The fabric cotton continues to rule a large segment of the Indian audience’s preference for workwear, especially in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Vimal Dhoka, CEO, Cotton Natural, men’s formalwear and casualwear category, talks to Images Business of Fashion on the brand’s collection and the emergence of cotton as one of the most preferred fabrics in this category.
THE INITIAL DAYS
The brand, Cotton Natural, was conceptualised in 2009. It was launched with a limited ‘classic’ category of formal shirts for men. In 2012, as the Indian work industry was undergoing a makeover in terms of workwear clothing and when a lot of men took to jeans and T-shirts for workwear, the brand quickly revamped and innovated on new designs.
Following this, the company forayed into semi-formal sports category made of 100 percent premium cotton, called CN Sport, which targeted the 20-45 years Indian male; it witnessed a growth rate of 25-30 percent year-on-year. CN Sport is decently priced between Rs 899 and Rs1,299, and hence it appealed to a larger audience.The brand also continues to produce its formalwear range, which is designed for 20-60 years age group. The collection comprises mostly slim and regular fits.
According to Dhoka, “Cotton Natural is based out of Tamil Nadu. We have presence in Andhra Pradesh and north Karnataka. The brand is also available online through Flipkart. In December, we will launch our own e-commerce portal.”
There are several small companies that offer franchising in cotton apparels. Similarly, Dhoka shares that an established brand like CN Sport provides decent margins and more reach when it comes to the brand’s franchising model. This gives CN Sport a better chance of standing out from competition. A franchisee would have to invest an average of Rs 25-30 lakh for a 500-600 sq.ft. store format. The investment also includes the stock. He confesses, “A franchisee can expect a break-even within 11–12 months from the day they start operation at the store.”
There are several unknown and non-branded cotton apparels in the market, and the price-conscious Indian consumer always opts for a cheaper or the most cost-effective products. Convincing consumers to spend on better quality clothing has been the primary challenge. Dhoka says, “The competition is also very high in this category.”
CONTRIBUTION OF SALES
The contribution to sales coming from formalwear is 35 percent, while there is more demand for classicwear category, such as weddings and other grand occasions. Sixty-five percent of the sales comes from the CN Sport category, which is mostly semi-formals
in the sports range.
Dhoka is more focused on creating better visibility for the brand at retail outlets. Hence, he has been planning on expanding the brand’s presence in the market. Apart from the launch of the company’s own e-commerce portal this December, he added, “We
plan to double our growth rate in the next one year with the expansion of 3-5 outlets. We are also creating a lot of online marketing through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram as well as print advertising.”