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Radhakishan Damani, the force behind the bullish run of D-mart. He is known as the Mr. White and White and The Silent Operator. The monikers go a long way in explaining the man behind the curtains.
Mr. Radhakishan Damani eclipsed long term billionaires like Anil Ambani in the past few days. His net worth rose skyward when his project listed on the bourses. He is worth USD 6 billion today yet the reticent man has been seldom heard from. The list of interviews or T.V appearances of the retail mogul is scanty at best. Yet he has been cited as one of prime reasons for the strong performance of D-mart in the stock market.
A college dropout, Mr. Radhakishan Damani started out in his family’s business of ball bearings. He then started dabbling in stocks. And in 1992 registered himself as a stockbroker. The few who know him from the time admire and respect him. The most striking feature of Mr. Damani was his calm demeanor. A friend of Mr. Damani was quoted saying that he was extremely low profile and quiet. If he passed by people wouldn’t even notice him except for his signature attire.
One remembered him from his time on the business street in 1988-89. He said that he spoke less and listened more. He was never flashy and extremely down to earth. It was his ability to see beyond numbers that distinguished him as one of India’s biggest stock pickers. Even after all this success if one was to pin him down for a chat today. Mr. Damani would still refrain from talking and listen more. Another friend said that he is very approachable but refrains from giving advice. He prefers silence over giving wrong advice.
Mr. Damani is calm and prefers silence, but he is stern when the need arises. The two decade ago loggerheads with ITC for control of VST is an excellent example. The row saw him acquire a 25% stake in the Hyderabad based company. A stake that today is worth INR 1,200 crore. Mr. Damani is also credited with calming the panic-stricken investors when DHL started selling shares much less than the market price. Mr. Damani operated from the shadows and assured the investors of the long term viability of the company.
He chose to stay out of the tech boom that hit the Indian markets in 2000s. Instead he chose to branch out in the retail sector. The current success story of “D-mart” is a progeny of this branching out. The store first opened its doors in May 2002. It today has spread in nine cities and maintains 118 stores. The retail chain posted a profit of INR 320 crores for the fiscal year 2016.
The store chain operates at a different philosophy than its competition. For example, D-mart is yet to make its presence known in a mall. And malls are where consumer spending is highest. It can also be pointed out that D-mart only operates out of retail spaces it owns or has a long term lease with. This makes for a costly, capital heavy set up. But due to this not a single store of D-mart has closed in 15 years of its operation. Furthermore due to this D-marts rental costs are a mere 0.2% of total sales as compared to 8% of Biyani’s Future retail. This philosophy does have a downside though, for it made D-mart incur a debt of INR 1000 crore.
This debt was one of the reasons cited for the listing of the Initial Public Offering of D-mart. And the rest is history.