Undeterred by the coronavirus pandemic, homegrown outdoor adventure products maker Wildcraft is pursuing its journey of next phase of growth with eyes firmly set on reaching to “the periphery of the country and to the heart of where global businesses sit” during this decade.
The company, which started more as a hobby by a group of like-minded people who are into hiking and trekking way back in the 1990s, is seeking to play its part in the story of India”s self-reliance, even as it looks to raise capital from private equity investors in the next 12 to 24 months to fund its future expansion.
Co-founders Gaurav Dublish and Siddharth Sood, who left their lucrative jobs in the corporate world to follow their passion, told PTI that although they have built the organisation in such a way that they are dispensable in future, an initial public offering to list the company is still five to ten years away.
“As we enter the 2020s, this is a decade which will take us to the periphery of the country and to the heart of where global businesses sit. That was the intent and ambition as we entered this decade. It was almost like taking a fresh guard as we entered January and all these ambitious plans were significantly shaken up when this COVID-19 became a reality,” Dublish said.
He, however, added, “Honestly speaking, it ended up not shaking us up, it ended up in us actually going back to the reason that we came together… the rekindling of explorer, which is always there at the back of the mind but is very rarely expressed.”
Dublish recollected how he and Sood, along with Dinesh KS, the founding partner of the company, went for hiking and trekking in Bengaluru in late 90s, an experience that taught them that an “explorer is somebody who is willing to embrace and not be fearful of the uncertainty and the unknown”.
“For us, this pandemic is contextual in the current context of the economic volatility and ambiguity but we said that if there is passion with purpose in the business then we can,” Dublish said.
For the two of them he said, “It has been in taking the road less taken of being an entrepreneur, exploring the uncertain when you get thrown literally to the dogs when you are hit with a pandemic like this, when nobody can prepare for and coming out of it stronger and more purposeful”.
Sharing the company”s plan for the road ahead, he said, “Wildcraft 2.0 is about the plans for the 2020s. It is going to be a fundamental foundation shift of this Indian-born firm, completely relying on talent in India, manufactured in India taking wings and possibly helping in a small way making an impact globally.”
Moreover, it would also be about “taking this dream of ours of rekindling the explorer and rekindling people to take the road less taken to reality”, he added.
Commenting on funding for future growth, Sood said, “We require capital to grow this business. There is no doubt about it. The source of capital is something that we are not restricted to one. Today there are three sources that we dip into, one is our internal accruals, one is the debt that is available to us through bankers and the third is the private equity investors.”
When asked if Wildcraft will consider an IPO, he said, “If you ask the two of us, right now going public is 5-10 years down (the line). There is a lot of work we have to do before we go and make the company public. There is just too much to be done in this business. We see a lot of potential. They say never say never but as things stand today it is not the first port of call to raise money.”
On the private equity side, Sood said, “We have raised money in 2013 and we have raised money in 2018, as we are now entering a new phase of growth we will definitely need to raise money. How much and when we raise is still up for question but I think in the next 12 to 24 months we will raise something from private equity. Also given the fact that we have existing investors on board, we owe them an exit. So I think that”s there.”
Commenting on how they see their future with Wildcraft, Sood said, “Today the two of us run it because we have in it us to run it but the way we are creating this organisation is that both of us should be completely dispensable to the organisation and Wildcraft should run irrespective of whether Gaurav and Siddharth are there or not.”
Agreeing with him, Dublish said, “We will continue the journey of exploring and taking the road less taken. Whether it is going to be within Wildcraft or outside Wildcraft only time will tell.”
He, however, said the partners are thinking that “at least in the next decade or two” make Wildcraft reach heights and realise its full potential.
They have set eyes on Wildcraft becoming the biggest lifestyle player in India this year, beating global majors like Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Puma and crossing the Rs 1,000 crore turnover mark.
In the wake of the pandemic, the company has also forayed into personal protective gear (PPG) category and launched its re-usable PPE coverall (Hz Series of Hazmats) and protective masks ”Supermask”, deploying around one lakh workforce as it scales up manufacturing and distribution of these new products.
Dublish, however, said the bigger picture for the company is beyond these milestones and it wants to play its part in building a new self reliant-India in the post-COVID era.