Bringing together the best of retail offerings, concepts, brands and retailers in East India under one roof, the two-day East India Retail Summit (EIRS) 2013 being held at ITC Sonar, Kolkata conducted a session titled “Forecast, Create, and Transform the Business of Fashion,” on day one.
The session started by a presentation by Sharda Uniyal, Head – Branding and Communications, Birla Cellulose. Uniyal gave a brief about her 50-year old company which makes viscose fibre. She also discussed how the company creates a demand for the fibre. Uniyal also spoke about the use of viscose as a fibre in fashion retail.
She said that the present day consumer comes from a new age altogether. Much stress is also laid on westernisation with everyone aspiring to look good, smart, and trendy. Uniyal further added that considering the positive consumer response to viscose the company introduced many activities like celeb endorsement and social media engagement for increasing the visibility of the fibre. She confirmed that Birla Cellulose had tied up with Global Desi to expand the business.
Panelists at the session included Amitabh Taneja, Chief Convenor, India Retail Forum and session moderator; Samsher Singh, Owner, All that Jazz; Rakesh Biyani, Jt. MD, Future Retail; Sitanshu Jhunjhunwala, Director, Turtle; Mayank Agarwal, Co-founder, Simaaya & Saasya; Agnimitra Paul, Designer; Abhishek Dutta, Designer; Pradip Singh Chandok, Director Longhorns; and Sharda Uniyal, Head – Branding and Cellulose, Birla Cellulose.
Amitabh Taneja started the session by asking Biyani to shed light on the latest happenings in the fashion business. Biyani said that there are multiple aspects of fashion business. The industry has grown extremely well over the past few years though there have been a few challenges such as inflation in cost of raw materials and taxation issues. Challenges, however, did not curb the growth, said Biyani. He further added that most businesses have doubled in size over the past few years. “A huge consumer base has been created for clothing, but the growth in Indian brands has been slow. There has been a limited growth in multi brand as well but it will surely grow with time. The online channels are also flourishing well. In terms of category, maximum growth has been observed in women’s wear and it will continue to grow at a good pace,” he stated.
In his opinion, value fashion is an emerging category in the country with retailers like Reliance Trends and Max already operating in the segment. Despite all the slowdown, fashion business has only grown in India. Biyani ended his dialogue by stating that in future, there will be bigger opportunities so fashion players need to invest today for tomorrow’s gain.
Taneja said that fashion business is a complex business and product designed front end retail has not taken it to a place where it should have been.
Sharing her views, Paul felt that we currently lack in proper finishing, delivery and commitments of goods but it can be worked out. She works on Indo-western style but also tries to work with Indian style and cuts. Paul mostly concentrates on design aspect and felt that it is difficult to manage the retail chain as the right and innovative products have to be constantly designed.
Taneja then asked Uniyal about Birla’s initiatives to help fashion businesses in the country. Answering the question, she said that they have tied-up with front-end retailers and fashion labels to create more pull for the viscose fibre by creating a line of products. The company is also helping showcase various possibilities with the product which can be created using the fibre, she added.
Answering to Taneja’s question whether Indian retail really lacks the finesse, Jhunjhunwala, stated that menswear market has always been a mature market. Turtle’s strong point has always been quality and the company creates products of international standard.
Biyani added on to the discussion by saying that big brands do not look at quality when compared to brand value. Overseas businesses are better at managing their brands. India does have better quality. For womenswear, aspirations are rising very fast but there is not much manufacturing happening to cater to that, she said. He also mentioned that it all depends upon the maturity of customers tool. “In India we lack in the education of customers. Other major challenge is due to taxation; the prices of garments are 10 percent more than the market can actually afford. According to him, the level of education that is happening for mobile phones is not happening in fashion businesses.
Expressing his view, Dutta said that in fashion week 20 percent of what is showcased is for creating the theme and the rest 80 percent is saleable. He pointed out that there is no concept of design houses in India. Fashion trend is followed by the retailers but in a simpler manner.
Taneja then asked Chandok about the future of accessory business to which he replied: “Accessory is a very limited term and the more preferable term is “essential.” Accessories have always been in the store background but now the times have changed with the category growing by leaps and bounds. It is not just belts and bags business now. We have come up with men’s accessory like boxes for watches.”
Sharing his opinion on the question: Is fashion business brand centric or product centric, Biyani said it is very important for the customer to like the product and connect with it. Brands can evolve over the years through consistency. He stated that brands like Anita Dongre cater to all segments well and that is what has made them successful.
Talking about the customer aspect, Singh said that fashion players tend to underestimate the customer. However, today’s customer is no more price conscious but value conscious. The biggest hindrance, as per him, is that Indians are poor marketers and they have little knowledge about how to take the brand to the next level.
The concluding question for the session discussed the future of fashion business in the country. Replying to the question, Uniyal said that getting all the things correct is the biggest challenge. Chandok stated that perception is in the mind of the consumer, and value factor is what consumer gets. Dutta added that fashion players must change every season and collaborating with retail chains was important.
Paul opined that a balance between innovation and consistency needs to be striked. Agarwal mentioned Indian fashion players have to learn from international brands about marketing and branding.
In Jhunjhunwala’s opinion, a strong back end supply chain is required for a brand to be successful. Singh added that industry as a whole needs to do much more.
Concluding the session, Biyani spoke about the main motive of India Fashion Forum. He said the main purpose of the event is to reach out as an industry to the consumers. The IFF has put in a lot of effort and has become a great platform, stated Biyani. He also insisted that Indian brands will continue to be relevant in long term.