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
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.
A NUMBERS GAME
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.
MADE FOR INDIA
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.