MY THOUGHTS “THE FASH­ION MAR­KET IS CHANG­ING AND CHANG­ING VERY FAST”

Images Retail - - CONTENTS - – By IM­AGES Re­tail Bu­reau

Rachna Ag­gar­wal Sird­esh­mukh, CEO, Fu­ture Life­style Fash­ion, talks about her jour­ney and gives valu­able in­sights on the re­tail fash­ion mar­ket.

Rachna Ag­gar­wal Sird­esh­mukh, CEO, Fu­ture Life­style Fash­ion, is an MBA from IIM, Ahmed­abad. She started her ca­reer with Coats Viyella Plc. Dur­ing her stint at the iconic Madura Gar­ments, she worked on Van Heusen and then launched Allen Solly in 1993, where she was in­stru­men­tal in in­tro­duc­ing the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ‘Fri­day Dress­ing’ con­cept to the coun­try. In 1999 Rachna, along with her col­leagues, pro­moted a VC funded brand-mar­ket­ing com­pany, In­dus-league Cloth­ing Lim­ited (ILCL). In 2005, the com­pany was ac­quired by the Fu­ture Group, and Rachna sub­se­quently took over as the CEO. She con­tin­ues to lead the brand busi­ness of Fu­ture Life­style Fash­ions and her brand port­fo­lio in­cludes di­verse ap­parel brands such as Scullers, In­digo Na­tion, Jeal­ous 21, Bare, Rig, UMM, John Miller, Ur­ban Yoga, Ur­bana, Lom­bard, Priv­i­lege Club, Mother Earth, Gio­vani and Con­verse.

Work­ing in the fash­ion in­dus­try is ex­cit­ing

I joined the fash­ion In­dus­try in the by­gone days when sales staff stood be­hind coun­ters and opened shirt boxes for men to se­lect from! And, even though the world has changed since then, every day is still a new day in fash­ion! It is this ex­cite­ment that keeps me here. The fash­ion in­dus­try is as much about trend and data anal­y­sis, as about gut and in­stinct. It is about ex­cit­ing the young girl with the lat­est in fash­ion as much as about im­prov­ing the core white shirt for the cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive. It is as much about con­ver­sa­tions be­tween fab­ric and colour, as about EBITDA and ROCE. In fact, all that chaos and cre­ativ­ity does is that they make for Just Another Day in Par­adise for me! Per­son­ally, I con­sider my­self lucky to be in­volved with a port­fo­lio of brands as rich and di­verse as Scullers, Jeal­ous 21, Con­verse, In­digo Na­tion, Rig, Gio­vani, etc., wherein each has a unique at­ti­tude and brand ex­pe­ri­ence to of­fer.

Par­a­digm shift from a seller to buyer led mar­ket

The fash­ion mar­ket is chang­ing and chang­ing very fast. The con­sumer is now at the cen­tre of the whirlpool – it’s her in­ter­ac­tion with dif­fer­ent brands and her ex­pe­ri­ences that de­fine how we op­er­ate and how busi­ness is be­ing done. Her world is her screen and all the in­for­ma­tion she con­sumes flows on this screen. Her No. 1 source of in­for­ma­tion of

what’s in fash­ion is In­sta­gram. She doesn’t un­der­stand off­line and on­line...it’s all one sim­ple con­tin­uum for her. In­for­ma­tion is avail­able in­stantly at her fin­ger­tips, and as such, the 9 to 10-month sup­ply chain the fash­ion in­dus­try worked with is no longer a vi­able op­tion. Get­ting or­ders in ad­vance and then pro­duc­ing is no longer a safe op­tion. Work­ing with two sea­sons in the year is no longer vi­able. Fash­ion as a busi­ness has to work with speed and imag­i­na­tion. To be able to quickly pick up trends, to iden­tify top sell­ers and re­pro­duce, to iden­tify slow movers in weeks and solve to liq­ui­date, to sell looks and ex­pe­ri­ences seam­lessly.

Tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the busi­ness

Tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to both of us as well as to our cus­tomers. It is help­ing us to move the nee­dle sig­nif­i­cantly on busi­ness met­rics as well as en­abling great con­sumer con­nect. It is em­pow­er­ing us by throw­ing up data and an­a­lyt­ics for quick de­ci­sion mak­ing by con­nect­ing us to the cus­tomers, ven­dors and part­ners seam­lessly, by al­low­ing us to reach out to our fans in cost ef­fec­tive ways on so­cial me­dia and to par­tic­i­pate in con­ver­sa­tions. On the other side, it is em­pow­er­ing our cus­tomers by mak­ing so much more in­for­ma­tion avail­able to them, al­low­ing them to com­pare and even get peer in­puts.

The chang­ing fash­ion con­sumer

Tech­nol­ogy has placed the power in the cus­tomers’ hands with In­ter­net en­abled smart­phones and tablets. In to­day’s tech­nol­ogy-driven mar­kets, the cus­tomer is ex­tremely aware of the global fash­ion mar­ket. She sees how the world is dress­ing every day. She is more ex­posed to the lat­est trends in fash­ion. How she thinks visu­ally and pro­cesses im­ages is an amaz­ing change. Over­all, be it price, new prod­ucts, trends and pro­cesses, I find to­day’s cus­tomer to be more fash­ion­savvy, tech-savvy, more deeply in­volved and con­nected at every level, and much more im­pa­tient too.

The chang­ing fash­ion prod­uct

I went for a friend’s 50th birth­day party re­cently and 80 per­cent of women present were wear­ing dresses in bright colours and prints, off shoul­ders and cold shoul­ders, Gre­cian sil­hou­ettes and bell sleeves, mi­nis and maxis!

Isn’t this a sea change from 20 years ago when the fash­ion in­dus­try pri­mar­ily sold men’s shirts and we all ex­per­i­mented with shades of whites, blues and blacks, and the only vis­ual de­ci­sion to take was the thick­ness of and the dis­tance be­tween the stripes?

‘Make in In­dia’ vi­sion for the fash­ion in­dus­try

In In­dia, we do have the raw ma­te­ri­als, fi­bres, weav­ing, pro­cess­ing, gar­ment­ing, as well as the cre­ativ­ity, the tech­nol­ogy, etc. We now need to stitch them all to­gether, scale up from the cur­rent frag­mented state by cre­at­ing the right in­fra­struc­ture and en­vi­ron­ment to make the vi­sion hap­pen. The gov­ern­ment has, in fact, iden­ti­fied In­dia’s gar­ment and tex­tile in­dus­try as one of the 25 sec­tors in which we are ca­pa­ble of be­com­ing world lead­ers. We also need to recre­ate and build on our rich his­tory of tex­tiles and our nat­u­ral ad­van­tage of cot­ton pro­duc­tion, of the silk route, and of the hand­looms. The awe­some op­por­tu­nity is that fash­ion is one of those in­dus­tries that al­lows us to pre­serve our cul­ture and her­itage, truly cel­e­brat­ing the colours and tex­tures of In­dia.

Driv­ing growth: ac­cel­er­a­tors and de­cel­er­a­tors

I feel that the ac­cel­er­at­ing fac­tors for growth in the fash­ion in­dus­try are:

Right priced prod­uct the first time

Om­nichan­nel and seam­less flow of ex­pe­ri­ence across both phys­i­cal and vir­tual worlds Cre­at­ing the right eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment for cap­i­tal in­flow

The road­blocks are:

Cost of cus­tomer ser­vic­ing (oc­cu­pancy cost/ last mile de­liv­ery)

Frag­mented value chain Fre­quent pol­icy/ tax regime changes, etc.

Where the prof­its in fash­ion will now come from

The prof­its in our busi­ness will come by us­ing data to min­imise lost sales and max­imise full sell through ve­loc­ity. And, by cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive and flex­i­ble sup­ply chains.

Why be­ing “Green” does and will mat­ter a lot

To­day’s con­sumer is be­com­ing more and more con­cerned about sus­tain­abil­ity. Or­ganic/ green and en­vi­ron­ment friendly fash­ion does cre­ate em­pa­thy and con­nect with a grow­ing cir­cle of cus­tomers. The tex­tile in­dus­try is one of the big­gest pol­lu­tants of our rivers and there is a dire need to de­velop sus­tain­able pro­cesses. Sev­eral la­bels are tak­ing an ini­tia­tive to end waste. There are so many things we need to sup­port.

Our brand, Mother Earth, is a grass-roots de­vel­op­ment brand where pro­duc­tion hap­pens with women self-help groups. They are sup­ported with de­sign in­puts and mar­ket ac­cess by us re­sult­ing in grass root so­cio eco­nomic im­pact, and, also in pre­serv­ing cen­turies old art and craft.

Ex­cerpts taken from the April is­sue of IM­AGES Busi­ness of Fash­ion.

Tech­nol­ogy has placed the power in the cus­tomers’ hands with In­ter­net en­abled smart­phones and tablets. In to­day’s tech­nol­ogy-driven mar­kets, the cus­tomer is ex­tremely aware of the global fash­ion mar­ket. She sees how the world is dress­ing every day. She is more ex­posed to the lat­est trends in fash­ion.

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