17 December 2018

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Nataraj Ramaiah: The Patriach of Dior Group

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Tall, and with an air of dignity and charisma enveloping him, it is evident that Mr. Nataraj Ramaiah of DIOR group is a born leader, with the Midas touch, to turn any endeavor he embarks into, a roaring success.

A prodigy from Senior Cambridge, he went on to graduate in mechanical engineering. He joined the engineering company, Fenner. His was the first batch of sales engineers in the company. Within three years, he became the youngest branch manager there.

From Fenner, he decided to shift to Sri Lanka and started his own apparel related products firm in the free trade zone. His was the third factory in the free trade zone. He did phenomenally well in his business and decided to settle in Colombo, and has been there for the past thirty years.

Mean while, he returned to India, and along with his sister, Ms. Hemu Ramaiah, he founded the Landmark Chain of books and Leisure stores. Nataraj and Hemu opened four Landmark stores in Chennai alone- in the City centre, Residency Towers, Nungambakkam and in Spencer Plaza. It was a roaring success. He opened shops in Coimbatore, Calcutta and Bangalore too. ‘’There were no formal structured book stores in India. In bookshops attached to hotels, price margins are very high. I felt we needed to get books across to more people. Buy in bulk and make it reachable to more people” – explains Nataraj.

The policies he adopted were low mark up, tight pricing, catering to a larger clientele and larger markets. “ I am passionate about quality management. I give prior importance to my employees too. I bought in consultants from England and I am proud to say that we were the first ISO certified company in Asia.” He went on to provide quality training to his employees and standardised the way of reacting to customers in all his stores.

  Consignments of books and music were brought in from all over the world, opened, priced and systematised.  “When CDs are  wrapped, and books bar coded, it helps the clients to place orders and it also prevents pilferage. ISO certification helped to create a methodology all of its own. “An ISO team was training our employees. They started working as a team. This training, I believe helps the employees to work and think proactively”, affirms Nataraj.

 The year 2005 saw a lot of hype in retail sales in the country. Big corporate firms started evincing interest in the retail industry. “We had very good offers from investment bankers and intermediate agents. We sold out Land mark to the Tatas”– smiled Nataraj.

Mr. Nataraj Ramaiah likes to experiment and innovate, and he decided to branch out into real estate- buying and selling land, buying properties, renting them out. “Now my interest is diverted to the hospitality industry. A country as big as India is constantly running out of good hotel rooms to accommodate people, especially the business clan. Five star hotel room rates are very high in India, and the vacuum that exists is so huge. Innovatively, we decided to move into the niche market without competition. Service apartments is what I had in mind, which is popular abroad .Thus, the Dior group was formed”. 

“At Dior, we give value for money as far as the client is concerned. My service apartments at Dior have facilities which a five star room can provide and we price it at the rates of a three star hotel. Our rooms are superior and prices cheaper. Affordability of the client is kept in mind and the apartments are rented out not only as service apartments but also as separate rooms”.

“We make it so comfortable for the business traveler, who might invariably be stressed out and would need a place which provides him all the comforts of his own home. This way, he remembers us each time he is back in the city and comes back to us”, confirms Nataraj. “ While hotels charge you for internet services, Dior gives it for free. The Dior group targets exclusively on the business clan.  Excellent service, good food, and all rooms are wired to provide plug in internet facility.”

 Every time a client leaves, they are required to fill in a feed back form. “We keep studying the feedback form to understand what a customer likes or dislikes.  We constantly meet and improvise on our facilities, continuously fine tuning ourselves. For the food provided to the clients, Dior has tied up with Saravana Bhavan, other major fast food outlets and Anjappar.  For those clients who prefer home cooked delicacies, we have our own in house chef. Our staffs are very well trained and the morale of the employees is always protected”, explains Nataraj   Ramaiah.

Dior has an annual contract with Larsen and Tubro.  Dior has plans of expanding out into the city’s suburbs. A hundred studio apartments have already been planned at OMR, Sholinganallur. “The Indian market vests inherently with the middle class sector”- opined Nataraj.

In over a decade of operations, the Dior group has focused almost exclusively on real estate and infrastructure development, and has set up at IT Park and premium serviced apartments. A township is being developed on the outskirts of Chennai, especially in the fast growing industrial suburbs of Sriperumbadur. 

Nataraj has creativity and innovation at his fingertips. “Quality is the mantra “- smiles Nataraj Ramaiah with a twinkle in his eye.  These words continue to reverberate and echo in our minds, long after we exit Dior Eleganza. 


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