Cover Story

Made in Manyavar

By Rachna Virdi March 18, 2024

Ravi Modi, CEO & MD, Vedant Fashions Limited, launched Manyavar in 2002 with the goal to provide timeless wedding and Indian wear solutions in India. More than two decades later, the celebration wear brand has redefined wedding wear concepts and has grown to become a reputed business empire with market valuation of INR 32,000+ crores. MARWAR speaks to the custodians of Indian wear Ravi Modi and his son Vedant Modi on the brand’s inspiring and impressive track record.

Weddings being a special occasion in India, wedding shopping carries great sentimental value. With the trend for big fat weddings, there has been a demand for wedding wear for men and women. However, ethnic wear was only for the rich till some years back, as there were very few players in this segment. Ravi Modi spotted this gap as a business opportunity and decided to democratise the aristocracy. In 1999, he founded Vedant Fashions that catered to buyers looking for traditional yet modern Indian wear fashion. In 2002, he established Manyavar, his own celebration wear brand that went on to change the face of wedding and celebration wear in India. Ravi Modi, a publicity shy entrepreneur, and his son Vedant Modi, the CRO of Vedant Fashions Limited, opened up to MARWAR to talk about the entrepreneurial journey, business learnings, family background and much more.

The success story of Manyavar

Born and raised in Kolkata, Ravi Modi developed a keen interest in the business of clothing at age 13 while hanging out at his father’s clothing store in the AC Market. After schooling, he graduated with a degree in Commerce from St. Xavier’s College. With the wedding wear market growing in India, he realised there was a demand for men’s traditional wear but very few players in the segment. Being a typical Marwari, he sensed business and dreamt of making affordable yet aspirational ethnic wear so that every Indian could have it in their wardrobe. Once when his father was on a pilgrimage, he acquired a loan of R10,000 from his mother to source 100 kurta-pyjama sets and sold 80 of them within a week! His father saw the potential and that was the start of his ethnic wear business. Vedant Fashions got established in June 1999 from a 1,000 sq ft space, under the name of his son Vedant who was born in the same month.

Manyavar was established in 2002 as a brand that provided solutions in men’s ethnic and celebration wear. Over the years, the brand became a dominant player in the segment and diversified into indo-western attire, sherwanis, kurtas, jackets, traditional accessories and more.

With more than two decades of catering to a large chunk of customers, Vedant Fashions spiralled into a business empire with an interesting growth trajectory. In 2023, Ravi Modi sold 10 per cent of his stake to increase the public holding in the company to 25 per cent as required by SEBI, the stock market regulator. With time, Manyavar has cemented its reputation across the world with a commanding retail presence with 690 stores in over 260 cities and five countries (with 16 international stores in UAE, USA, UK and Canada).

Being at the helm of this multi-billion-dollar group, Ravi Modi had his priorities set with a clear vision to expand his business from a one brand company to multiple brands under its umbrella. In 2015, he introduced Mohey that caters to Indian wedding and celebration wear for women.

Mebaaz, a one-stop heritage brand with rich legacy of 50 years, was acquired in 2018. Twamev ushers in a new era of luxury in occasion wear with an elevated experience. Manthan was launched to realise the vision of making Indian wear accessible to all.

Decoding the journey

Looking back, Ravi Modi believes that his growing years have tremendously contributed to this stupendous business. "Undoubtedly, my family background has been instrumental in shaping my entrepreneurial journey. Growing up in the ambience of my father’s clothing store ingrained the fundamentals of business within me from a very young age. The hands-on experience of in-store selling wasn’t just a duty. It was my classroom, where I honed my instincts and developed a deep understanding of people. Interacting directly with customers laid the groundwork for my people skills, enabling me to comprehend their needs and preferences," says the mogul of ethnic wear.

From baby steps to taking giant strides, the CEO and MD looks back at the incredible journey of 21 years with admiration.

"These formative years were my playground for understanding the pulse of the market. Witnessing the unmet demands despite a high market need was an eye-opener. It revealed untapped potential and fuelled my drive to venture into the market extensively." he asserts.

Ravi Modi adopted the unique perspective of stepping back from daily operations and involving himself in the growth of the company, and that greatly enabled its growth from a long-term aspect. Today, Vedant Fashions is perceived as a case study for its unique transformation from a start-up to being a leader in less than two decades. Modi’s wife Shilpi Modi is also on the Board of Directors of Manyavar. His son Vedant Modi studied his Masters in Data Science from University College in London, and stepped in the business as the Chief Revenue Officer.

In his father’s footsteps

As an entrepreneur who got his business learnings from his own father, Ravi Modi wants to pass them all to his son to sustain the legacy of Manyavar. "Passing on the wisdom I inherited from my father, I emphasise the importance of cultivating genuine relationships. Our business thrives on the trust and connections we build with our customers and our team. Balancing our cultural values while staying responsive to customer needs is the key. It is about preserving our heritage while evolving to meet the aspirations of our clientele. These principles, rooted in genuine connections and adaptive cultural reverence, are the pillars I aim to pass on to my son to sustain the legacy," he elaborates.

Vedant’s role presently is to manage the consumer life cycle which encapsulates everything from branding to marketing, e-commerce, consumer resource management, and plan the in-store experience. His father meets him at the strategic level for the verticals he handles but the operational responsibilities and the strategy lies with Vedant.

He is proud of the legacy built by his father. "My father’s shoes are definitely big ones to fill in and a difficult task at hand. He is extremely humble in nature. Being born in the same month and year as this company was formed, I have literally grown up in the office, warehouse and factory as my parents would be busy working till late. I was there when the first email ids were created and when the ERP implementations were brought in. While I was not operationally involved, it definitely gave me a lot of exposure into how business was dealt. From an early age, my father challenged me a lot of times and that was a positive learning for me. I would be given a store to manage as a salesperson and based on the performance, I would be given my pocket money," he fondly recalls.

Having officially joined the company now, Vedant thinks there is a lot to learn from his father. "A big advantage that I gained from him was gathering knowledge on people management during meetings. The way he understands peoples’ skills and uses them is a tremendous learning. He tells me that it is very important for a businessman to be good in mathematics and be very data focused. These are just some of the learnings in a nutshell. My father has given everyone a freehand when it comes to decision making across the organisation, and that has given them the ability to take risks, to learn, to adapt to the challenges and to grow in their own space."

The way his father dealt with consumers gave him a lot of insights. "Thanks to him, I am able to have a good conversation with anyone in the company," he admits. To this, Ravi Modi chips in, "The personal touch in dealing with customers not only provides insights into their desires but also unearths hidden market opportunities. It is an invaluable education that textbooks cannot offer. This early exposure has been the cornerstone of my business philosophy and has greatly contributed to our success at Manyavar."

Innovation is in their DNA

Manyavar is one of the biggest competitive models and innovation is the key to its growth. To cater to an evolving audience and to stay relevant in the industry, it has developed a strong brand identity through effective brand advertising and targeted marketing campaigns through digital and social media, billboards, multiplex cinema, television, and live events. "From the technological perspective, we are upgrading our data from simple MIS software to artificial intelligence CAD software. We have rebuilt the entire consumer facing technology and upgraded our consumer resource management system. From the marketing perspective, we had a big shift from traditional medium to digital medium. From the branding perspective, we make sure that the company is up to date. And from the advertising perspective, we have built a lot of aspiration through best in-class advertising using the best celebrities," says the gennext entrepreneur.

Recently, Manyavar announced the appointment of global sensation and global star Ram Charan as the brand ambassador and celebrated it with the new campaign #TaiyaarHokarAiye marking the onset of the wedding and festive season.

India being a diverse country with a rich culture and legacy, product innovations are also taking place as per regional preferences. The stores down south offer a special line of regional garments like the angavastram, veshties and panchakatchams. From an innovation perspective, the Bengaluru store has launched a humongous billboard which is 3D enabled, almost like a 3D wedding happening on the façade.

While catering to heritage wear for a wide age group of customers in different categories, the brand understands the significance of customer engagement. Another big shift is their in-store experience that explores the phygital interaction with the audience. "Wedding ensembles are an important outfit and we understand that customers find it difficult to touch and feel it online. When they come to our website, we collect their experiences and ensure that they book an appointment with us and get our advisors at the store level," affirms Vedant.

Balancing is the key

With an experience of more than three decades in the retail world, Ravi Modi now leads a low-key life in a quaint bungalow nestled on the outskirts of Kolkata, and tries to devote more time to his family and his hobby of gardening. "Beyond the realm of business, I am passionate about maintaining a well-rounded life. Life's lessons have taught me the value of time allocation across health, wealth, relationships, and continuous learning. I strive to give equal attention to these vital areas. Since my early days, I have held an aspiration to measure success not solely by wealth accumulation but by the time I dedicate to myself and my interests. This perspective has guided me in carving out time for personal pursuits, family, and selfimprovement. To maintain this balance, I prioritise time for my health, ensuring I am physically and mentally fit.

I also devote time to fostering meaningful relationships-with family, friends, and the community. Additionally, I have a constant thirst for learning, seeking new knowledge and skills. Striking this equilibrium allows me to find fulfilment beyond business accomplishments and creates a purposeful life," he sums it up.

Manyavar’s vision is to spread India’s vibrant culture across the globe through its spectacular clothing and the father-son duo agrees. "With India spreading its wings globally and the popularity of Indian culture, now even foreigners are stocking Indian wear in their wardrobe. This is one big opportunity to explore new markets. This is the decade for India hands down, and everything about India will have a big role to play. With our culture being so phenomenal and Indian clothes being such an intrinsic part of our culture, this is definitely one of the best times to be in."

The company’s plans for the future? "Our idea is to scale up our newer brands, enter the newer price points in new markets using these brands and utilising all the fire power to truly realise our mission to be the dominant player in the Indian wear space in India and abroad," concludes Vedant.