P N RAO (Legacy Since 1923): Ready To Wear; Made To Measure and Bespoke Tailoring

Prittle Prattle News in conversation with Mr. Ketan Pishe and Mr. Naveen Pishe, Partners, P N RAO (grandsons of the founder, late Pishe Narayan Rao)

The brand P N RAO (founded by the late Pishe Narayan Rao) in 1923 had a humble beginning. Although P N RAO is synonymous with men’s suits, it will be interesting to note that when it was founded, P N RAO started as a women’s wear brand catering to the clothing requirement of British ladies who went to the races. 

Could you describe more about the range of products/ services you offer? What is unique about your business?

Over time, the founder’s eldest son late, Shri Panduranga Rao, learned the art of men’s suit pattern making, and the brand eventually branched off into men’s suits; till date, it has remained focussed on offering the finest range of men’s suits. As a full-range player in men’s fashion, especially suits, P N RAO is home to men’s wear collections in Achkan, Business Wear, Ceremony Wear, Ethnic Wear, Long Suits, Smart Casual Wear, and Tuxedos. Over and above these, P N RAO also deals in fabrics for trousers, shirts, coats, and others. Given that P N RAO is best for its men’s suits range, our range of suits is bifurcated into three distinct segments – Ready To Wear, Made To Measure, and Bespoke Tailoring. Accessories like ties, pocket squares, shoes, lapel pins, Brooch, and Handkerchiefs are also sold at all our seven outlets across Bangalore and Chennai, thus making us a one-stop-shop for men’s clothing requirements.

What sets P N RAO apart from other players in the segment are a few factors:

  • History and legacy: The rich heritage of 100 years gives P N RAO the unique advantage of keeping abreast with the changing fashion trends, both globally and locally, and its ability to adapt quickly to the winds of change.
  • Buffet of qualitative products offerings: As the leading player in the men’s business, P N RAO has endeavored to offer its discerning customers a more comprehensive basket of products to choose from
  • Focus: P N RAO has built its reputation as a men’s suit player in the industry and has remained true to its philosophy for the last 100 years. We are committed to offering the finest men’s suits, which are in tune with global and local emerging trends. Keeping the customer’s requirements in mind and their need for a wider choice of suits, our range falls into three segments – Ready To Wear, Made To Measure, and Bespoke Tailoring.
  • Own manufacturing facility: In our quest to offer the finest and most qualitative suits, we have put up our own 15,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility on Bangalore’s outskirts, ensuring the quality of our offerings is always maintained. The partners themselves are involved in the day-to-day business affairs, provided we walk the talk of the vision and mission we envisage.     

Evolution in the past few years in the industry

At a macro level, the fashion industry is ever evolving and especially in the suits segment; the suit itself has changed its course and has emerged as an essential product – be it for the graduation day ceremony, job interviews, important meetings, weddings, etc., a suit has become a crucial element in a man’s wardrobe. Men’s suit itself has witnessed significant over the last 100 years. For example, many years ago, the suit was a combination product. In simple terms, the jacket was different from the trouser. However, crises, emergencies, wars, etc., led to an acute shortage of fabrics/materials. The suit makers/tailors did not have the liberty to make combination suits pushing them to make jackets and trousers from the same fabric, which led to the emergence of the entire suit as we see it today.

The construction of the garment (suits, too) has undergone its fair share of evolution. Back then, the suits, more so, the jacket, was made entirely from canvas. Technology and innovation ushered in “fusing” or “interlining,” giving structure to the garment, a game changer in men’s suits. This technology/innovation also paved the way for the mass production of suits in a factory setting.

Another trend that probably set in about a decade ago is the casualization of how people dress. This, in turn, has also led to many changes in how a suit is constructed. For instance, the suit as we see it today is lighter. Styling, too, has changed over the years. At P N RAO, we are constantly watching these trends, predicting the next wave of change, and designing suits accordingly to stay one notch above the rest and stay true to our core values, one of which is “pioneering innovation.”  

4 Business-to-Customer Success Factors

  • There are several recipes in a B2C business model for success. Most advocates preach universally accepted ingredients for success like customer-first/satisfaction/retention, building trust, etc. As a family business that has been passed on generations over, it is essential to:  
  • Stay rooted in core founding values and live up to the founder’s vision.
  • Continuous learning
  • While other elements like customer-first, innovation, fair profits, etc., are necessary for success, the abovementioned factors make the business more flavorsome and delectable.

How did the company raise funding, or are you looking forward to the same?

Since its inception in 1923, P N RAO has been and continues to be self-funded. We have remained faithful to the founder’s vision and founding philosophy to offer the finest in men’s suits.    

Explain B2C Outlook: Post Covid-19 Scenario by 2030.

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 took everyone by surprise. Undoubtedly, it was one of the most challenging years in history for every industry. The fashion industry was no exception. Declining sales changed customer behavior, and supply chain disruptions knelt a severe blow to the industry. 

With the onset of the pandemic, digital access witnessed an uptick, which continues to reign. However, the fashion industry, which is a high-touch segment, is seeing a comeback to its pre-COVID days. If the current trend is anything to go by, the fashion industry is expected to contribute significantly to B2C. B2C overall is a high-touch segment; the inclination to the touch and feel of a product before making a purchase decision continues to rule the roost and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  

As we limp back from COVID-19, the pandemic has put the focus on safety and sustainability. Specifically, in the fashion industry, we predict that sustainable fashion will be the norm. Sustainable materials, coupled with innovation and technology, will witness an uptick from now on. We’re excited to see what the future of sustainable fashion holds.

One of the other significant outlooks/trends that have already started emerging and are likely to continue in the foreseeable future is the shift from “fast fashion” to “slow fashion.” In other words, instead of buying “more,” people now want to buy “less” but QUALITATIVE STUFF. This augurs well for P N RAO as “quality” is our prime focus.  

Why did you choose this industry over any other space?
The brand P N RAO as we know it today as the country’s finest men’s suitmaker owes credit to its founder, the late Shri Pishe Narayan Rao (hence the name P N RAO). History has it that the Bhavsar Kshatriyas (the community from which late Shri P N RAO hailed) had in them since birth the art of tailoring, probably owing to their lineage and history. The community traveled with the late King Shivaji Maharaj during the war/conquering times from Maharashtra down South to places like Tanjavur (in TN). 
Knowing the art and skill of tailoring, the community used to make tents and clothing for the king and his men, and after the completion of the war, the community made the city/places they were in their permanent dwelling and carried on with the trade they knew like the back of their hand – in this case ‘tailoring.’ Therefore, it became logical for him to continue utilizing his skills in the industry with his first 100 sq. ft outlet on M G Road, today’s prime area and the city’s central business district. And As the classic saying goes, “The rest is history.”
Could you elaborate on the challenges you encountered while establishing and retaining?
Back in 1923, when P N RAO was incepted, the brand catered to the British ladies who went to the races. There were 16 races each season, and it became a norm for the British ladies to want new outfits for every race they witnessed. Later, when the British started to return (post Independence), the founder’s eldest son, Shri Panduranga Rao, learned the art of men’s suits pattern making, which led to the brand branching off into men’s suits and since then has remained focussed in this segment.
Having mastered the art of ladies’ tailoring, branching off into the men’s suits segment was a challenging task for the late Shri Pishe Narayan Rao. He had to source every possible material from different parts of the world and locally. But his determination, ably supported by his eldest son, saw the brand grow from strength to strength. Over time, the men’s wear segment witnessed numerous other players latching on to the bandwagon. Innovation was essential to staying ahead of the competition, one of the core values. Having established itself for its qualitative offerings and building an impressive reputation as the finest suitmaker, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. The fashion segment is exceptionally dynamic and constantly changing and evolving, warranting us to not only keep abreast of new trends but also foresee the future trends that are likely to emerge and continue to upscale our offerings to stay ahead of the competition.
Inspiring quote for aspiring youth.
By donning the mantle of the rich heritage and legacy left behind by our grandfather, late Shri Pishe Narayan Rao, both myself and my cousin brother Naveen Pishe and our entire family have come to understand and it is proven that when you create value for your customers, internal teams, family members and the community at large, you earn the trust, respect, and confidence of people around you. With this as the background, the one line we wish to propagate to the youth is “value creation never goes out of style.” The quote might be small and less than a line long, but this is universal. The fact remains that creating value for “people,” “community,” and “internal processes” is vital for growth, prosperity, and happiness – be it business or personal.  

Do you like participating in CSR initiatives, and what motivates you?

The Pishe family has been involved in CSR in their ways with the involvement of family members, extended families, and the like. Being in the apparel manufacturing segment employing hundreds of people and working with business partners/suppliers/vendors who have employees, we have realized that “livelihood” is their key motivator. The Pishe family has identified livelihood as its key focus area of CSR and has been doing many activities which “holistically” improve the lives of people working in and for P N RAO. Charity begins at home. For us, merely providing them with “employment” is not the end of everything. We see it as the starting point to make a meaningful difference in their lives. Again, as I said to the previous question – value creation never goes out of style.

This article was shared with Prittle Prattle News as an authored article.
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