Friday, December 5, 2014

Will Sheela Kochouseph Led V Star Follow in V-Guard’s & Wonderla’s Steps?

V-Guard Industries stock traded near its 52-Week High of Rs. 1150 today, making it more than a 16X multibagger from its IPO price of around Rs. 70. The combined market capitalization of V-Guard and Wonderla Holidays, promoted by the Chittilappilly family is nearly Rs. 5000 crore, today. Sheela Kochouseph, a key promoter group person, holding 11.12% stake in V-Guard and 12.47% stake in Wonderla, has a listed personal wealth of over Rs. 572 crore. But she is worth much more, as Sheela Kochouseph is also an entrepreneur in her own might, being the Founder and Chief Promoter of V Star Creations, a fast growing branded innerwear maker, that is noted for its quality offerings at significantly lower price points than international brands like Jockey that are available in India. Awarded as the Best Woman Entrepreneur at TiEcon Kerala 2014 recently, will Sheela Kochouseph eventually take her company public through an IPO, is a question that interests many Indian investors, as it has the potential to be a Page Industries in the making.

For a woman, it is easy to be eclipsed by her husband‘s achievements, especially if he happens to be Kochouseph Chittilappilly. That has been Sheela Kochouseph’s greatest challenge ever.

Because, even though there may be bigger businessmen with bigger bragging rights in Kerala, it is highly unlikely that there is really a ‘larger’ business leader from the state. In a state notorious for its anti-business, anti-development attitude, Kochouseph’s success was against all odds.

His success is more sparkling than many bigger Keralite players, as his success is purely made-in-Kerala. He has never been an NRI, nor did he amass his wealth from the Middle East, as is the norm with most highflying Keralite businessmen.

Starting out as a tiny 2-employee firm in 1977 on borrowed capital of Rs. 1 lakh (from his father), Kochouseph would eventually end up taking two of his companies public - V-Guard Industries in 2008 and Wonderla Holidays in 2014 - which have a combined market capitalization of Rs. 4949 crore today, while making his and his Chittilappilly family’s wealth at around Rs. 3465 crore.

And if you thought Kochouseph is famous in his home state of Kerala for this, you are wrong. He is more famous as a social activist and even more famous as a compassionate human being who donated his kidney to a poor person in order to generate awareness regarding organ donation!

Now, how does a wife make her own mark while living with such a legend of a husband? It is difficult and Sheela Kochouseph didn’t have time to think of all that while busy rearing her two sons.

At best what she could do was create and maintain an exquisite house with sprawling gardens in Kochi, and take excellent care for her family. But when her sons grew up, she was suddenly left with some free time, and she started attending the office at V-Guard.

Though the two years that she spent there taught her the nitty-gritty of business, she quickly realized that electrical equipments was not her cup of tea.

A former Calicut University hockey player, and a master of many arts including oil painting, singing, dress designing, gardening, and cooking, this Home Science graduate finally decided to start an apparel company, V Star Creations, in 1995.

Support and guidance from her husband was obviously there, but there were limits.

For instance, even funding from husband to wife was strictly on interest-paying terms.

Secondly, Kochouseph himself had no exposure in garments business, leaving Sheela to fend off for herself on almost all fronts.

Though the firm quickly made a name for itself in the branded Salwar Kameez business, scaling up became a problem, and V Star diversified into women’s innerwear and since then there has been no looking back.

Under Founder and Managing Director Sheela Kochouseph’s visionary supervision, V Star Creations is growing rapidly, and is expected to clock a turnover of Rs. 75 crore in this fiscal, sharply up from the Rs. 55 crore last year.

Emergence of international innerwear brands in India has not dampened her spirit, and she is of the opinion that their entry is widening the market for high-quality yet cost-effective branded products like V Star.

Besides that, V Star is also into exports to some key markets.

She is a stickler for perfection when it comes to operations, and her product strategy revolves around varied offerings, one example being the one hundred different kinds of bras her firm offers.

A globe-trotter along with her husband - they travel twice every year - she has been quick to realize and adopt the fact that innerwear is more of a fashion accessory than a utility wear today.

Her eye for opportunity is also evident in her branching out to leggings, as well as in her plans for t-shirts and track suits.

Sheela is also in the process of combining all brands under the common umbrella brand, V Star, which recently went in for a spanking new brand identity.

While the stock market is delighted so far with the Chittilappilly twins - V-Guard an 16X multibagger and Wonderla a 3X multibagger - a bigger surprise may be coming their way, if and when Sheela Kochouseph decides to take her company public.

Like her illustrious husband and hardworking sons, Arun Chittilappilly, MD of Wonderla, and Mithun Chittilappilly, MD of V-Guard, this mom too might end up a stock market superstar.

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