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Samsonite to focus on Latin America, says next CEO Ramesh Tainwalat

Samsonite to focus on Latin America, says next CEO Ramesh Tainwalat

Posted by Juan Gavasa on September 03, 2014

In 1981, luggage maker VIP IndustriesBSE 0.71 % rejected a management trainee job applicant, something quite routine for Asia's largest luggage maker. But three decades on, VIP has to fight to protect its market share against a company headed by that very individual. Ramesh Tainwala—the rejected candidate 33 years ago—will take over as the chief executive officer of Samsonite, the world's largest travel luggage company, on October 1.

Samsonite's global turnover is 12 times larger than VIP's, and in India it equals the latter's net sales. "When I got rejected, it made me more curious about the industry. It was like when a child is denied an ice cream and he craves for it," Tainwala told ET in his first interview after Samsonite announced his promotion as global chief last week.

However, Latin America and not India will be the immediate focus of Tainwala, 55, whose mandate once he takes the reins is to more than double the US multinational's revenues to $5 billion by 2020 from $2.1 billion now with an operating profit of 20%. "Brazil is ten times smaller than the Indian business. We need to change that especially by using India specific learnings," he said.

The BITS Pilani post graduate admits that a lot of what he has learnt about consumer behavior comes from Bollywood. "Movies predict human behavior both at the emotional as well as rational level," says this self-confessed movie buff who claims to watch more than a dozen movies every week, and more when he hops on a long-distance flight.

Tainwala plans to infuse more bright colours in Samsonite's merchandise assortment after noticing that leading film actors are now embracing such colours comfortably onscreen.

Samsonite, which also sells American Tourister brand of luggage, has had its share of struggle in India when it entered the country in early 90's. In fact, Tainwala — originally an entrepreneur in the plastic processing and consumer goods industry and a vendor to the luggage behemoth — signed a 40-60 joint venture with Samsonite nearly 20 years ago to form Samsonite South Asia Pvt Ltd when the American firm was on the verge of exiting India.

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