Tata International and Wolverine World Wide Inc. hold 50 percent stake in the joint venture for the wholesale distribution of Wolverine’s Merrell and Caterpillar Footwear brands in India. Sanjay Mehra, MD, Tata International Wolverine Brands Limited, shares with Images Business of Fashion how to effectively bring an international brand into the
What are the trends in Indian consumer behaviour towards global brands?
The main elements that I have seen in consumers is that they are becoming a lot more discerning about the value proposition that brands make, whether it is in terms of products or in terms of the marketing message, what the retail environment is like, how one can get serviced by the brand in retail or any other element. There has been a bond strengthened through all the consumer touch-points. I see consumers saying that they are looking at brands to deliver the same brand experience as they would get globally in the case of a global brand, and in case of an Indian brand they want the same standards as global brand standards. So, this is the key trend that we are witnessing. Another trend that I have seen is that, whether it is an additional brand, wholesale brand or retail brand, these brands crave a new level of excitement in the market.
Are the product categories an exact replica of the global range?
Yes, we have a global line and we identify the most loveable products for India from the global line; that’s how we go about the business. A global line changes every season, so we also change with that on a season to season basis.
Have product categories changed in a big way for the Indian market?
If you look at the last five to 10 years, there’s been a relative explosion of categories. I think where we are today, the categories are not expanding as fast but the change within the categories is definitely more rapid.
For instance, if we look at lifestyle, there are very few brands that are present today and they are really creating a head-to-toe look. They are also able to influence the consumer to be able to purchase that head-to-toe look. So, a lot of the price varies of the head-to-toe look at the stores, but the consumer purchase habit has been hype driven. So the next wave, with brands such as Zara and H&M, will be to completely drive this headto-toe lifestyle look.
According to you, which is the best format for an international brand to launch in the Indian market?
I don’t think one can, in today’s environment, choose one format over the other. The challenge is that we have details that the consumer is shopping in different formats, whether it is in a mall or check-out stores or they go to smaller brand stores or turn online. I don’t think a brand can look at any of these channels in isolation. A brand needs to figure out what its consumer profile is and where the consumer is predominantly spending his time looking for a product or purchasing a product. Considering these aspects, they must align their channels accordingly.
What are the major challenges of introducing an international brand in India?
India has a tremendous growth potential but it also presents great hurdles when it comes to execution. Usually, the execution hurdles are because of poor infrastructure. Some of the execution hurdles are due to the high integrity standards that any international brand has to hold. Some of the challenges are there just because of the state of retail
developing in India.
So when you talk about wanting a brand and when you talk about connecting the consumer with all those touch-points, you are typically reliant on resources across the value chain, which are still learning about what great retail means. As an example, when you open up a smaller brand store and if you open up a shop-in-shop in a department store, there will be consumers who will need to know what the brand is about and what the product proposition is about; the brand should be able to convey that kind of information in a compelling way to the consumer. That is called the last 10 feet problem, because the international brands conceive great products, have a global supply chain, brings to us the product from thousands of miles but in the last ten feet, lies the greatest challenge.
This is what we have to figure out as an industry.
Which are your fastest moving categories?
Footwear apparel and accessories are all growing rapidly, as we drive a brand focus. We want the consumer to experience all the categories as part
of an overall brand experience.
Tell us about your marketing strategies.
We drive our marketing efforts around in core communications, PR , digital and print. We believe in building strong brands through compelling products and a superior retail experience.
What is the growth rate that you expect in the next one year?
Both Caterpillar and Merrell are leading brands in their categories. We are looking at over 50 per cent growth in the next three years, as we present the brands in mono brand stores, shop-in-shops, dedicated spaces and online.