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



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.

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