Anup Kumar

Owner – UBHO by anup kumar

Fashion Designer & Trend Forecaster

The Indian Apparel industry, in spite of two recent global economic crises, is still very optimistic and moving ahead confidently. India has emerged as a favorable destination for the world in terms of business operations and investments. According to a report by “the Assocham-Yes Bank study”, India will be the most sought after luxury market worth Rs.82,000 cr, 2 yrs. from now.

The announcement of FDI in retail, which is a great initiative in today’s scenario, brings with it many challenges to the Indian clothing brands, which are into western-wear category. The scene will be such that “Only the best will Survive”.  Of course many domestic brands here are at par with international ones in terms of quality and fit, but we cannot deny the fact that till today we model ourselves on them and follow them as our mentors. Though the journey began as knockoffs, ‘inspiration’ and adaptation of leading international brands, today most of the domestic brands are striving for original identity. Our market seems to be more prepared and resilient to meet the future challenges, the current example is an initiative by COLOR PLUS new retail strategy to give shoppers a unique experience by providing a complete look.

In spite of having such a big market, we are still unable to grow as much as we should have. Indian clothing brands still lack in many areas. The time has come that we should organize ourselves in all aspects in order to survive in the current scenario as the real war is about to begin, when world’s leading brands will have their presence in India. One should not have the misconception that our domestic brands will not be affected as their presence is in almost every tier of the society. The fact is just the opposite; international brands are more aware about Indian demography and know very well how to penetrate and capture the target market. Their research, development and marketing strategies are almost flawless. Lee Cooper had introduced “FAMOUS BASICS” line many years back to capture the customer segments that wished to wear the brand at economical prices. The current example is SUPERDRY, a British clothing brand, who has tied up with Reliance Brands and are planning to enter Indian market and also targeting tier-2 cities.

In the market research conducted in different cities like Jaipur, Mohali, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Bhatinda, Amritsar, Mumbai, Latur, during my Trend Forecast Workshops  (organized by various fashion and textile design colleges) surprising facts were revealed.

In view of the current situation, few measures are suggested which Indian clothing brands should apply to sustain and excel when they face the storm in the years to come.

  1. SENSE THE CONSUMER TREND: Today, just the brand name is not enough. In the survey, consumers were asked to rank the factors like BRAND NAME, PRICE, FIT AND QUALITY, INSTORE EXPERIENCE according to their priority. Majority ranked in the order of “Price, fit and quality, in-store experience and finally the brand name”. It is really amazing that brand name has taken the last position. What does this reflect? This is a clear indication that today if a “Brand / Label” does not provide good quality at an expected price it will be rejected by their customers. This is a truly unbiased market, packed with opportunities for even the lesser-known brands.
  2. CUSTOMER SERVICE & KNOWLEDGEABLE STAFF: In most of the brand stores (exclusive or franchise) it was shocking to find that the store managers and staff didn’t have adequate product knowledge and information about the brand image. Trained staff is a must in stores as they are the ones who first interact with the customer face-to-face and hence can drastically affect the buying. Proper training on regular basis and measures to motivate them in terms of career growth and remuneration can be very effective in sales growth. Each customer today seeks personal attention and should be carefully handled. So, if along with the pleasant interiors and appealing window displays, if the store doesn’t have trained staff, it’s a matter of great concern.
  3. MAKE THE FRESH ARRIVAL ‘HAPPENING’: Another fact in the survey revealed that most of the customers wait either for some or the other ‘offers or sales periods’ for their major purchases. This is a serious concern for the clothing business because with the flood of options available to the consumer, the life of the product is reducing day by day. Brands need to take extra care to develop some strategies to keep attracting their existing target customers during the fresh arrivals. Today, brand loyalty is the biggest question. So, it’s very important to hold the existing customers and at the same time try to increase the horizon.
  4. INVEST IN INNOVATION & RESEARCH: Its high time that the Indian clothing brands give due importance to product innovation & research and invest in it. It should not be considered a creative wastage fund. It is now necessary to understand the importance of trends and its forecast and give flexibility to the designers to explore. Another problem with many domestic brands is that they hire very few experienced designers (freelance or full time) just to save money. It’s not a safe practice and should be strongly avoided in today’s scenario as we have reached a stage where if the brand doesn’t have product identity of its own, it will be difficult to survive the storm that is underway. One should keep a team of junior designers depending upon one’s need but guided by very experienced ones, in order to move into the right direction.
  5. STRATEGY – THE KEY MARKET DRIVERS: Proper marketing strategy is the only solution to gain market share; there are no alternatives to it. We all understand that clothing business is seasonal in nature and has lots of constraints in terms of spending in advertisements or various activities to promote the product. But still lots can be done to catch the attention of the right customers for one’s product. Exploring newer product categories such as MATERNITY WEAR, SPORTS WEAR, INNERWEAR etc. can be very profitable. One should understand the difference between the brand and the brand image. Spending huge amounts on advertisements may catch the attention of the customers but may not lead to sales growth and gaining popularity in terms of brand image. It needs to be backed with quality product, appropriate pricing and proper product positioning. Precaution should be taken in regards of brand image; if a brand doesn’t have a strong brand image it should avoid opening too many exclusive outlets. There are many initiatives taken by the CMAI to help the domestic brands and these will surely help the brands in future e.g., the NATIONAL GARMENT FAIR, which is a wonderful business platform for both buyers and brands and at the same time attending the various conferences during the fairs can be very helpful.
  6. THE REAL V/S VIRTUAL: Information technology has changed the world altogether. Having a brand’s own website with e-commerce facility can be very useful in terms of reaching the customers easily and getting associated with social media for product promotion and sales. The operational cost of virtual stores is much lower as compared to real stores.
      There are immense opportunities available and just by small efforts we can dominate in our own market rather than rely on International brands.