Chairman / MD Message
At Vaibhav Global Limited, we believe in the Flywheel Effect. We believe that business success is derived not from one large heave of the giant flywheel, but from a number of small initiatives, constantly putting one’s shoulder to the wheel, often shifting its direction as consumers and the business environment change. We may shift only inches each time, but a time comes when the flywheel begins to acquire an independent momentum. This is precisely the vision with which we have grown our Company until now. This is how we will continue, investing in all types of capital - Human, Intellectual, and Financial - to ensure sustainable and profitable growth into the long-term. These little pushes and changes have also characterised our response to the pandemic that has engulfed the world since the beginning of this calendar year.
FY 2019-20 proved to be a record year for our Company with consolidated revenues at Rs. 1,986 crore and profit after tax at Rs. 190 crore. This record performance was derived from robust growth in our retail operations across US and UK, with jewellery and non jewellery products showing momentum. We kept true to our core proposition of being a deep value retailer. We strengthened our customer centricity with good data analytics. We grew across sales platforms, with sales through the web and on marketplaces developing rapidly. All this was made possible by a strong and growing technology infrastructure.
This record performance translated into an aggregate dividend payout of Rs. 26.74 per equity share, successful completion of a Rs. 72 core share buy-back and a final dividend recommendation of Rs. 7 per equity share.
The performance during the year further validated the significant operating leverage in our business model - a revenue growth of 9.5% resulting in an EBITDA expansion of 27%
Delivering Joy At VGL, we believe we are in business to deliver joy to all our stakeholders.
This objective defines our existence – across stakeholders, countries and time. To our customers we offer jewellery, lifestyle and essential products that enhance their feeling of well-being, at irresistible prices and make them even more affordable through our Budget Pay provision. To our people we offer career-enhancing livelihoods across countries. We support traditional crafts amongst our suppliers as well as assured payments on time. We enhance welfare of the underprivileged through our One for One programme and other CSR initiatives. To our shareholders we deliver consistently growing financial performance and superior returns. We believe that we have arrived at a sweet spot as a deep value retailer and can make the circle of Joy begin to widen faster.
The two elements behind the increasing momentum of the VGL flywheel are inclusion and agility. These attributes were demonstrated and lived through various market cycles of the last decade. Each time the Company encountered a trough, it hung in there, sought a better way, enhanced value for all stakeholders and grew itself out of downtrends. The fact that VGL has thrived across decades with most of its longstanding employees, vendors and associates still working, indicates that inclusion is the glue that keeps the ecosystem together. We believe that no stakeholder is more important than the other; each has a specific role to play in our organisational growth. Enduring business sustainability can only be derived by generating enhanced value for each. In view of this, we do not believe that sustainability is accidental; it is the result of a conscious strategy to take the interests of all stakeholders ahead.
The second enduring attribute of the Company has been its agility. In a world where consumer preferences and market environments transform with speed, there is a premium on the need to match evolving consumer needs with nimbleness of thought, strategy and execution. The evolving portfolio and product mix of the Company are evidence of this fleet-footedness. For a Company that started off as a B2B player, it turned the ship to generate 97% revenues from retail buyers today. This decisive turnaround was achieved through organisational agility, sharpened communication, widened product mix and enhanced consumer delight.
In the overall mix of things, there is no single defining action that sustains the organisational momentum. Success at VGL is the result of dozens of initiatives coming together. The compounded impact of these initiatives, the commitment to do better, the alignment of the organisation with this commitment and a bias for positive change has strengthened our competitiveness.
All that I have explained above is more relevant now than ever. The first half of the current calendar year was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumer sentiment was affected and it is widely accepted that the global economy will contract most extensively in living memory during the current financial year. We are optimistic that our business model will be validated in these testing times. As consumers spend more time indoors, watch television for entertainment, surf more than ever and follow social distancing norms, they provide an electronic retail company like ours with the opportunity to market a larger number of products.
As an agile organisation, VGL evolved its product mix to include various essential lifestyle products that consumers would otherwise have had to step out and buy. By stepping in with speed to assume the role that would normally have been played by brick and mortar stores, we demonstrated yet again that challenges bring out the best in our Company.
At VGL, we look forward with optimism. We believe that a wider catalogue, deepening omni-channel engagement in US and UK, proven order fulfillment capability, reputed logistics partners and specialist call centre operations should result in an expanded customer base and growing revenues.
Amidst all the variables what will remain constant is our deep value proposition to consumers, continued contribution to the community through our flagship One for One programme, an inclusive environment that fosters an inspiring workplace, sustained efforts at reducing our ecological footprint and our commitment to strong value accretion for our investors.
Going forward, we will continue to do what we have always done – if perhaps with more focus, urgency and enthusiasm. We will do so with the conviction that the flywheel will continue to turn faster, moving us closer to the point where it acquires a sustainable momentum of its own.
I would like to extend my gratitude to our workforce for their dedication and commitment. I would like to express gratefulness to our loyal customers for their belief in our superior value proposition. I must thank our shareholders for their faith in our management and leadership. I must thank our financiers, bankers, suppliers and communities for their ongoing support. And most importantly the frontline health workers across the globe.
With My Best Wishes,
The principal take-home from our Company’s performance during the year under review is that of inclusion and agility. I would emphasise the word ‘inclusion’ as the last quarter of the financial year under review was affected by a global pandemic. During this period, the Company demonstrated the ability to enhance value for all stakeholders in exceptionally challenged circumstances.
I would concurrently emphasise the word ‘agility’ as we refused to be overwhelmed by the unfolding crisis. On the contrary, we responded with a spirit to further improve connection among our team members, customers and communities.
The combination of inclusion and agility encapsulates the essence of VGL.
I am pleased to report that the spirit of our organisation reflected in our outperforming numbers in FY 2019- 20. The Company reported profitable growth – retail revenues increased 15%, EBITDA grew 27% and PAT improved by 23% in FY 2019-20. Even in the middle of the pandemic, your Company reported a strong Q4; meanwhile, YoY growth in retail revenues, EBITDA and PAT was 14%, 29% and 22% respectively. We witnessed an even stronger traction across our symbiotic omni-channel sales platform during the first two months of FY 2020-21
We widened our products offering of fashion jewellery, accessories and lifestyle categories to include the essential products category in line with evolving customer demand. We deepened our presence in US and UK, the geographies of our retail presence. We continued to complement our discovery-based deep-discounting model with engrossing content and world-class studio production quality.
For FY 2019-20, our gross margins remained stable YoY at around 62% and our EBITDA margin improved 190 bps YoY to 14%; our ROE increased 100 bps YoY to 26% and a low debt structure resulted in ROCE improvement by 900 bps YoY to 46%.
The retail industry has witnessed several disruptions in the past decade, posing existential sectoral challenges. The current disruption brought about by the pandemic has threatened business continuity for traditional retail formats while opening massive home-shopping format opportunities. The post-pandemic retail world will be characteristically different in many ways. This will comprise changing consumption patterns, transition to home-shopping avenues (teleshopping and digital platforms) and the consolidation of retailers, decisively altering the competitive landscape.
For us at VGL, retail operations at Shop LC (US) and TJC (UK) continued throughout without interruption as per regulatory announcements. Over the past year, the tenacity and value of our robust supply chain was put to test several times on account of external exigencies including the US-China trade war and the pandemic. It is creditable that the supply chain consistently delivered with prudent time-to-market and efficient product sourcing.
Now, more than ever, our commitment to all our stake holders remains reinforced. With the well-being of our team at the core, we have taken appropriate precautionary measures to ensure the safety and health of all our employees. Stepping up to the situation, we realigned our business to meet customer needs through uninterrupted supply of over 250 essential products. As an expression of gratitude to frontline healthcare workers, we donated ~127,500 masks to ~200 hospitals, care homes, police stations and grocery stores. Extending support to the government in India, VGL provided ~1.6 mn meals to migrants and people in need through Akshaya Patra in Jaipur. On the overall, through our flagship CSR initiative, One for One, we have provided nearly 37 mn meals to school children across India, US and UK since its inception.
Our strategic objective comprises the 4 R’s – Reach, Registrations, Retention and Repeat purchases.
Reach: We continued to expand Reach through the television format with additional simulcast channels and Overthe-Air (OTA) markets, the Over-the-Top (OTT) segment on streaming platforms, market-places and through social DR. The result was strong retail revenue growth. Nearly 67% of our total retail sales were derived from TV and 33% from the web. Within the web, we are deepening our penetration on mobile platforms (mobile app and mobile web browser), engaging customers through the influencer programme for social media platforms, expending on improved visibility on OTT platforms and incentivising customers on market places for transitioning to proprietary platforms through initiatives like the warranty programme. We are present on every platform that our customer seeks to engage on, strengthening the base for significant omni-channel customer lifetime value.
Registrations: At VGL, we believe that it is not enough to reach customers; success lies in being able to register unique customers through a compelling combination of product, price and content. Over the years, we enriched our product portfolio with designs drawn from different ethnicities, cultures and countries in line with US and UK consumer preferences. These products were not marketed in a usual manner; they were woven around engrossing content presented by familiar hosts translating into a strong consumer pull. Besides this presentation and positioning, a widening bouquet of brands across categories, infrastructure, logistics and operational support resulted in strong registrations. Our new customer registrations stood at about 1,78,000 in FY 2019-20. We continued to increase customer registrations through the course of the pandemic due to the essential products that we offered, resulting in some of these customers migrating to our main business.
Retention: At the heart of business sustainability lies a retained customer. The longer we retain a customer, the stronger our profitability. A competent call centre support, convenience features like Budget Pay and Easy Returns, value for money, engaging content, omni-channel presence and an expanding product portfolio facilitated customer retention. As a validation, our customer retention grew consistently and reached 50% in FY 2019-20. The Company invested in digitalisation, including investments in Artificial Intelligence. This strengthened our ability to mine consumer preferences, evolve our merchandise, strengthen the pace of offtake and improve our financial efficiency. Several other initiatives deepened our customer engagement across platforms - Shop LC (US) commenced broadcasting on Amazon Live, integration of Pixlee with the Shop LC website and live community forums on proprietary web platforms in the US and UK.
Repeat Purchases: At VGL, we believe that business sustainability is strengthened from customers making repeat purchases. Through the last few years, we strengthened our value proposition and provided convenience features like Easy Returns, thereby incentivising repeat purchases. The average quantity purchased per customer remained stable at 30 pieces in FY 2019-20. We believe that this aspect of our business has acquired a critical mass on account of a larger range of fashion jewellery, accessories, lifestyle and now essential products. The addition of lifestyle products possesses game-changing implications, which can not only drive offtake within the category but also inspire cross-sales across the catalogue. We are attractively placed to build on our existing momentum as a consumer electronic retail Company with deep value pricing in the US and UK markets.We believe that the relevance of our 4 R’s shall only deepen, facilitating sustainable growth in revenues, margins and stakeholder value.
VGL’s multi-year business sustainability has been reinforced by its extensive value chain. The Company is a number of ‘companies’ in one: it is at one level a Company that aggregates precious and semi-precious stones; at another level, the Company is an efficiency-driven processor and fabricator of fashion jewellery leveraging a complement of efficiency-enhancing technologies; at yet another level, the Company is a growing curator of non-jewellery products like scarves, bags, beauty products and home décor items generating a rising proportion of revenues from these lifestyle products. Besides, the Company is an electronic retailer in two of the largest markets, marketing effectively around its desired positioning of a deep value retailer.
The extent of this value chain – possibly the widest within the global electronic retail sector across fashion jewellery and lifestyle products – makes it possible for our Company to widen margins, moderate costs, acquire knowledge, decode trends better, provide customised content and leverage scale-driven economies.
The aggregation of margins across each intermediate step helped the Company report consistently high gross margins at around 60%. We believe that this value chain represents our most potent competitive advantage, translating into prospects of multi-year outperformance.
At VGL, we are optimistic of our prospects. The Company is agile and responsive to changes in the marketplace. More than a decade ago, the Company evolved its product mix from a high per unit average sales realisation to deep-discounted value in return for multi-year revenue growth. The Company transformed from wholesale trade with a relatively limited number of gemstone and jewellery buyers to a larger spread of B2C customers. The Company extended with speed to fast fashion jewellery, complemented thereafter by revenues from fashion accessories, lifestyle and essential products. The Company widened its product mix to a larger range of products, deepening its positioning as a trusted partner. I am pleased to report that when consumers now need to turn to a trusted retail brand that provides select products at the lowest price, they inevitably turn to VGL.
At VGL, we believe that our business model has deepened its relevance following the pandemic. As physical distancing has emerged as the new norm, people are turning to electronic modes of entertainment and commerce. With high street retail yielding to online alternatives, companies like ours enjoy a growing audience.
At VGL, we moved with speed to address this reality. Instead of focusing only on our existing products, we widened the number of categories and increased the number of products within each. As a result, the proportion of non-jewellery products (fashion accessories, lifestyle and essential products) increased during the last financial year. It would be reasonable to assume that we are now at an attractive inflection point.
The big question that one has been asked is where we go from here. At VGL, we believe this is an opportunity to serve our customers better, capitalise on our inherent strengths and leverage our position to achieve more. With a healthy Balance Sheet, robust retail channels and an established market position, we are confident of being able to sustain retail revenue growth, translating into a compounded medium-term impact and enhancing value for every stakeholder.
With My Best Wishes,