore, P N RAO has grown to be name-to-reckon with in men’s suits. History has it that the Bhavsar Kshatriyas (the community from which late Shri Pishe Narayan Rao hailed from), is a fraternity of tailors by virtue of their lineage. The Bhavsar Kshatriyas travelled along with the king late Shri Shivaji Maharaj during the war times, who expanded his wings down South all the way to places like Tanjavur. The community would make tents and clothing for the King and his men. Post the war, they made the places they were in as their permanent residence. Hailing from the tailoring background, it was only logical that they continue with the skills they possessed, and thus was born P N RAO. And the rest is history as we see it in front of us.
Please tell us about the segments you cater to and which one is experiencing the highest demand today?
As the country’s finest men’s suit maker, P N RAO has men’s wear collection in Achkan, Business Wear, Ceremony Wear, Ethnic Wear, Long Suits, Smart Casual Wear and Tuxedos. Over and above these, P N RAO also deals in fabrics for trousers, shirts, coats and others. Given that P N RAO is best for its men’s suits range, our range of suits are bifurcated into three distinct segments – Ready To Wear; Made To Measure and Bespoke. Ready To Wear, as the name suggests are suits which customers can try on at the store, and depending on the fitment and fabric, customer buy them off the shelf. At the other end of the spectrum is the Bespoke suits. This category is ideally suited for the connoisseurs who understand, appreciate the merits of waiting for a fine suit. Bespoke suits are custom made for the customer to suit their measurements, fabric and colour. In simple terms, Bespoke tailoring is the traditional method of making clothes based on individual patterns and specific measurements. In between the two, we have the Made To Measure segment. Our Made To Measure suits range gives a sneak-peak into the patterns, designs, fabrics of suits that are available. These are “try-on” range where customers try the suits and P N RAO will customise the suits in a fabric and colour of the customer’s choice with a few fitment alterations.
How is the Indian suiting sector currently faring in terms of meeting export demand?
When we talk about suiting for export, it is important to understand that there exists a difference between “suiting” and “suit”. In men’s fashion space, suitings refers to fabrics. However, “suits” denotes the final product. In this case, suiting (“fabric”), India consumes whatever it products and exports of suitings is largely minimal. However, when it suits, the reverse of this is true. India largely mass produces suits and it will be interesting to note that the 2/3 large suit players are all based in Bengaluru and they export in bulk across the world. At this stage, it will be prudent to reiterate that these large suits manufacturers are all focussed on mass market. However, P N RAO is focussed on Made To Measure Suits and Bespoke Tailoring custom-making suits according to personal taste, liking and requirements. From a trend perspective, globally, we have seen increased demand for custom-made suits over mass-produced suits. We, at P N RAO see this as a great opportunity to reinforce our position in bespoke tailoring.
How has the fashion industry changed over the years and how has P N Rao contributed to it?
Overall, the fashion industry is ever evolving and especially in suits segment, the suit itself has undergone significant changes and has emerged as a very important product – be it for the graduation day ceremony, job interviews, important meeting, wedding, etc, a suit has become an important element in a man’s wardrobe. Men’s suit in itself has significant over the last 100 years. To give you an example, many years ago, suit was a combination product. In simple terms, the jacket was different from the trouser. However, crisis, emergency situations, wars, etc, led to an acute shortage of fabrics/materials. The suit makers / tailors did not have the liberty to make combination suits pushing them to make jackets and trousers from the same fabric, which led to the emergence of the full suit, as we see it today.
The construction of the garment (suits, to be precise) too has undergone its fair share of evolution. Back then, the suits, more so, the jacket were made entirely from canvas. Thanks to technology and innovation which ushered in “fusing” or “inter lining” giving structure to the garment which was a game changer in men’s suits. This technology/innovation also paved the way for mass production of suits in a factory setting. As an end-to-end player in men’s suits, P N RAO has been and continues to be at the forefront of this evolution, demonstrated in the jackets that it makes. The brand offers both fusing and canvas jackets providing customers a choice to pick a jacket according to their liking.
Another trend which probably set in about a decade or so ago is the casualization of the way people dress. This in turn has also led to a lot of changes in the way a suit is constructed. For instance, the suit as we see it today is lighter. Styling too has undergone changes over the years.
As the leading men’s suits player, P N RAO has demonstrated its innovation prowess and has been at the forefront of these evolving trends. Our range of suits bears testimony to these changing trends. We at P N RAO are not only adapting to these trends, but also predicting the likelihood of future trends that are likely to dictate the men’s fashion space.
Kindly highlight us about your green manufacturing facility.
The environment, today is under a lot more stress than ever before due to the damage brought by humans. The time has come to mitigate this and do our bit for a cleaner and healthier environment. In line with this philosophy, we have set up a 15,000 sq. ft manufacturing unit in Hoskote (on the outskirts of Bangalore) that is fully solar powered. One of the major expense that a manufacturing unit faces is energy expenses. By going solar, we are not only reducing our carbon footprint, but the reduced energy bills have a bearing on the price of the end-product that we make. In turn the customer stands benefitted with a qualitative product at the most-effective price.
The unit employs ~ 200 people and with many women folks working in the facility, P N RAO has also put up a child care facility. The company is also imparting Kannada classes to enable the employees to learn the local language. The facility makes suits, ethnic wear, shirts, etc. with a production capacity of 1,00,000 units per year of the above mentioned garments.
To ensure that our tailors are equipped with the right skills to do this efficiently and are updated on the emerging trends in men’s fashion, we have with us Paul Verscegen from The Netherlands, a third-generation master tailor who continuously trains the tailors in the fine art of suit making.
Does P N Rao have global presence? If yes, which country is your major buyer?
From a physical store perspective, P N RAO has seven stores spread across Bangalore and Chennai. Having built an impressive reputation as the leading suit maker and a name to reckon with, P N RAO has customers from far-fetched countries like USA, UK, Australia….to name a few. Most of these customers are repeat customers. We have in our database their measurements, their taste, preferences and therefore we are able to turnaround the suits quickly to them. Customers from these countries have immense confidence in us for crafting the finest suits for them. Over and above these, P N RAO also makes suits to B2B customers from countries like New Zealand, Africa, etc,
Any new product development in P N RAO?
In commemoration of our centennial, we visited each of our mills and had fabrics manufactured exclusively for us.
We created a brand-new collection this year. We will mark our centennial year celebration, made by the respective companies, on the selvedge of the fabric.
We have 20 options of fabric available in different ranges, colours, and designs. It’s something very interesting for the customers to look at.
Some range of our ready-to-wear products will also have the 100th-year logo on them. We will be showcasing our centennial collection on May 25, where we will be hosting people from all around the world.
What sets P N RAO apart. How does it distinguish itself from other brands?
The price point game is not something we focus on. Instead, we advocate providing our clients with the highest quality products. We make every effort to maintain our prices. However, as raw material costs rise, we have to increase our prices. But quality is something we will never compromise on.
Can you tell us about the performance of P N Rao in the calendar year 2022 as well as the company’s expansion plans?
From a humble beginning 100 years ago, P N RAO has emerged as the name to reckon with in the men’s suits segment. Over the years, the brand has grown in strength and today boasts of 7 stores across Bengaluru and Chennai with a current revenue of Rs 60 crore. In the next 3 to 4 years, P N RAO has envisioned adding about 15 more showrooms across South and Western India with a vision to record 60 – 70 per cent revenue growth in the same period.
As mentioned earlier, P N RAO, when it commenced in 1923 as ladies tailoring and haberdashery. In 1950’s the brand forayed into men’s tailoring under the able leadership of late P N Panduranga Rao and since then the brand has built a reputation for itself as the finest men’s suit maker and the first name to go to when it comes to men’s suit. However, coinciding with its centennial year (2023), P N RAO has announced its re-entry into women’s business wear segment. f
Karnataka is one of the seven states that have just been shortlisted by the government for PM Mitra Park. What do you think about it, and how do you think it will affect the state’s infrastructure for textiles?
If statistics are to go by, Karnataka is the second largest textile employer in India. With the state being one of the 7 states for PM Mitra Park, it is a reinforcement of Karnataka’s position in the textile industry. The setting up of the textile park in Karnataka (Kalaburagi in specific), will significantly boost textile production and also pave the way for direct employment to over a lakh of people in the state. The mega textile park will contribute to the development of ancillary industries, infrastructure while also fuelling exports putting Karnataka on the global map in the textile industry.