Usha has been the market leader in the sewing machine category for decades and is the harbinger of revival and growth of the sewing machine industry. This enduring leadership position has been possible because of the company’s ability to constantly innovate, anticipate, and even create consumer demand, said Mr. Parveen Kumarr Sahni, President, Sewing Machines Business, Usha International, in an exclusive interview with the Textile Value Chain.

Excerpts:
How did COVID-19 impact the business of your company in the last two years? How did it manage?

While COVID-19 had an adverse impact on many businesses, for the sewing machine category it proved to be the opposite. As consumers looked to cope with the ‘new normal’, they invested in creative hobbies and passions that brought joy to them as they stayed cooped in homes shuffling between household chores and office work. One of the hobbies that gained favour during the pandemic-driven lockdowns was sewing, not just for functional purposes but also as a means of creative DIY – another trend that really saw increasing popularity during this period. For countless people across India, sewing became an enjoyable hobby, a pleasant way to explore one’s creative potential that also kept stress and anxiety at bay. In fact, many turned this passion into a viable business while confined to their homes. All of these saw a huge surge in the Do-It Yourself/hobby culture, giving an impetus to sewing machine sales. Being the pioneers of the sewing machine in India, Usha realised the need of the hour –to tutor and guide those keen on learning and honing their sewing skills not only on how to choose the sewing machine that would cater to their needs but also how the machine works.

The wide range of sewing machines Usha offer caters to the varying needs across new as well as experienced hobbyists – from the basic to the really high-end –each of which is user-friendly and enables the customer to take their skills up many notches. Usha offers free online ‘Learn & Create’ sewing tutorial videos on UshaSew. com, which are easy-to-follow extensive step-bystep demos for all consumers.

The pandemic also opened up another business vertical to the sewing industry — textile factories across the country began to also cater to the demand for a com pletely new category of products — masks and PPE kits.

All of these led to an upward growth curve for households as well as industrial sewing machines.

What are the new launches in sewing machines? What is their USP?
At Usha International, we keep consumers at the core of our business – developing products that help fulfil their needs/aspirations thus transforming their lives. Our aim is straightforward – to be the best at what we do to build the category as well as the industry as we offer products that combine the latest innovation in design, technology, and performance. Listening to consumer feedback and insights and their evolving preferences, Usha International has launched a slew of innovative, technologically advanced user-friendly sewing machines in the last couple of years each catering to a specific audience – Quilt Magic, Design Craft, Sew Magic, MC 8200 QCP SE, Style Stitch, and Mystique and Usha Memory Craft Skyline S-9 with Artistic Digitizer and Memory Craft 9850, Usha 6700P, Usha Memory Craft 550E.

These machines cater to the needs of growing numbers across hobbyists and commercial establishments across the country, offering a range of technologically superior features to up the ante for serious sewists, who want both precision control and perfection. Equipped with Japanese technology, each of these machines is extremely user-friendly making it easy for consumers to take their creativity to the next level.

Additionally, all the new embroidery machines from Usha come with the Artistic Digitizer, a user-friendly embroidery designing software that is compatible with both Windows and iOS, simplifying digitization of images, and enabling specialised embroidery like Stipple fill, Net fill, Array fill, and Monogramming. These machines also allow free-motion embroidery for all textile arts, quilting, dressmaking, home furnishings, and more. It’s the ultimate tool in the hands of the right user, to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, using creativity and skill.

Give us details of the evolution of the sewing machines industry in India – growth, trends, and forecast.
The sewing machine industry in India has seen a renaissance of sorts in the last few decades with consumers rediscovering sewing as a hobby. With the evolution of the sewing machine from the manual black machines of the yore, today, we have a slew of high-tech automated sewing machines catering to the varied needs of the consumers from the simple to the complex.

This perception of sewing has undergone a transformation and the new age machines have set off a revival of sewing as a life-skill, an art, a creative hobby, and a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) trend. For Usha International, which has been the pioneer and market leader in the sewing machines industry in India for decades, the growth has majorly come from developing products
that cater to the needs of ever-evolving consumers. We are constantly learning from what customers tell us, aspirational trends, and therefore offering products that further grow this market. New products are designed keeping in mind explicit needs to enable sewing enthusiasts to do more i.e. stitching, embroidery, and quilting.

In fact, we witnessed a healthy growth of approximately 15% in our sewing machines business in 2020-21 and grew substantially in the Automatic Zig Zag (white machines) category, gaining over 65% market share in this category in FY 20-21. As consumers continue to evolve, our focus is to offer better and more evolved products and engage with our consumers by creating a 360* eco-system that offers them help in selecting the right machine for themselves, as well as teaching sewing skills through innovative platforms and associations.

Target markets and how much growth is contributed from the specific market?
As a brand, Usha International caters to audiences across India, agnostic of age, gender, and geography. We offer machines suitable for kids as young as 8 years, all the way up to senior citizens in their 70s – basically, everyone who wants to learn, grow, create, and further their passion for sewing. Demography-wise, we have a very loyal and strong customer base both in rural and urban markets across the country. Going by recent trends that we have witnessed, people in the southern region are more in clined towards pursuing sewing and quilting as a hobby, which is closely followed by the West and North markets. A key point to note here is that the North and West markets are currently emerging and growing at a faster pace and are expected to become very big in the coming years.

Besides these new markets, we have also seen a growing demand in the East where we are increasing our footprint by holding product demos and localised promotions to engage closely with our customers. Sales in semi-urban and rural areas are thriving, and urban centres such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata are growing as expected.

How about the R&D efforts of Usha International?
Usha sewing machines have enriched the lives of Indians since 1934 when the company first became operational from a factory in Kolkata. Over the past nine decades, consumer centricity has been at the core of products we make – consumer insights, feedback, market gaps, and customer needs – the brand takes all of these into consideration and has constantly tried to launch products offering the best-in-class value proposition.

We have a robust R&D team in place, for the sewing machine category, that focuses on driving brand relevance by being committed to understanding customers’ evaluation criteria covering both aesthetics and performance. For us, maintaining brand relevance goes hand in hand with ensuring we continue to win the trust and loyalty of our customers. The team remains committed to building demand for sewing machines by offering easy-to-use innovative products that appeal to customers and offer the best creativity, technology, and safety. For decades now, we have had a strategic partnership with Janome Sewing Machine Co. ltd. to bring Japanese technology to India in the form of an innovative, technologically advanced range of sewing machines. These products are easy to use, allow for customised creativity, and are within the acceptable price range as proved by ever-increasing annual sales. (Would require further inputs from Usha BU team on R&D efforts).

Usha’s strategy and outlook for sewing machines business 
Usha has been the market leader in the sewing machine category for decades and is the harbinger of revival and growth of the sewing machine industry. This enduring leadership position has been possible because of the company’s ability to constantly innovate, anticipate, and even create consumer demand. We have traversed the entire spectrum of the market, from urban to rural India, from the lowest to the highest, with state-of-the-art products, as well as by developing the ecosystem that provides end-to-end solutions for every kind of needs of consumers viz. product, teaching/ skilling, online tutorials as well as post-sales service. We are aggressively building the hobby and creativity market through awareness and teaching support provided through – The hab – a one-of-its-kind experiential store that provides workshops for the creative curious minds, demos and workshops, and blogs and online tutorials on our website UshaSew.com

We have a robust R&D team in place, for the sewing machine category, that focuses on driving brand relevance by being committed to understanding customers’ evaluation criteria covering both aesthetics and performance.

Additionally, amidst the pandemic, we witnessed a  lot of older people going back to sewing, a skill they  learned in their growing years, and many youngsters picking it up afresh. They took it up for various reasons – stress relief, recreational  activity, creativity, and in many cases even as an income source. This pandemic also led to another shift in customer preference – there was a marked shift from the unorganized sector to the organized as customers were looking at the overall value offering, which bode well for our business. Given these trends, we are positive about the future outlook of the sewing market and we expect it to grow substantially in the next five years.