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Caseloads of cash

Caseloads of cash

Dr. Ramesh Tainwala, Samsonite boss, is overloaded with cash apparently. He tells us how the company got it, and what he plans to do with it.

July 15, 2010 4:57 by

Dr. Ramesh Tainwala, the globetrotting president, Asia Pacific and the Middle East, of Samsonite Corp, carries a heavy burden.

The slightly-built, 51-year-old Indian is, in common with many business contemporaries, wading through the financial morass of the continuing – some would argue deepening – crisis.

His company’s revenue dropped 12 percent in 2008-2009. At the same time, investment in travel and tourism declined by more than 12 percent, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. And, let’s face it, that’s far from ideal if you’re heading a luggage company.

None of this, however, weighs heavily upon Tainwala: His burden is that of wealth.

“We’re a cash-rich company,” he tells me during a recent Dubai stopover from New York en route to Melbourne. So cash-rich, in fact, that he has just jacked up the company’s 2010 marketing budget by $50 million, adding to the $120 million he announced in January. That figure alone is a significant jump when compared, for instance, to the $84 million allocated in 2008. But more of that later.

Right now, Tainwala is brimming with confidence. So much so that even the dreaded recession holds little fear. To hear him talk, you could be mistaken for thinking it’s actually a good thing.

“2010 to 2011 are unique years. These times will not come again,” he says almost wistfully.

But what about the downturn in travel, surely that must have hurt just a little? “For the time being travel is low and business is a bit low, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “But will it remain low forever? Definitely not.”

Tainwala is highly optimistic about the future of the 100-year-old company, with which he has been associated since 1996.

Refreshingly free of media-trained mantras, his confidence is authentic, reasoned and can be summed up in one word: Asia.

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