Mumbai , July11 () : Dhirubhai Ambani’s textile brand Vimal is put up for sale by his son Mukesh. Vimal accounts for only around one per cent of the Rs 4,37,331-crore Reliance empire contributing 3,900 crore.
In mid 70’s ‘Only Vimal’ brand was launched with the then-reigning actresses Sridevi and Jaya Prada as brand ambassadors. It was the first time movie actresses appeared in fabric advertisements. Mudra ad agency was given the job to promote the brand. It went in for an extensive promotion through TV ads for the suiting and shirting range. It was the first for fabric ads in India.
In mid 80’s, Anil Ambani took over the brand and dropped the tag only and opened up 5000 -10,000 sq.ft retail outlets for Vimal, a first in marketing of fabrics in India. It roped in cricketers for the ads and featured Ravi Shastri, Allan Border and Vivian Richards. It even sponsored the cricket World cup and named it Reliance Cup.
Digjam, Siyarams and Raymonds in the suiting business entered the market at the right moment with readymade garments (RMG) but Vimal who entered first with RMG could not get the response it was looking for. Vimal closed its saree manufacturing unit. It started ignoring the domestic market and moved on to exports.
Early 2000 saw attempts to revive the brand by pumping in Rs 3 crore ad spend but it did not help. After Ambani brothers’ split, Mukesh Ambani’s RIL who got Vimal moved to investments in technical textiles and ignored retail. Much of the investment went into R&D which came up with a fabric that is fungus resistant. With no marketing plans, the plant situated across a built-up area of 301,000 sq metres continues to manufacture about 20 million metres per annum, or 50,000 metres per day, of polyester wool and woollen, polyester viscose and woollen fabrics for the Vimal brand.
A strike demanding 60% wage hike in February finally made Mukesh ask NM Rothschild to find a buyer for textile division and Vimal brand. Without clinging to nostalgia or thinking that this was the first business that his father started and was the foundation of the empire, Mukesh probably saw no reason to keep barely break even with a textile company along with his billion dollar petrochemicals and telecommunications business.