Men­tor­ing the Gen X

Apparel - - Contents -

A Re­port on the ses­sion con­ducted for sec­ond gen­er­a­tion en­trepreneurs who joined their fam­ily busi­nesses

The Cloth­ing Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia (CMAI) or­gan­ised a men­tor­ing ses­sion for the Sec­ond Gen­er­a­tion En­trepreneurs who have joined their fam­ily Busi­nesses. B S Nagesh was the Key Speaker at the Ses­sion, and gave his valu­able in­sights on trade and markets, on bridg­ing the gap be­tween gen­er­a­tions and find­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties in a new world. Mru­gaya Chit­nis re­ports. Pho­to­graphs: Ashish Phatak The first Ivy League Gen X meet­ing was or­gan­ised on Jan­uary 23 by the Cloth­ing Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia (CMAI) at their Ma­ha­laxmi Of­fice. The sem­i­nar, aimed at men­tor­ing the new gen­er­a­tion of en­trepreneurs and cre­at­ing a plat­form for them to talk about ad­ver­si­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties of trade from their per­spec­tive, was at­tended by 30 Gen X en­trepreneurs.

The ses­sion was presided over by B S Nagesh, the founder of TRRAIN (Trust for Re­tail­ers and Retail As­so­ciates of In­dia). An In­dus­try ex­pert, Mr Nagesh is also the Non-ex­ec­u­tive Vice Chair­man of Shop­pers Stop and has been with the depart­ment store since its in­cep­tion in 1991.


Tran­si­tion from a tra­di­tional set-up to a tech­nol­o­gy­based one, com­pe­ti­tion, and un­der­stand­ing the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment are the chal­lenges faced by the new en­trepreneurs. The ses­sion com­menced with in­puts from some Gen X mem­bers about chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties that they en­coun­tered.

Vidhi Dalal from the la­bel B:Kind said, ‘‘Six years back, I started B:Kind, in the western wom­enswear seg­ment. Our de­signs are our plus point since they are on par with western brands. This is the right time for the growth of western wear mar­ket in In­dia, but there is tough com­pe­ti­tion from in­ter­na­tional giants. Cre­at­ing a brand in In­dia is a tough task and ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing are some of the big­gest chal­lenges we face.’’ Nis­hant Sainani of Fritzberg spoke of the newer av­enues emerg­ing, ‘‘One of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that has opened up is dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, wherein not only the big brands but also the small la­bels can show­case them­selves.

How­ever, we still have a tra­di­tional way of run­ning the busi­ness. Be­ing from the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, I want to change the tra­di­tional setup into a dig­i­tal one and cre­ate an om­nichan­nel pres­ence for my brand, so that we are avail­able on all plat­forms.’’

Chippy Me­hta of Creative Group spoke of other is­sues plaug­ing the new gen­er­a­tion, ‘‘Late pay­ments, cost mar­gins and labour in the do­mes­tic mar­ket are the is­sues that we face. Our op­por­tu­ni­ties are in man­u­fac­tur­ing for the var­i­ous la­bels that are com­ing in In­dia, and we also look at link­ing our­selves to on­line por­tals and use dig­i­tal data to mar­ket our brands and prod­ucts.’’

In the free­wheel­ing ad­vi­sory ses­sion that fol­lowed, Mr Nagesh ad­dressed the con­cerns pre­sented and fo­cused on var­i­ous point­ers, such as: Strat­egy, Tran­si­tion, In­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, tech­nol­ogy and om­nichan­nel. Th­ese are elab­o­rated be­low.


Speak­ing about Strat­egy, Mr Nagesh em­pha­sised the need to un­der­stand to­day’s con­sumers, the change in their buy­ing pat­terns and to cre­ate one’s niche in the mar­ket. There are a host of op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore th­ese in­sights in the form of cloth­ing cat­e­gories, ac­cord­ing to him.

He said, ‘‘To­day, the use of mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories has in­creased in the coun­try and this of­fers a huge op­por­tu­nity. The western wear mar­ket has in­creased two-and-a-half times the size of the eth­nic wear mar­ket. There are so many dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories. The wom­enswear seg­ment it­self has so many cat­e­gories and each can be ex­plored. The key is to cre­ate your own niche in any of th­ese cat­e­gories.’’

He drove the point say­ing that niche does not mean small, but recog­nis­ing an op­por­tu­nity and work­ing on it.


Ad­dress­ing the topic of brand build­ing, Mr Nagesh said, ‘‘One way to cre­ate a brand is through ad­ver­tis­ing. But even if you put in R100 crores or

R500 crores, there is no guar­an­tee that the brand will work be­cause brand is not only what you see in ad­ver­tise­ments. In­stead, make a good prod­uct and then find a good dis­tri­bu­tion. Brands get cre­ated be­cause of a good prod­uct and the re­la­tion­ships cre­ated through it.’’


Speak­ing about the per­cep­tion and mis­con­cep­tion about trends, Mr Nagesh said, ‘‘Our ap­parel in­dus­try hasn’t cashed in on In­dia-spe­cific sea­sons. We are still mak­ing the Spring/Sum­mer and Au­tumn/Win­ter col­lec­tions ac­cord­ing to the western markets. In In­dia the wed­ding mar­ket it­self is of R93,000 crores and we have more fes­ti­vals than other coun­tries. So, don't just em­u­late the western trends when there is a huge op­por­tu­nity in the sea­sons that we are miss­ing.’’


Com­ing to the mar­ket fo­cus, Mr Nagesh ad­vised en­trepreneurs to stream­line their busi­ness and make sales through fo­cused quar­ters. He said, ‘‘45 per cent of In­dia's ap­parel mar­ket is in five cities and 20 per cent of it is only in Mum­bai and Delhi. The Bori­vali mar­ket is big­ger than the Jaipur mar­ket. Mum­bai it­self is a mar­ket with a value of up to 8-10 thou­sand crores. Even if you get 0.1 per cent of this chunk, your busi­ness will in­crease by 15-20 per cent.’’

He fur­ther stated, ‘‘Don't look at In­dia as a whole; in­stead, look at ter­ri­to­ries and de­cide where your tar­get con­sumers are lo­cated. Cre­ate a budget and fo­cus on one or two places. If you think on a na­tional scale, things can go out of hand, be­cause then the cost of cap­i­tal, cost of col­lec­tion, travel, etc be­comes ex­pen­sive. Hence, fo­cus only on spe­cific ter­ri­to­ries.”


They then ad­dressed the topic of tran­si­tion of busi­ness mat­ters from one gen­er­a­tion to an­other. Since all those present were en­trepreneurs who had taken the reigns of their fam­ily busi­ness in their hands and were grap­pling with the dif­fi­culty of turn­ing their tra­di­tion­ally run busi­ness into a digi­tised one, Mr Nagesh of­fered some ad­vice, say­ing that they should achieve ‘the golden mean’.

‘‘Some of you told me that the tran­si­tion from the tra­di­tional way of do­ing busi­ness is dif­fi­cult. Ac­tu­ally it is not the parental tran­si­tion that is dif­fi­cult, it is

your tran­si­tion that is dif­fi­cult. You think that you are in the busi­ness to ful­fill a cer­tain cus­tom. But the fact is that noth­ing is stop­ping you from cre­at­ing your own ground. Peo­ple from both the gen­er­a­tions need to sit to­gether and draw an agenda and start work­ing on the points that you both agree on.”

He ad­vised the younger brigade to find their own niche in their tra­di­tional busi­ness and un­bri­dle them­selves to ex­plore it.


Speak­ing about the con­cern that the young en­trepreneurs ex­pressed over the tough and in­tim­i­dat­ing com­pe­ti­tion from in­ter­na­tional brands, Mr Nagesh said that we need to ob­serve their strat­egy and learn from them, rather than be­ing afraid of them. He said, “They have en­tered our mar­ket with a sharp fo­cus. They are will­ing to put in more money and re­sources to bring in qual­ity. That's what we have to learn. We need to in­vest in tal­ent. The mantra is to fol­low the con­sumer and give him an ex­pe­ri­ence that he will not find any­where else. Com­pe­ti­tion is not in the prod­uct, com­pe­ti­tion is in the ex­pe­ri­ence, and in the ser­vice through which, if you are able to give bet­ter than others, you can bag the cus­tomer.”


Ex­press­ing his views about the pres­ence of Omni Chan­nel, Mr Nagesh said that it is nec­es­sary to use this mode of op­er­a­tion in a se­lec­tive and bet­ter way for busi­ness.

Dis­miss­ing the ap­pre­hen­sions of Gen X, Mr Nagesh said, “Nowhere in the world has e-com­merce taken away 50 per cent of the mar­ket. In all statis­tics, from big play­ers to small, and also in the in­ter­na­tional statis­tics, the con­ver­sions are 10 per cent to 15 per cent. The In­dian wom­enswear mar­ket is worth R40,000 crores, and the om­nichan­nel is af­fect­ing no more than 1.5 per cent of it. The rea­son we are lament­ing is be­cause we all are ey­ing the same con­sumer, in the same seg­ment, in the same mar­ket, on the same street. To­day the con­sumer is omni, so you have no op­tion, but to also be omni. The big­ger op­por­tu­nity for us is if you find a big in­vestor, or some for­eign com­pany who is will­ing to put in money to help you to grow your busi­ness, you should use th­ese plat­forms.”


While field­ing an­swers to the ques­tions raised by the young en­trepreneurs, Mr Nagesh cited ex­am­ples of var­i­ous suc­cess­ful busi­nesses and brands to il­lus­trate his so­lu­tions.

Speak­ing about fu­tur­is­tic trends he said, “In my opin­ion, the next five years are go­ing to be real glo­ri­ous years for SMEs. About MBOs, I feel that the high street is go­ing to come back, but in a very dif­fer­ent way. The 800 sq ft stores are go­ing to be­come 2000 sq ft stores. Malls will grow at a cer­tain rate, but there won’t be too many com­ing up. The On­line mar­ket will grow very fast, but you have to de­cide how you will you ride the on­line wave to reach your tar­get.”

Stat­ing the im­por­tance of com­pli­ance in to­day’s times, Mr Nagesh said, “The fu­ture is all about com­pli­ance and you can’t run the busi­ness like the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. With GST, the govern­ment will know your ba­sic cost. In the next 3-5 years the GST regime will be very strong. So, young peo­ple need to build busi­nesses with ab­so­lute trans­parency.”


Mr Nagesh rec­om­mended that the Gen X should pool their re­sources to in­vest in a con­sumer-based re­search project that will ben­e­fit all of them. He also ad­vised seek­ing the guid­ance of In­dus­try se­niors pe­ri­od­i­cally to get a bet­ter in­sight on things, and also not to re­peat any mis­takes they have ob­served.

The ses­sion ended with a Vote of Thanks, pre­sented by Mr Rahul Me­hta, who ex­pressed grat­i­tude to B S Nagesh for his valu­able guid­ance and re­it­er­ated his words: “Niche does not mean small; niche means work­ing with a sharper ob­jec­tive.”

Naveen Sainani, Head of the IVY League seg­ment, ex­pressed his sat­is­fac­tion at the success of the first Gen X ses­sion and promised to ar­range more such fruit­ful in­ter­ac­tions.

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