As the leader of the world’s largest lingerie brand’s Indian operations Shalindra Fernando, General Manager – India and Sri Lanka, Triumph, is a man on a mission. Triumph’s fashion collections are renowned. IMAGES BoF talks to him on Triumph’s plans for India and the core of an Indian woman’s lingerie experience—The Fit.
Dear Shalindra, please summarise what Triumph stands for and what do you think are its main strengths?
Shalindra Fernando (SF): Triumph is the iconic global leader in innovative and alluring lingerie that empowers self-confident, style-seeking women in all their needs by offering pioneering solutions for perfect female shape. We are a brand globally known for offering the best quality, best fit, global brand imagery, great innovations, and the very latest of trends in innerwear.
What in your mind are the biggest challenges being faced by the Indian innerwear industry today?
SF: The lack of an established supply chain in India is the major obstacle. The lack of high quality raw material for innerwear means that brands which focus on quality need to import raw material or entire finished goods, thus increasing the cost and impeding their ability to price the product attractively in order to drive greater penetration.
We have heard that due to lack of knowledge eight out of every 10 women wear the wrong bra size. Do you agree with this observation that women in India do not know their sizes well?
SF: Yes, a widely quoted international statistic is that eight (or seven) out of 10 women wear the wrong size bra. Reasons could be many. Without a proper bra fitting it’s hard to know one’s exact size. ‘Stand Up For Fit’ is Triumph’s mission to help women discover their actual size and to break down the barriers when searching for advice on lingerie and personal fittings. At the heart of ‘Stand Up For Fit’ is the knowledge that the perfect lingerie can dramatically improve the way one looks and feels, and translates into feeling more confident. Triumph runs two fit sessions in a year in all large format stores to encourage women to get fitted.
Describe the disadvantages of choosing a wrong bra size? How do you help your customers choose right—i.e., what technologies and services are you using to help women find their perfect size and fit?
SF: Choosing the wrong bra size can lead to posture issues with strain on neck and back. The wrong bra size will not give the consumer any confidence, it will result in poor shape and silhouette and a poor self-image. Triumph provides a free fitting service at any of its own retail outlets or its partner large format stores where trained Sales Advisor are available. By taking under bust and over bust measurements the Sales Advisors are able to calculate the most suitable size for the consumer in question.
Size awareness is also not static. A woman’s breasts change shape, size and distribution at least six times in her life due to various reasons like weight loss or gain, birth control or pregnancy, dietary changes, exercise, etc. Keeping this in mind how do you ensure that your customers are either constantly updated or made re-aware of changes in their size and shapes, or are sensitised to the need for always being aware?
SF: Yes, even after a proper fitting to ascertain ones size, it is advisable to recheck at least once in six months and body shape and size will change over time. We drive awareness through our communication and also in our point of sale activations such as fit-sessions. To ensure we dedicate ourselves to providing consumers an exclusive experience rooted in our fitting expertise. Each Triumph tailoress undertakes over 120 hours of bra fitting training, understanding consumer needs, and becomes fully immersed in the brand’s story from 1886 through to present day. At a time and store of customer’s choice, our experienced fit experts give women their very own complimentary fitting. It’s easy to book a session though firstname.lastname@example.org and they can visit their nearest store or LFS store and ask a Triumph expert to fit them.
What role does the sales force play in helping customers in this area? How are they trained to do so?
SF: Sales force is critical as they are the crucial link that interacts and educates shoppers and customers. Training is of utmost importance and on average our Sales Advisors are exposed to 50 hours of training annually.
Is the sales force all women? What is Triumph’s criteria in hiring sales assistants?
SF: Yes. Our team of Sales Advisors consist entirely of women. We currently employee upwards of 400 of these competent sales advisors. In recruiting we look for academics, sales experience, strong communication skills and personality that will enable to easily subscribe to the Triumph value system.
Now on the production side as an international major in innerwear, Triumph would have a substantial body of work in understanding women’s body sizing globally. Was there any major pilot study you had undertaken to understand Indian sizing? If yes, can you share the top learnings from the study? Did these make Triumph reinvent the sizes for India? What implications did this have on your choice of ranges or collections you launched in India?
SF: Consistent to our policy of customising our product to the local market, we only use sizes that relate to Indian women so that our products are capable of living up to the promise of best fit and comfort that Triumph offers. Our current research and data base on women’s body size did help us a lot in determining the best products for India. And, yes we did undertake a study also to validate the European sizing.
Indian women are similar to western (i.e., European) fit when it comes to most bra segments. However, for briefs we found considerable variances from the standard Europe sizing and had to develop a new set of sizes to suit the Indian woman. European briefs were generally found to be larger to size small would apply to only medium or large sized Indian women. We had to create several smaller patterns to offer the right variety of sizing. Also modest style cuts were preferred over thongs, G-strings and bikini cuts so we chose to offer only midi and maxi patterns to cater to the mainstream customer.
Do you think that homegrown Indian brands are better suited in getting the sizes right or was global experience and production technology prowess a bigger strength that helped you get this right better than home grown players? Share examples.
SF: We believe we have more expertise in determining fit and it’s a USP for our brand offering discernible competitive advantage over local brands. Primary research conducted in India and Sri Lanka support our belief with Triumph scoring the highest when it comes to Fit and Comfort across all brands in the competitive set.
Can you share information on some products that were totally new to Triumph and made exclusively for Indian women?
SF: We offer global collections, and while we do offer specific prints for India, most of the silhouettes on offer in India are derived from the Triumph global collection. We launched delightful Indian-inspired prints that offer both fashion and sensual appeal. We have a Indian print range (Paisley and Ethnic) in contrasting shapes of stunning bluish purple and crimson red. The attractive selection works perfectly as everyday sets or colorful mix and match pieces that combines effortlessly depending on women’s particular lingerie needs. Enforcing Triumph’s commitment to our beautiful planet, the fabrics used in the attractive new collection carry the ‘Sensitive Merit’ eco-friendly tag. Every square meter of the ‘Sensitive’ material purchased contributes to safeguarding a square meter of rainforest in South America.
Share the details of your design team. How many designers you are working with and where are they based?
SF: We have over 200 designers with Triumph globally working from two design centers in Munich and Hong Kong. Ideas are our tools. They are the key to our success and at the heart of our brands. We develop collections, each with its own strong and distinctive identity, for all our brands. Marketable designs grow from the most creative ideas, embodying a unique mix of fashion, quality and comfort.
Our design teams in Europe and Asia pick up global trends in fashion, art, culture and lifestyle and integrate these impulses into the workable and wearable concepts—the basis of every collection.
Of course we don’t stop at the design either. Our textile engineers are also constantly following current changes in our lifestyle, as well as shifts in environmental influences, in their development work.
That’s why our research and development centers in Hong Kong, Austria and Germany have acquired an excellent international reputation as high-tech textile innovation sites.
Tell us about your manufacturing units and annual manufacturing capacity.
SF: We have one manufacturing unit in India based in Chennai which produces for the Indian market as well as functions as an EOU. Globally, Triumph owns and operates seven production centers and has JV agreements with a couple more. Triumph sells more than 200 million units per year a bulk of which is manufactured in its own production centers.
What are Triumph’s strategy for India? Which consumer categories and types of cities or towns do you expect to drive your growth?
SF: Triumph’s India future plan is to grow aggressively and be the undisputed number one lingerie brand in India. We will continue to be set the benchmark when it comes to innovation and support our product range with sensible distribution and exciting marketing programs. The strategy to achieve this is to drive strong awareness of the category and the brand, convert users from the commodity segment into the Triumph fold as well as to switch users from competitor brands. We will drive our easy availablity by selectively expanding using a multi-channel model, and reinforce and continuously upgrade the Triumph consumer’s experience. We expect growth across all counters but specifically significant are the Invisible, Shape and Everyday categories. We will continue to keep our focus on Indian metros and tier-I cities only.
Brand name: Triumph
Launched in: 2012
Parent company: Triumph International
Country of origin: Germany
Product range retailed: Ladies intimate apparel like bras and briefs
Company’s operating structure in India: 100% owned subsidiary
Total number of SISs: 200+
Total number of MBOs: 500+
Sales ratio (brick-n-mortar versus online): 95:5
Number of cities the brand has MBO/ SIS/ EBO presence: 60+
Five top-selling product categories: Bra and brief under the categories modern, invisible, shape, support and everyday
Strongest region in India (max. sale): West and North
Price range of the categories available…
Bras: Rs. 699 – Rs. 1,600Panties: Rs. 299 – Rs. 699Shapewear: Rs. 1,299 – Rs. 4,000