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Made in India towels at Buckingham Palace

April 23, 2007 09:26 IST

Those Christy towels at Buckingham Palace will soon wear small tags proudly announcing these were "made in India." So will the official Christy towels at Wimbledon.

Welspun India, which had acquired Christy -- a hallowed British towel making company -- a few months ago by picking up 85 per cent stake in the company, is now moving its manufacturing facility from Manchester to Anjar in Gujarat. The company hopes this will cut production costs by a quarter.

Interestingly, Welspun has been goaded to do so by top retailers like the House of Fraser or Debenhams, who, in turn, are under severe pressure from their shareholders to outsource more products from markets like India to stay competitive.

"We will shift the plant and machinery as well as bring the technology to India. This reduces our manufacturing costs and leverages our towel making capacity in the country, which is seven times more than Christy's," said Welspun president Akhil Jindal.

Welspun has a capacity to make 30,000 tonnes of towels annually. The company is known to sell its towels to all well known global brands at a premium of over 10 per cent than most of its Asian competitors. It's now looking at selling towels through its own brands, which could lead to a mark-up of over three to four times of what it sells now; the Christy buy-out is a part of that strategy.

The 150-year-old brand was created by Henry Christy, who presented the first towels in 1851 to Queen Victoria, who immediately ordered more.

In the past, the company has outsourced towels from countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan as well. Christy towels are sold at all upmarket stores in the UK and US like Marks & Spencer's, John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser and Bloomingdales.

Today, a simple Christy hand towel retails anywhere between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000. No wonder tennis star Roger Federer gifts Christy towels during Wimbledon to his friends as mementoes.

Surajeet Das Gupta in New Delhi
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