De­signed for De­sis!

Gone are the days when non-In­dian brands would only man­u­fac­ture west­ern wear for the global ci­ti­zen. Big in­ter­na­tional brands are now woo­ing In­dian cus­tomers with In­dian de­signs, cus­tomised to suit a uniquely desi taste! Chi­tra Bala­sub­ra­ma­niam ex­plores t

Apparel - - Contents -

De­cod­ing the trend of in­ter­na­tional brands cus­tomis­ing their de­signs for In­dian cus­tomers

In­dia boasts one of the largest ap­parel mar­kets in the world. The coun­try’s large and di­verse pop­u­la­tion has long since at­tracted for­eign brands to the na­tion. Glob­al­i­sa­tion has al­lowed for in­ter­na­tional play­ers to en­ter for­merly lo­cal mar­kets. One way in which brands stand out from the other is by sens­ing and un­der­stand­ing lo­cal vari­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, when Swarovski and Lladro en­tered the In­dian mar­ket with their range, they soon re­alised the im­mense po­ten­tial that lay in the di­verse taste of In­di­ans. The com­pany was quick to re­alise the de­mand for fig­urines in In­dia. Deities had a huge de­mand, and the Gane­sha and Lak­shmi combo sold well dur­ing Di­wali, while those of Lord Kr­ishna were a huge hit with the busi­ness com­mu­nity. The com­pa­nies soon had a range of In­dian deities in crys­tal, porce­lain and ceramic. It shows how com­pa­nies tweak their de­signs in def­er­ence to the cul­tural trends of a par­tic­u­lar coun­try. Food brands have also been tweak­ing their recipes to suit the In­dian palate. So, why should ap­parel brands be far be­hind?

Af­ter hav­ing tasted success in terms of sale vol­umes in In­dia, many for­eign ap­parel brands

are ex­per­i­ment­ing with de­signs, colours and styles spe­cific to In­dia. Be it Zara, H&M, or GAP, each brand seems to be in­no­vat­ing for the In­dian mar­ket. The trend is not new; most cloth­ing com­pa­nies have spe­cial lines for the Mid­dle East, given their fond­ness for fash­ion de­spite strict cul­tural codes of dress­ing.


The de­cid­ing factor in In­dia, though, is the sheer size of the In­dian mar­ket. The In­dian mar­ket for branded ap­parel is in­creas­ing at a tremen­dous pace. It is th­ese vol­umes which have at­tracted for­eign re­tail­ers across the spec­trum. As per Technopak, “The In­dian re­tail mar­ket was worth R41,66,500 crore (US $641 bil­lion) in 2016 and is ex­pected to reach R1,02,50,500 crore (US $1,576 bil­lion) by 2026, grow­ing at a Com­pound An­nual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10 per cent. It is en­vis­aged that the cur­rent fash­ion re­tail mar­ket worth R2,97,091 crore (US $46 bil­lion) will grow at a promis­ing CAGR of 9.7 per cent to reach

R7,48,398 crore (US $115 bil­lion) by 2026.” Given th­ese vol­umes, it is not sur­pris­ing that for­eign re­tail­ers are mak­ing a beeline for In­dia. Th­ese re­tail­ers aren’t lim­ited to the US big­wigs but also in­clude Scan­di­na­vian, Ja­panese and South­East Asian brands. What at­tracts th­ese play­ers is the nearly nascent state of the In­dian mar­ket, where the un­or­gan­ised sec­tor rules and the or­gan­ised sec­tor is still a minis­cule com­po­nent with im­mense growth po­ten­tial. A re­port by

Technopak states, “In­dia has emerged as one of the most at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tions for Amer­i­can and Euro­pean brands in the last 10 years and will con­tinue to hold prom­ise for the next 10 years, ir­re­spec­tive of the pol­icy on FDI. Ap­parel be­ing a more brand-driven cat­e­gory than, say, food and gro­ceries, has al­ready seen many in­ter­na­tional brands en­ter In­dia over the past 15 years de­spite the former re­stric­tions on the FDI pol­icy. Mod­ern re­tail in the ap­parel seg­ment has a share of nearly 19 per cent of the to­tal ap­parel mar­ket at present, com­pared to a mere three per cent share of mod­ern re­tail for the food and gro­ceries seg­ment, which sug­gests that the ap­parel mar­ket has al­ready seen large brands and re­tail­ers op­er­at­ing and ex­pand­ing.” The newly im­posed al­lowance of 100 per cent FDI in sin­gle brand re­tail should boost the en­try of ap­parel brands into the coun­try.


What au­gured well for the brands ini­tially was the en­thu­si­asm with which con­sumers lapped up in­ter­na­tional fash­ion trends. The colours, styles and fash­ion dic­tates of the in­ter­na­tional

mar­ket worked very well here, with mi­nor tweaks. How­ever, now, with plenty of In­dian home­grown brands of­fer­ing an in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of In­dow­est­ern wear with eth­nic over­tones, con­sumers are in­creas­ingly pre­fer­ring fu­sion styles. It can there­fore be said that In­dia-spe­cific trends and de­signs are emerg­ing.

The In­dian mar­ket is a di­ver­si­fied mar­ket with spe­cific pref­er­ences and re­quire­ments across the coun­try. Trends and colours of­ten vary re­gion­ally. Pref­er­ence and style of cloth­ing varies from state to state, city to city and some­times even within a city, the pa­ram­e­ters are dif­fer­ent. FES­TIVE FASH­ION Un­like the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, where the col­lec­tions re­volve around Spring-Sum­mer and Au­tumn-Win­ter, In­dia has its own sea­sons. Spring-Sum­mer is a more im­por­tant fash­ion sea­son, given that large parts of the coun­try ex­pe­ri­ence trop­i­cal weather for most of the year. Au­tumn-Win­ter is mainly pop­u­lar in the more chilly re­gions of the coun­try, which are com­par­a­tively smaller in mar­ket size.

How­ever, In­dia has a specif­i­cally unique mar­ket for the Mon­soons, fol­lowed by the Fes­ti­val and Wed­ding Sea­son. The Fes­ti­val Sea­son is huge in a multi-re­li­gious coun­try like In­dia. Each com­mu­nity has its own fes­ti­val sea­son, driv­ing up the de­mand for eth­nic cloth­ing, spe­cific to that par­tic­u­lar cul­ture and/or fes­ti­val. For the Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion, Ra­madan and Id is when ma­jor buy­ing takes place. Ra­madan, which be­gins mid-May and lasts un­til June, is a sea­son when gifts are bought and ex­changed. Chris­tians in In­dia pur­chase gifts and cloth­ing in large num­bers dur­ing Christ­mas. The fes­ti­val sea­son roughly be­gins with Ra­madan, fol­lowed by Onam, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dusshera, Di­wali and ends with Christ­mas and New Year. The lat­ter half of this sea­son is the main time for splurg­ing in In­dia. Brands re­lease new de­signs for th­ese fes­ti­vals, tar­get­ing the rel­e­vant dates and cus­tomers. The trend here favours fes­tive colours and cel­e­bra­tory at­tire. The wed­ding sea­son also hits its peak in

the months of Oc­to­ber to March, and the mar­ket again brings out ex­trav­a­gant de­signs, spe­cific to the many rit­u­als and vary­ing wed­ding trends.


A brand which has tasted con­sid­er­able success in the In­dian mar­ket is Zara. In a short spell, the Span­ish gi­ant has cap­tured the hearts of In­dian con­sumers, and is con­sid­ered a pre­mium brand here. Known the world over for its im­mac­u­lately or­gan­ised pro­duc­tion sched­ule, with a swift turn­around time from de­sign to pro­duc­tion to store de­liv­ery, it has repli­cated its success story in In­dia. On an av­er­age, Zara has over 10,000 de­signs in In­dian stores ev­ery sea­son. Real time re­port­ing of sales data to in­di­vid­ual de­sign­ers helps them as­sess the buy­ing pat­tern and pro­duce new de­signs as per the sales.

On a sim­i­lar scale, Amer­i­can ca­sual fash­ion brand Gap has started of­fer­ing prod­ucts cus­tomised for In­dian con­sumers. Th­ese take into cog­nizance the pal­ette choice for colours, the shape, size and de­sign. Re­cently, Gap has un­veiled cus­tomised re­tail out­lets for In­dian shop­pers, which fol­low a smaller size for­mat and sep­a­rate adult and child seg­ments. Parag Dani, the In­dian busi­ness head for Gap, Arvind Life­style Brands, said in a me­dia state­ment, “The Made for In­dia range has been de­vel­oped based on in­puts given on In­dian con­sumer pref­er­ences. While Gap has demo­cratic prod­ucts through­out the world, some mi­nor tweaks have been made for the se­lect In­dia range on an ex­per­i­men­tal ba­sis.”

H&M is also launch­ing its global on­line store in In­dia soon. This e-com­merce por­tal will of­fer ex­clu­sive prod­ucts not found in stores. H&M’s pro­posal for a 100 per cent sin­gle-brand re­tail­ing sub­sidiary in In­dia un­der the FDI route was ap­proved in 2013. In­dia al­lows only sin­gle brands to own and run e-com­merce sites. This will pro­vide the In­dian con­sumer with greater choice. For a num­ber of other brands, their ven­ture into In­dian shores is through fran­chisees, li­cens­ing agree­ments, joint ven­tures or through In­dian coun­ter­parts. With the open­ing of the seg­ment in fu­ture, there will be more cus­tomi­sa­tion, more In­dia-in­spired de­signs and more choice for the In­dian con­sumer.

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