In­dus­try Panorama & Strate­gies

With change be­ing the only con­stant, Tias Chakraborty analy­ses the evo­lu­tion of the In­dian fash­ion ap­parel land­scape and the chal­lenges be­ing posed by the in­creased pres­ence of for­eign play­ers.

Apparel - - Contents -

W ith more dis­pos­able in­come in the hands of the mid­dle class and in­creased ex­po­sure to Western trends through mul­ti­ple me­dia, the In­dian ap­parel sec­tor has wit­nessed an in­cred­i­ble trans­for­ma­tion in the last decade. And for­eign brands have def­i­nitely taken a lik­ing to this evo­lu­tion of the ap­parel in­dus­try. Ac­cord­ing to con­sult­ing firm, Third Eye­sight’s re­search, there has been a phe­nom­e­nal growth in the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional brands en­ter­ing the In­dian mar­ket in the last decade and it is ev­i­dent that we have ar­rived at the foothills of a ma­jor wave.


With more and more in­ter­na­tional brands tak­ing in­ter­est in the In­dian mar­ket, do­mes­tic play­ers in the ap­parel man­u­fac­tur­ing and fash­ion in­dus­try have higher stan­dards to main­tain. In­ter­est­ingly, this in­flow of in­ter­na­tional prod­ucts has worked well for the In­dian play­ers as it has opened up op­por­tu­ni­ties for more col­lab­o­ra­tions, de­sign ex­changes and dis­tri­bu­tion. In­ter­na­tional brands have been able to lever­age the re­tail chan­nels of the

In­dian com­pa­nies, en­sur­ing a pres­ence in their tar­get mar­kets. For ex­am­ple, com­pa­nies such as Adi­das, FILA, Nike and Puma have ex­cel­lent pen­e­tra­tion in the mar­ket as a re­sult of their strate­gic tie-ups with In­dian re­tail­ers. Mod­ern trade in In­dia has also grown in this pe­riod and has been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing some of these brands en­ter the In­dian mar­ket. Shop­pers Stop has been a key In­dian player that has brought in sev­eral in­ter­na­tional brands to the In­dian shelves. Sim­i­larly, in­creased in­ter­na­tional travel has caused In­di­ans to be­come aware of a wide range of global ap­parel brands. In the last decade, we have wit­nessed the en­try of brands such as S Oliver, Marks and Spencer, Aldo and sev­eral oth­ers en­ter and thrive in the mar­ket. Con­cur­rently, In­dian brands have also en­tered the pre­mium seg­ment and re­ceived a mixed re­sponse from the mar­ket.


The­o­ret­i­cally, lo­cal brands in In­dia mostly cater to the In­dian mid­dle class. This is not only be­cause this cat­e­gory forms the largest con­sumer base but also be­cause man­u­fac­tur­ers and sell­ers un­der­stand the qual­ity and price ex­pec­ta­tions of this seg­ment. For in­ter­na­tional play­ers, this cat­e­gory might of­ten be dif­fi­cult to hook pri­mar­ily be­cause of the value-for­money ap­proach of the buy­ers. When one fac­tors in the cost of lo­gis­tics and the ad­vanced ma­chin­ery used by pre­mium brands, it be­comes ev­i­dent that this cat­e­gory will take a long time to pen­e­trate the mid­dle class In­dian base with its pric­ing lim­i­ta­tions.



An­other in­ter­est­ing fac­tor is the in­flu­ence of me­dia on lo­cal pref­er­ences. A sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the In­dian pop­u­la­tion is strongly influenced by the film and tele­vi­sion in­dus­try. These in­flu­ences may not nec­es­sar­ily be in line with in­ter­na­tional fash­ion trends that play­ers such as Aber­crom­bie and Fitch, Aéro­postale or Givenchy might of­fer. This gap is well lever­aged by lo­cal brands who en­sure that their lat­est col­lec­tion keeps in mind the five big­gest Bol­ly­wood su­per hits of the year. In­ter­est­ingly though, some play­ers have found in­cred­i­ble suc­cess in the In­dian re­tail land­scape in spite of mak­ing a grad­ual shift from In­dia-fo­cused col­lec­tions to launch­ing col­lec­tions as per in­ter­na­tional fash­ion trends. A ma­jor ex­am­ple of such a risk taker is Benet­ton. At­trac­tive dis­counts and a great re­tail pres­ence across met­ros has en­sured that Benet­ton has a large slice of the mid­dle and up­per mid­dle class buy­ers. The In­dian brand Zo­diac also wit­nessed this ris­ing de­mand for global fash­ion among In­dian con­sumers and launched its Z3 range in 2008.


With chal­lenges now be­ing posed in the form of in­ter­na­tional play­ers, In­dian re­tail­ers will need to come up with more cre­ative and unique strate­gies. And today the cre­ativ­ity needs to not just re­flect in the clothes one makes but also in the mar­ket­ing strategy of the brand. With the help of Face­book pages, ads, SEO, in­ter­ac­tive/ re­spon­sive web­sites and in­no­va­tive re­tail in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ments such as store-in-stores and teasers, com­pa­nies can make an ev­er­last­ing im­pres­sion on the minds of the buy­ers. Today, there are sev­eral ways where the role of the mid­dle­men in the ap­parel trade can be cut out and prod­ucts can be di­rectly sourced from the man­u­fac­turer. This makes it eas­ier for new age re­tail­ers to tap into tra­di­tional mar­kets where hand­looms and em­broi­dery still ex­ist. Here are four sim­ple strate­gies that In­dian brands can fol­low to outdo their global coun­ter­parts in the In­dian ap­parel land­scape: Loy­alty pro­grammes: While large for­mat re­tail­ers have suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented these pro­grammes, In­dian brands are yet to utilise the mas­sive po­ten­tial of this con­cept. From dis­counts to cus­tomised spe­cial of­fers, loy­alty pro­grammes can help build brand loy­alty sig­nif­i­cantly.

Lo­cal ap­peal: For an In­dian brand, it is far eas­ier to un­der­stand lo­cal pref­er­ences and tweak the prod­ucts ac­cord­ingly. It is also es­sen­tial to fac­tor in credit his­tory of dis­trib­u­tors, re­tail­ers and ser­vice providers. Dis­tinc­tion: The ap­parel sec­tor faces in­tense com­pe­ti­tion and the only way to stand out is to of­fer some­thing unique at the core. If you are sell­ing or­ganic cot­ton, en­sure that your mar­ket­ing high­lights where it comes from and how. With dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing tak­ing over, it is easy to create an in­ter­na­tional ap­peal and lose the lo­cal flavour of the prod­uct; this is where lo­cal/ In­dian brands need to know how to strike the right bal­ance.


Go­ing dig­i­tal: In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion has made In­dia a hub for e-com­merce. Brands lever­ag­ing this in­cred­i­ble net­work of buy­ers can eas­ily get an edge over their in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts if they get their pric­ing right. In spite of the road­blocks that have ap­peared in the last few years, the ap­parel sec­tor in In­dia is on an up­ward curve. With tech­nol­ogy as its wing­man, there might be no look­ing back.

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