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Spykar: Raising the Bar

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Incepted as a denim manufacturer in 1992, Spykar today has earned for itself strong brand equity as india’s leading young fashion retailer. Even as denim remains its core product, the Company has continued to add a range of products and categories to its portfolio to keep up with the changing market dynamics.

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Known for its youth appeal and vigour, Spykar is one of the most admired casualwear brands in India today. The first chapter of its success story was written over 20 years ago, when its founder and managing director , a qualified engineer with laundry business background, found his calling in the denim industry. The vast repertoire of technical knowledge in denim finishing gained via laundry business came in handy for him while setting up his own denim manufacturing venture.

Reminisces , Marketing Director, Spykar Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd.: “Armed with product expertise, Pabrekar meticulously put together the state-of-the art infrastructure and skilled team of designers, production and sales people to set up a denim processing unit in Mumbai in 1992, and began manufacturing denimwear under the brand name – Spykar. We established ourselves quite strongly in the home city to begin with. Thereafter, we started expanding our presence to other cities and regions. Ten years down the line, the brand became a key player in the Indian denimwear market.”

Associated with the company since inception, Vakharia has witnessed every bit of its journey thus far. He continues: “To further consolidate our market standing, we forayed into retail in 2003, and opened our first exclusive store at Mumbai’s shopping mall. In 2006, we also began franchising in a bid to swiftly expand our retail footprints at pan India level. Our founder’s unstinting belief in entrepreneurship has made Spykar the franchising giant that it is today.”

Current Presence

All these years, Spykar Lifestyle has strategically strengthened and deepened its market presence through a mix of sales channels. Presently, the brand is retailed across India in 203 EBOs; 900 plus MBOs; and 146 LFS such as , Globus, Lifestyle, Pantaloons, Pyramids, etc. The brand as of now commands nearly 12 percent share in the country’s casualwear market.

Notably, the company’s total annual retail turnover touched Rs. 235 crore by the end of December 2013. As regards exclusive stores, with a total retail space of 1,50,000 sq.ft. (own and franchised stores), it has recorded an annual turnover of Rs. 117.5 crore during the period. These days, more and more brands and retailers are taking advantage of the e-commerce boom in the country. Joining the ‘brand’ wagon, Spykar too is exploiting the e-retail route to increase sales and revenues. Shares Vakharia: “Apart from physical stores, the company is strengthening its online presence as well. We are currently present on online shopping portal Jabong and are in talks with Myntra and Amazon.”

Trade Nitty-Gritty

Spykar’s business interests span manufacturing, distribution, exports and retailing. Other than garments and fashion accessories, it also deals in fabric and apparel accessories like buttons, rivets and eyelets. The sale contribution of various verticals to its annual turnover during 2013 has been: EBOs – 50 percent; MBOs – 25 percent; fashion and lifestyle outlets – 17 percent; other retail outlets – 7 percent; and exports – 2 percent.

The company follows strict code of ethics while dealing with all its partners whether staff, business associates, vendors, etc. As denims are its mainstay, Spykar ensures  up-gradation of its in-house processing capabilities and technology to produce worldclass denim products year after year.

To spearhead its growth and profitability, the company revisits its business plans and strategy at regular intervals. As per Vakharia: “Of late, we have been focusing on achieving greater efficiency in our distribution and retail operations. Last year, the company has decentralised its distribution network in growth markets for better and efficient management. We have also developed additional networks for the North-East region, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Punjab. As regards retail operations, the non-performing stores have been relocated to emerging markets, thereby creating substitute profi t centres.”

The company has also undertaken region-wise studies to understand consumer buying patterns to maximise its sales volume. Furthermore, it has conducted in-depth research of regional festivals to better tap the local demand and hence optimise its supply and  distribution network.

Although the brand is positioned in the premium category, it has introduced a new range of affordable fashion denims to cater to the wider audience. Consequently, the company as been able to increase its market penetration and spur overall profitability.

Product Range

The brand primarily targets young people in the age group of 15 to 30. Its core value – to be bold, brash and audacious – resonates well with the fashion-conscious youth of today.

Affirms Vakharia: “At no stage of its 22 years of existence, did the company deviate from serving its target audience – the youth – its staple, which is fashion. Also, at all times, we have keyed-in to their ever-changing demands, their moods and tastes to come up with appropriate products.”

The brand has constantly strived to stay relevant to its clientele by adding new products to its portfolio. Even as the enterprise had built its business around the ever-young and very universal youth product – denim, it also decided to move beyond denims and launched Helium’s, a collection of cotton casualwear in 1994, followed by Forays leisurewear in 1996.

Later in 2004, it challenged the conventional concept of trousers in India by bringing in the unique cargo style that revolutionised the category through its innovative designs and packaging. The company next stepped into the kidswear segment in 2008 and launched OYO, the jeanswear for kids with famous child actor Darsheel Safary as its brand face.

“Today, the brand’s product basket consists of items ranging from denims, shirts, T-shirts, and non-denims for men and women. Besides clothing, we also offer accessories such as sandals, belts, caps, bags, socks, badges, etc. But our item of focus would be denims only,” apprises Vakharia.

Store Operations

The company’s operational philosophy is to improve its business practices, create superior systems and processes for the employees, and provide excellent retail experience to its customers. Says Vakharia: “At Spykar’s exclusive stores, every aspect – right from the theme, décor, aesthetics, music, to the assortment of apparel and accessories displayed is fi ne tuned to create a customer-friendly ambience. The floor plans and displays are done keeping in mind to maximise product accessibility and mobility inside the store.

The in-house visual merchandising (VM) team makes constant efforts not only to entice and motivate the visitors to make a purchase but also provides a snapshot of varied looks and combination styles and helps them select suitable options.” In line with its efforts to offer better customer experience, Spykar has introduced a whole new store design in 2013.

Recognising that store staffs significantly contribute in the brand’s sales and footfalls, the company provides them adequate training on soft skills and client servicing along with updating them on their products. They are also trained to handle customer queries and grievances. As a consequence, the company’s employee attrition rate has been quite low but its customer base has grown considerably with time.

Leveraging Technology

Modern day businesses are incomplete without technologyled processes. For Spykar also, technology is integral to its everyday operations related to production, supply and retail. As per Vakharia, at the store level, the company uses internally developed software systems. As regards back-end operations, the company has installed in-house developed software called Retail Gear for their warehousing and inventory management.

For front-end operations, it has employed in-house developed software called Retail SPY, which takes care of inventory management and related billing in addition to accounting. Furthermore, the company utilises barcode systems for hassle-free merchandise management.

The technology has enabled it to keep track of a huge range of products as they are manufactured, distributed, stocked and retailed through the remotest corners of the country. To enhance consumer connect and brand recall, Spykar makes optimum use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Winning Customers

The USP of Spykar is that it keep itself updated on the latest in trend, marketplace dynamics and consumer aspirations. Vakhaira declares: “We put in a lot of effort to innovate, and to bring new styles, cuts and fabric to the market. We experiment a great deal on accessories as well. We are generally the fi rst ones to bring the latest styles and trends to the Indian consumer.”

He claims that Spykar has the best fits in its repertoire for Indian audiences since it designs specifi cally for them. According to him, the brand pays great attention to product development. In 2013, it has introduced additional sizes (like XS, XXXL, 42, 44, etc.) to cater to older customers. This has enabled it to tap into the new set of consumers. Its target group too has been served with newer and trendier fi ts.

Spykar has also extended its winterwear line by including products like fleece jackets, brushed looper knits, heavy piques, track pants and activewear. As a retailer, the brand banks upon its quality products, store environment and superior customer service. According to Vakharia, customer service is a great opportunity for the company to differentiate itself from its competitors.

“We value our customers’ feedback greatly. We also monitor their buying pattern and inform and update them on new arrivals and schemes via our official Facebook page, SMSs and e-mailers. Also, we have a number of pro-customer policies, for instance, lenient and hassle-free exchange policy and immediate response to complaints, if any.” Furthermore, Spykar plans to soon launch its customer loyalty programme
as well.

Marketing and Promotions

Nowadays marketing efforts are faced with many challenging, with consumers becoming far more conscious and ever more fl ickering. Therefore, to capture their imagination, brand strategy requires a lot of deliberation for any kind of promotion. The vehicles used to advertise the brand are a mix of conventional and contemporary media along with the most important, which is, innovative in-store promotions.

For brand building, the marketing team at Spykar also engages itself in activities such as events, expos and promotions. According to Vakharia, the brand’s marketing communications have evolved with the changing demands and choices of its discerning consumers.

Therefore, it continues to be aspirational to them. Vis-à-vis Spykar’s latest promotional campaign ‘Bring It On’, which urges youngsters to dream big, enjoy life to the fullest yet be ready to take on the challenges on the way, he says that the idea has been well received by youngsters — its target group.

Additionally, Spykar engages in various CSR initiatives that helps generate a lot of  goodwill for the brand. For instance, for Teach India Campaign (2008), Spykar had launched its bag and T-shirt. A part of the earnings from their sales went to the NGO. It is noteworthy that Spykar is the only corporate in India who can officially use the Teach India logo. In 2009, the company ran ‘I Will Vote’ reward campaign to motivate youngsters to vote. In 2014 general elections as well, the brand came up with a digital and offline activity to encourage the youth to vote.

Diversifying for Growth

“Quality has been our driving force all through our journey so far and it shall remain so. Even in the early days, we perfected our core product ‘denim’ so much so that it was collected by the competitors to try and match us, both in terms of design and quality,” says Vakharia.

The brand has received numerous awards and accolades for its business and product excellence. To name a few, it has won ‘The Best Casual Wear Brand of the Year & Product Innovator’ three times in a row (in 2006, 2007 and 2008) at CMAI APEX Awards and ‘CMAI AD Campaign of the Year’ in 2008.

It was also given ‘Critic’s Choice for Pioneering Effort in Brand Creation’ award at 9th Annual Images Fashion Forum. Besides launching new products in the apparel and accessories segments, Spykar is now looking to propel its growth by entering into new product categories. The company has licensed to enterprise for their eyewear, luggage, foundation garments, perfumeries and toiletries, etc.

Taking a leap forward in the direction, Spykar has launched perfumes and deodorants under its brand name in 2013. Offering a range of body sprays and deodorants for men and women, Spykar deos are stocked at almost 1,00,000 points of sales across 250 cities in India.

“Such diversification will help to promote and optimise our core brand. At the same time, new categories will also leverage from the core brand strengths and value,” believes Vakharia. “Positioning, brand image, product portfolio, reach and pan India presence are factors that have made Spykar a very strong brand in India. The brand now resonates so well with the consumers that it has the potential to spin off as a separate business in various product categories other than clothing,” he opines.

The Future

The present Indian retail market is rife with local and international brands. The competition has intensified manifold but Spykar has maintained its position amongst the top league in casualwear segment. In the last few years, the denim market has evolved from basic denims to fashion denims, and Spykar being a youth-centric brand, has been able to focus and create relevant merchandise to emerge as a strong player in the fashion denim category.

Shedding light on the brand’s growth plans, Vakharia says: “Denims are synonymous with youngsters. However, nowadays these have found way into the wardrobes of older people as well. Hence, we believe that the market will continue to create ample scope for our products that are easily distinguishable from the rest of the denim brands available. In an encouraging scenario like this, we at Spykar would like to grow at 10 percent per  annum.” According to him, the company will continue with domestic expansion via distribution and retail channels and also plans to scale up its overseas distribution.