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Trent buys out Landmark promoter

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Ms Hemu Ramaiah
Ms Hemu Ramaiah

Vinay Kamath
Divya Trivedi

Chennai/Mumbai, April 30 Ms Hemu Ramaiah, the original promoter of books and gifts retailer Landmark, is selling her 24 per cent stake in Landmark to the Tatas for an undisclosed sum and intends to launch her own retail and design consultancy.

Tata-owned retailer Trent Ltd acquired 76 per cent in the Landmark chain for Rs 103.6 crore in August 2005.

Ms Ramaiah’s exit from Landmark Ltd, a partnership firm before it was acquired, will bring the curtains down on her trailblazing effort of setting up, perhaps, the first large format books, gifts and music store in Chennai in 1987 which pretty much became, as its name suggests, a destination store for scores of Chennai citizens.

Kolkata store

At the time Landmark was taken over in 2005, it had sales of Rs 95 crore and four large stores across Chennai and Bangalore, along with a joint venture with the Emami Group in Kolkata for a similar store.

Her brother Mr Natraj Ramaiah, the main promoter of the Landmark chain, sold his 75 per cent stake to Trent in an all-cash deal while Ms Ramaiah sold one per cent and retained a 24 per cent stake.

Ms Ramaiah, Founder CEO, told Business Line that, “I have mixed feelings; it’s almost like giving away a daughter in marriage and you hope they will look after it. But, it’s the only way the brand can grow in a holistic way. For 20 years, we have been market leaders.”

Along with the stores is a flourishing publishing and import-export business as well.

Ms Ramaiah’s consultancy will be called Shop 4 Solutions.

After the Trent investment, Ms Ramaiah continued to be the CEO while Mr Himanshu Chakrawarti of Trent joined as COO.

Chain’s expansion

The chain expanded and now has over 15 stores across cities such as Chennai, Puducherry, Bangalore, Mumbai, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Lucknow and Hyderabad.

Landmark, earlier, had an equal joint venture with the Emami Group for a store in Kolkata, but subsequently, in 2006, Emami bought out Ms Ramaiah’s stake and renamed the store Starmark.

Landmark, at present, has around 3 lakh sq. ft of store space and sales of approximately Rs 200 crore.

At the time of the stake sale three years ago, Ms Ramaiah had told Business Line that a few considerations necessitated the stake sale: to fuel expansion of Landmark, to corporatise the chain, and also to offer an exit option for the future, which she has exercised now. Mr Himanshu Chakrawarti, COO Landmark, said, “I would not be able to comment on it since it is a shareholder issue.”

Landmark plans to add five more large format stores this year to the existing 11 large, 6 hotel and one airport stores.

The total retail space of Landmark Retail is a little more than two-and-a-half lakh sq. ft, he added.

Trent closed on the NSE at Rs 526 on Wednesday, down from Tuesday’s close of Rs 535.20.

The retailer operates chains under two formats — Westside, the lifestyle and apparel retailer, and Star India Bazar, a grocery retailer.

Related Stories:
Trent acquires 76% stake in Landmark for Rs 103.6 cr

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 1, 2008)
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