Not long ago, S Kumars Nationwide, or SKNL, defined men’s luxury clothing in India. Today, it is headed for bankruptcy after defaulting on more than Rs 5,000 crore of loans. SKNL promoter Nitin Kasliwal—the man who rode high on big brands and global icons—has been declared a wilful defaulter by most lenders.

Imagine a company selling luxury brands associated with Barack Obama, Pierce Brosnan and Amitabh Bachchan taking a deep dive into debt when that’s all such a company needs to sail smoothly.

A day after the election of US president Barack Obama in 2008, clothing company Hart Schaffner Marx put a marketing slogan on its website: “Dressing Presidential. Pick your power suit. President-elect Barack Obama found his at Hart Schaffner Marx.” A year later, Kasliwal bought the luxury suitmaker and introduced it in India.

That wasn’t the first grand acquisition by SKNL. A decade ago, it had acquired rights for manufacturing and marketing the Reid & Taylor worsted suiting in India. Reid & Taylor, a Scottish brand started in 1830s, dressed the world’s elite. It came with the tagline ‘Bond with the Best’ as it was endorsed by James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. To make it appeal to the Indian buyer, SKNL replaced Brosnan with Amitabh Bachchan.

SKNL owned or marketed several global luxury brands such as Austin Reed, Ted Baker, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Claiborne, Pierre Cardin, Lyle & Scott, Golden Bear, JAG Jeans, Alfred Dunhill, Escada and Carmichael House.

In 2016, the Bombay High Court ordered liquidation of SKNL assets and directed the lending banks to appoint an official liquidator to recover debt. The company is on the defaulters’ list of 134 banks and financial institutions. In 2013, UCO Bank had named and shamed Kasliwal by terming him a defaulter and publishing his photo in newspapers.

SKNL was doing well till 2012 when it posted a net profit of Rs 471 crore. However, it collapsed under heavy debt and interest burden. It had made an unsuccessful attempt to raise money through an IPO of Reid & Taylor.

What went wrong with a company that rode high on big brands and global icons? The chief reason was probably the financial crisis of 2008 that depressed demand for luxury clothing. However, shareholders have alleged that the company plunged into a financial crisis due to gross mismanagement.

Kasliwal became the promoter of SKNL in 2007-08 after the Kasliwal family divided the assets among family members through a family split. Two brothers—Abhayakumar Kasliwal and Shambhukumar Kasliwal— had founded the group in 1948.

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