Bought a Ralph Lauren linen shirt? Or one from Tommy Hilfiger? Chances are the linen would have been made in Kerala by an Irish linen company WFB Baird and Co.

The Irish company that dates back to 1912 is one of the world’s oldest linen makers in the world and has been manufacturing in India since 2005, as an export oriented unit (EoU). Its three factories, spread across Kochi and Erode, supply to global brands and retailers. But now the largely B2B player is upping its domestic focus with its own brand Burgoyne.

William James Burgoyne Baird, the fourth generation scion of the founder of the premium Irish linen brand and current chairman was recently in Kochi. He talked about the growing fascination for white linen shirts in the Indian market and how it spelt opportunity for manufacturers.

William James Burgoyne Baird

William James Burgoyne Baird

“We came to India in 2005 only to set up a 100 per cent EoU. Seeing India as a huge market for linen, we entered the domestic market around 10 years back and have been growing. We are now in the process of introducing an affordable fabric blended with linen and plan to sell the brand through e-commerce route. To increase the product visibility, the company will soon have its physical presence in all the metro cities,” said Baird.

Suchitra Menon, Director and CEO of the company said that Burgoyne is now present in at least 3,000 stores across the country. In the B2B business, the company supplies linen fabric globally to premium retailers like Ralph Lauren, Polo, Banana Republic, Levis, Uniqlo, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Marks & Spencer.

In India, it supplies to players like Madura, Arvind Brands, Blackberry, Benetton, Pepe, Reliance, Myntra and Rare Rabbit.

Burgoyne Shirts

Burgoyne Shirts

But why did the Irish brand choose India as a manufacturing location? It was late Captain Krishnan Nair of the Leela Group who was instrumental in bringing the company to God’s Own Country as his textile business had an arrangement with WFB Baird and Co, and helped set up its first plant in Cochin Special Economic Zone. “When we started off, the business was $10 million that too purely B2B. Later we ventured into domestic business with our own brand Burgoyne, and the group revenue is expected to touch $100 million by the end of the current fiscal,” reveals Baird.

He adds, “We are also looking at widening our customer base into new geographies including Australia, South America and the Far East as part of global expansion.”

The global linen market size is estimated to be worth $806.7 million in 2022 and forecast to reach $1525.3 million by 2028 according to industry reports. China is the leader in linen manufacturing. While Europe is traditionally the big linen consumption market, India is the fastest growing. Burgoyne is in the right place — if it can thread its way well.