‘INNOVATE TO STAY RELEVANT’
Launched in the southern market last September, Van Heusen Innerwear and Athleisure is slowly expanding to other parts of the country. Ashish Jajoo, VP & Brand Head, Innerwear Business, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd talks about the brand’s strategie
ASHISH JAJOO, VP & BRAND HEAD, INNERWEAR BUSINESS, ADITYA BIRLA FASHION AND RETAIL LTD
Q] You launched Van Heusen Innerwear in the South first. How has the market responded?
We launched first in the South because we are based out of South and wanted to start on our home turf. Since we were just entering the business, we wanted to be sure of what we were doing and take baby steps initially. South is the strongest market for Van Heusen as a brand and we have seen a great response.
Q] Considering it’s a price-sensitive market, has India opened up to the idea of premium innerwear?
India is at the cusp of an elevation in all categories and the mid-premium and premium space is booming. Demographics are changing with young consumers earning and spending more. In the innerwear segment, economy segment contributes to around 45-50% and the mid-premium and premium segments also contribute roughly the same amount. However, the mid premium and premium segment is growing faster than the economy.
Q] Was being a late entrant in the category a challenge?
We like to look at it both as a challenge and an opportunity; challenge because we are not the first players in a fairly competitive market. However, there are just a few large, organized players that are dominating the space, which gives us an opportunity. If your product and approach to the market is differentiated, then you can build a space for yourself. The mid-premium and premium space is not as crowded as the economy space today and this is what we are focusing on.
Q] How many outlets do you currently have and what are your expansion plans?
We launched in September last year. For the first six months, we were largely present in the top three to four towns in the South because we wanted to ensure that our bearings were right. Towards the end of March, we started expanding, and in a very short time, we have expanded substantially. In the South, we are present in 22 headquarter towns which service over 80 towns. This covers almost all major towns in the southern market. We have just expanded to the northern market with launches in Delhi, NCR, Lucknow and Chandigarh. We have also recently launched in Mumbai and Ludhiana. Currently, we are already present in over 2,600 plus doors across the country and plan to increase that to 6,000 by the end of this financial year.
Q] What is the size of the innerwear market? How fast is the mid and premium segment growing in India right now?
The total innerwear market currently is at Rs 20,000 crores. The men’s segment is at Rs 7,5008,000 crore and the women’s segment amounts to around Rs 12,000 crore. Interestingly, the menswear segment is more organized. Around Rs 6,500 crore in the men’s segment is organized and Rs 1,000 crore belongs to regional and local players. However, for women’s wear, only Rs 2,000 crore is organized and Rs 10,000 crore
is still regional, local, unorganized players. Meanwhile, the economy segment today contributes to 50% of the value of the innerwear segment. Mid-premium and premium put together is roughly 45-47% of the category, but it is expected to grow at the rate of around 13-14% versus economy which should be around 10-11%.
Q] With a few already established national and international brands in the market, what gives you an edge over competition?
You cannot consider any one particular brand as competition. What gives us the confidence, more than an edge, is that there is enough scope for another large national brand to come into this space, provided the offering is differentiated. And with the pedigree of Van Heusen, we should be able to create our own market very soon.
Q] What are the marketing strategies you have been using to promote the products?
We wanted our communications to be insight-driven rather than generic, which is the case in the category where everyone talks about masochism or lifestyle, etc. All our communications are either on the fulcrum of differentiated fashion, or a differentiated product offering. We have run two campaigns in the South, one that talks about our underwears with a metallic waist band, which is a new product in India and the second is about the anti-bacterial innerwear, which again is an innovative product. Our product solves a deep-rooted consumer problem of sweat, itching and social awkwardness and we are the first brand in the country whose communication reflects this. Continuing on the same path, on the marketing front, we will look at consumer insights and create products that will either help solve a consumer’s problem or is innovative. Secondly, we are investing a lot in the Digital space because we are targeting a younger audience. We are now very active across Social Media.
Q] Is there a growing demand for the mid and premium segment even in smaller towns and cities?
Absolutely. The kind of potential that exists in the smaller towns is surprising. India is becoming one large market and the Tier II and Tier III cities hold a lot of potential.
Q] Are your marketing strategies for the smaller cities different than that for the larger cities?
Our strategies would be more nuanced, rather than being different.
Q] What will be your primary focus for the next few years?
We will look at a quick expansion across the country. We are also working on ensuring that there is a depth in every market that we enter. We want to become a fairly significant player in this category. We are also looking at the women’s segment closely. There is also a lot of potential in the athleisure space which combines the performance of athletics wear and the comfort of the lounge wear. We have mixed it together and created a new category which is already a big phenomenon globally.
Q] What part of your revenue comes from the athleisure segment?
Approximately 30-35% of our revenue comes from Athleisure, and 65-70% comes from innerwear, and it’s growing.
Q] What is your media mix? Which platforms do you use for reaching out to consumers?
Currently we are spending a lot on Outdoor. Since we do not have a national presence currently and are expanding to new cities, we are using localized communication and Outdoor and hoardings work best. We are investing a lot on the medium because we are engaging in localized communication. We are also investing a lot on Digital. However, once we become more national, we will look at other mass media possibilities.
Q] Van Heusen entered the innerwear segment around 10 years back too but later pulled out. How has the market evolved since then?
At that time, we decided to pull back because we wanted to focus on our core category, the apparel business. The market has evolved a lot since then, and so has the country, and the innerwear category has not been untouched by that. The evolution has happened in terms of consumer buying process. Earlier underwear or innerwear used to be a functional product. Today, it has become more lifestyle-driven. People are buying more often and they are changing their wardrobe, including innerwear, more frequently. The overall consumption, not just in terms of number of people who have come into the fold, but also the per capita consumption has increased over a period of time.
Q] In a market that is evolving so fast, how do you manage to stay relevant?
Brands that cease to be relevant, not just in India but even globally, find their demise sooner or later. Relevance means your ability to evolve with the consumer. A lot of people have to realize that the consumers are evolving much faster than we think they are. Hence, innovation has become fundamental. Your ability to reach out to consumers or the way you want to sell, or the way you are dealing with your retailer, everything needs innovation. You need to do something that no one else is doing. These steps ensure that you stay relevant.