Home Fashion Indian fashion retail’s trendsetters

Indian fashion retail’s trendsetters

By  
SHARE

The Indian Fashion Retail Market is poised for great growth. According to Technopak Research, the Indian Retail Market was estimated to be worth Rs 53,06,400 crore (US$ 792 billion) in 2018 and is expected to reach Rs 1,50,68,300 crore (US$ 2,249 billion) by 2028, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11 percent. It is envisaged that the current fashion retail market worth Rs 3,61,160 crore (US$ 54 billion) will grow at a promising CAGR of 8.1 percent for next ten years to reach Rs 7,88,532 crore (US$ 118 billion) by 2028.

The Indian fashion retail market, which is the second largest contributor in the retail industry after food and grocery, has been witness to major disruptions in the past one decade. The entry of international brands, a large and young consuming population in the country, deeper penetration of the Internet, mass media and the social media, changes in this population’s preferences from non-branded to branded apparel, and a fast growing economy leading to increased disposable income has converted India into a highly lucrative market.

The distinct trends in the macroeconomic scenario, the favorable demographic dividend, retail specific policies, and consumer buying behaviour, have triggered a transformation in the fashion retail market which is also reflected in the changes undergone by the Indian retail industry according to Technopak.

These take the form of modernisation and corporatisation of retail businesses, the evolution of alternative retail landscapes, the customisation of product portfolios to address the specific needs of various consumer segments, the increasing success of private labels, and the growing focus on business efficiency. And who better to understand these changes than stalwarts of the Indian Fashion Retail Industry?

IMAGES Business of Fashion brings you the third edition of ‘Meet the Masters’. We give you a handpicked list of some of the great minds of the fashion industry. This selected group of visionaries have, through their perseverance and business acumen over the years, shaped fashion retail in India. This leader’s club comprises entrepreneurs, brand & business heads, and fashion visionaries. These trailblazers not only have the vigour to dream big but also the perseverance to see that dream through to reality.

What makes these stalwarts masters? It is their deep understanding of fashion and their sensitivity to its subtle nuances; their willingness to try new trends; their acute sense of appreciation of fashion; and their in-depth understanding of the materials and design that make fashion.

Read on for the views and visions of some of the most creative, innovative and enterprising geniuses in the Indian Fashion Retail scenario, as well as their outlook on taking their market forward.

PrevNext

11 AKSHAY NARVEKAR, FOUNDER, BOMBAY SHIRT COMPANY

Akshay Narvekar has always had an interest in the fashion and apparel industry. After spending 5 years at BCBG Max Azria, a luxury apparel retailer based in Los Angeles, he moved back to India to work with a consumer focused private equity firm, specifically working on the operations of portfolio companies. His career came full circle a few years later when he launched Bombay Shirt Company with an aim to offer high quality and accessible custom-made shirts.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in the fashion and apparel industry. My first stint with fashion was with a California based clothing brand, where I worked in their operation’s team for 5 years. The personal quest to wear a well fitted shirt and have it customised to my taste drove me to start Bombay Shirt Company (BSC). What’s most exciting about being in the industry is that there is a constant need for innovation, which keeps me thinking of new ways to keep the context of BSC relevant, while focusing on consistency.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion for me is a way to represent who I am, without having to say it out loud.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation for me is about offering a basic product, doing it really well and in ways that are consistent. At Bombay Shirt Company, we are on a mission to offer a shirt that is impeccably tailored, using only the best quality ingredients, at prices that are accessible. We have recently launched the BSTee, a basic t-shirt but one that stands out in the crowd because of the way it’s designed.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Technology has definitely been one big factor in changing the face of fashion in India. From the very beginning, we have integrated old school tailoring techniques with state-of-the art technology to tailor our shirts. With the advent of newer technology, we now use CAD systems to cut patterns, that lend more precision and reduce the amount it takes to make a shirt.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customers today are more informed. They know exactly what they want. Ten years ago, customers probably had to be told what they needed, but that isn’t the case anymore.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Ten years ago, fashion was solely about the product. Today it’s more than that – it’s the experience that comes along that makes the product special and coveted.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Absolutely, the product comes first. But for us at BSC, we make sure that with a good product, comes good service. We go to great lengths to keep our customers happy and off er an experience that will make them come back to us.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

I think India offers a great mix of things when it comes to fashion – be it our ability to manufacture or design, or our fast-growing technology, we are definitely getting there on the world map. One of the key challenges for us though, is to change the mind sets of people and get them to believe that a good-quality product can emerge out of our manufacturing units.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

We can certainly be all this and more, because we have the right kind of talent available in abundance here.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

Quality tailors/ masters—they are indispensable to the industry, no matter how digitised it gets. We’ll always need that element of human touch when it comes to clothing.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

The availability of smart technology–if used optimally, can help accelerate growth exponentially.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

A lack of enough funding or investors can be a major roadblock, no matter how good your product is.

1. AKSHAY NARVEKAR, FOUNDER, BOMBAY SHIRT COMPANY

22 AMEET PANCHAL, DIRECTOR, ETHNICITY

A successful intrapreneur, Ameet Panchal is a firm believer of design thinking and has a successful record of achieving exceptional results in competitive environments that demand continuous innovations. Ameet has over three decades of innovative and result oriented leader in the fashion industry. He is a firm believer of design thinking and has a successful record of achieving exceptional results in competitive environments that demand continuous innovations.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

I have been part of the fashion industry for almost three decades. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Everything about fashion and retail is exciting, the people we work with, the fast changing trends, the customers and the challenges. I have a zest for creative influences in day-to-day life. We are in the business of making our customers look and feel great about themselves.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is a reflection of one’s personality. It is one of the biggest factors that affect and that can be affected by the society. According to me fashion is storytelling. It’s about what he/she aspires to be, fashion has a lot to do with your ideas, attitude and way of living.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Design thinking is at the core of all our decisions. I am of opinion that structures are collapsible in nature, and flexibility and simplicity will lead us for the next few years. If a brand is not innovative it will fail to deliver value to its customers. Be it fashion industry, luxury or any other sector. We have to match the standard techniques opted and try and achieve a new caliber of business. It is the technology and innovation which makes the fashion sector so remarkable and appealing!

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Retail is becoming smart and is quickly becoming the Internet-of-Things. Fashion Tech helps retailers streamline processes and modernise operations. Technology helps in understanding useful insights right from buying patterns, spending habits, even colour and style preferences and allows businesses to scale with shorter risks. The combination of this data and our gut feeling works for us. Smart Tech Visual Merchandising enables the shoppers to get interested in the products and creates engagement and add ease to shopping experience. The art to the science is a winning combination.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Choices. The Indian consumer is constantly evolving. With exponential choices available at the tip of their fingers and awareness generated through various platforms makes the customer today more knowledgeable than ever. Today a customer knows exactly what he/she wants to buy unlike the days when they picked anything that retailer would off er.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

The only constant in fashion is change and this applies to everything in the industry, from design-and-marketing to production-and-sales. With the rise of internet and smartphone users, customers are now able to see global fashion trends and want to consume products that reflect these trends.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

I completely agree that a great product places an enormous impact to the fashion players. A great product at the right time and valued at the right price should be one’s bible to sustain and grow in retail fashion industry.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India has so much to offer – every region has its own handloom techniques that are used to weave so many fabrics, embroideries, etc. Nurtures in the rich land of India, craftsmen and artisans inspire the designers across the world. To name a few, Leheria from Rajasthan; Baluchari Silk from Bengal; Tangaliya from Dedadra, a small village in Ahmedabad; and Kanchipuram sarees from Tamil Nadu. Most of the textiles have a deep connect with the architecture of the place of their region. I believe we score 7 on 10 on the word map for fashion. India needs to be more experimental and bold enough to accept changing trends, welcoming to different cultures around the world and have fun simultaneously.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

India has always been a value-based manufacturing hub and it is going to remain as it is for a couple of years more. Though the inspiration is taken from the core design centric houses. A blend of both strategies of being value based and design centric should be the focus.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

Along with a sharp business sense, and understanding of fashion and lifestyle, strong visual and sensory marketing will generate a lot of job opportunities in near future. As mentioned a lot of empowerment will be given to the weavers community as India is going back to its roots.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

Strong supply chain management, flexibility to changes, and quick adaptations to tech are some of the few skill sets the industry will focus upon. Along with risk taking and bringing newness in visual communications shall generate a lot of opportunities in the near future.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Fashion consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. Though there is an increase in demand for sustainable and eco-friendly goods, companies who work on ethically sourced and sustainable products have a long way to go. As far as government is concerned‘Make in India’ is a classic illustration of the path we are headed to.

2. AMEET PANCHAL, DIRECTOR, ETHNICITY

33 BIPAN JAIN, MD, MADAME


Having spent over 35 years with Jain Amar, Bipan Jain has been with the organisation since its inception. Bipin’s futuristic vision and strong business acumen has lead the organisation to reach new heights. He has travelled to more than 50 countries in order to expand the horizon of the brand, Madame. He continuously identifies opportunities for innovation by adapting products and services to the way the marketplace is changing. At present, he is leading the entire team of Jain Amar.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

This is a sector that fascinates me the most. People will never stop wearing clothes and thus, this category is never going to die. Women’s apparel market, especially the western wear segment, has potential to show unprecedented growth, which is fairly visible as well.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

As our tagline says, “Be Everyone U R…”, it syncs into the lifestyle of the individual thereby making her feel confident of what she wear or carries.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Each new product is innovation when it hits the bulls-eye of the fashion quotient of today’s youth. Technology is imparting a new dimension to innovation with special fabrics and blends created for specifics. Sustainable fashion is fast becoming a new USP, which most of the brands are working towards and wish to capitalise upon

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

On manufacturing, a lot of automation has been brought into utilisation, thereby reducing the number of hands that touch the garment. This is creating more accurate and quality product. In sales, inclusion of VM equipment like Magic Mirrors has given customer a newer outlook towards pre-empting a look on herself before the actual sales. Similarly, Omnichannel is fast becoming the way to operate in near future.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

With the onslaught of digital media, the customer is more learned and has access to latest trends and forecasts, thereby becoming more demanding from the brands. It is a buyer’s market today through and through, where the buyer cannot be lured into buying obsolete trends.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Each season, one can experience newer categories hitting the stores that weren’t existent the year prior. And every season there are newer winners when one talks about innovative product.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

For me and for most of the people in this business, product and quality is everything.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India is still a follower of fashion trends and not a trendsetter till today. A lot of American and European labels still see the country full of potential because of the population and not for appetite for latest fashion. Deep discounting has further lured the customer to go for price than quality. In a nutshell, appetites have increased for products but not for quality.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

In the current scenario; value-based manufacturing is the key to success. However, in the long run, design-centric hubs shall lead to sustainability.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

According to me, trend forecasters and design heads will rule the roost. If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

It will be quality and fast-fashion at decent prices. And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

Considering the present scenario, deep discounting that brands offer to grab eyeballs is a major obstacle to growth.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Brands and manufacturers will have to gear up to meet ‘sustainability’ standards. In the digital age, with information more transparent across verticals, we look forward to seeing regulations from the authorities towards environment friendliness.

3. BIPAN JAIN, MD, MADAME

44 GANESH SUBRAMANIAN, FOUNDER, STYLUMIA

Ganesh Subramanian is the founder and CEO of Stylumia, a technology venture solving real-world problems in fashion and lifestyle businesses. An experienced retail professional, Ganesh has had long stints with global and Indian fashion and general merchandise retailers. He was earlier the COO of Myntra. He has been in leadership roles with reputed fashion brands and retailers such as Tommy Hilfiger, VF Corporation, Reliance Trends, Arvind Brands, Indus League Clothing and Coats Viyella. He loves solving real-world problems using technology.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

I left computer science engineering to study Fashion Technology in my early days as one of our well-wishers said fashion is a basic necessity and it did make sense. With that as the beginning of fashion entry, what excites me most here is constant change and challenges with the dynamism of the industry. There is never a day you can say things are under control. The constant discovery of newness and challenges associated with the unknowns.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion, as far I am concerned, is not superficial one that makes us look good. When we asked people in my earlier career what is fashion for them? Everyone starts with “It makes me looks good”. Once you start probing what happens when they look good? They say, “It makes me confident”, “It makes me feel good”. When we further probed what happens when you feel good. They say, “I live a great life”. Fashion hence is helping humanity live a great life.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Purpose of innovation is to make life simpler and better for our audience. It is a pursuit of exponential improvement. One of the key challenges in fashion is knowing what consumers like and also predicting what will work in the time to come. Most of fashion brands profit is not lost in what works but in what does not. At Stylumia we enable brands and retailers know real – time using a proprietary demand sense engine of what consumers like globally in fashion. This is against the current practice of subjective insights through experts. We believe in a good combination of Human + Machine for delivering disruptive innovation.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Not just in India, technology adoption always starts from the front end, facing the consumers. Be it CRM’s, digital mirrors, personalisation, etc.

What we all miss is ‘product’ is a key part of the equation in retail. Retail essentially is delivering right product to right customer at the right time. Right product and right time is an area technology adoption has been low. This is an area Stylumia is working on to get the product and time right.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customer of today knows more than the brand. We cannot anymore take customer for granted and preach and make them follow. Brands and retailers are now chasing customers to stay on track. This is thanks to information explosion and the world of internet.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Looking back 10 years, that is 2009, I can relate to brands able to get the attention of customers using inside out product innovation through their research and travel globally and communicating them with campaigns.

Now with the explosion of innovation, traditional ways of innovation is commoditised as almost everyone is aware of the information. What can differentiate brands and retailers apart from building emotional connect is ‘speed’. This is one area wherein despite knowing, less of doing is happening amongst bigger brands in India and also globally.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Product is very important. You can have best of stores, best of people and best of marketing, if your product is not good and relevant, customers will walk away, and they finally buy a product for the story that it tells.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India is one of the top 6 countries in terms of fashion markets in the world.

Indian consumers are as discerning as any consumer in the world today. As the market is maturing tolerances for error will keep coming down that is when usage of technology to stay informed and take informed decisions will matter. Those leaders who realise this ahead of time will stay ahead.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

I always believe we should play to our strengths. India’s strengths are manufacturing and technology. We have great design talents, we have never created Indian designers to be looked at the world map. I would bring the combination of Design + Manufacturing + Technology as a compelling lever which very few countries in the world can bring together.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

It is an open world. Laws and regulation will help us in the short term to get our act in order. Irrespective, I would encourage all the business owners to be ready for a global challenge irrespective of the guardrails. In my view, biggest roadblock is our ‘mindset’. If we are open like ‘android’ no ‘ios’ can win us.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Today’s consumers are very conscious of ‘doing good’ for the planet. Going by keeping “consumers” at the center, those brands will get attention who are authentically doing something towards making a better planet.

With fashion being one of the top 3 high carbon footprint industry and 50 percent of what the industry makes the consumers do not want, there is a huge possibility of making the fashion industry sustainable is to make the right products. We at Stylumia enable this cause of improving the probability of getting the right products to consumers.

4. GANESH SUBRAMANIAN, FOUNDER, STYLUMIA

55 JAY PRAKASH SHUKLA, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, 1-INDIA FAMILY MART

Jay Prakash Shukla is a force to reckon with in the retail industry in India. In over two decades, he has straddled the entire gamut of modern retail, his expertise ranging from merchandising, value retail, buying & sourcing, strategy and vendor selection. In his current role as the CEO, he provides strategic direction and leadership to the company. Under his leadership, 1-India Family Mart has achieved a top line growth of Rs 500 crore and has crossed the 50-store mark in a span of five years.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion may seem like a simple concept, but behind the word is a world full of creativity, breakthroughs and endless possibilities. The Indian fashion industry has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fast-paced industries. The retail sector in particular, is experiencing exponential growth, with retail development taking place not just in major cities and metros, but also in Tier II and III cities. At present, India leads in terms of per capita retail store availability making it a favourable market for retailers.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Being an idea-driven firm with customer centricity at the core of our operations, the use of POS driven database systems and intelligently placed CRM has made it possible for the company to maintain low inventory levels across different categories. It has also enabled us to be the market pioneers in the introduction of innovative fresh fashion and general merchandise at the most affordable prices.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customers have expected basics like quality service and fair pricing, but modern customers have much higher expectations, such as proactive services, personalised interactions and innovations. Our company is driven largely by customer centricity. Focusing on our customers’ needs has been imperative and this is what drives our digital operations as well. Going forward, we see digital communications taking more of a lead when it comes to customer experience. Our team engages regularly with customers on the digital medium to build the brand image.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Indian fashion industry has expanded to such an extent over time that it has now come at par with the international fashion industry and has become one of the most popular revenue generating industries of India. The blend of contemporary, vintage and Indo-western has become tremendously popular in last couple of years.

The market for branded clothes is emerging in India. An ever-increasing number of people are getting inclined towards branded garments as they provide quality affirmation.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

Fashion brands have been redefining Indian fashion and putting the Indian subcontinent on the global fashion map. Indian apparel industry which is the second largest contributor in the retail industry after food and grocery is seeing some major shifts. Entry of international brands, changes in preferences from non-branded to branded have changed the course of value fashion. India is on its way to reach the top line but that would take some time, as our century long tradition and culture is very deeply rooted among the designers. However, it is exceptional to carry forward the legacy, but to find a balance between innovation and tradition can be challenging.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

Technology is disrupting the retail industry rapidly. Retailers have already started taking measures to prepare for the changing times where technology and data sit at the heart of every operation. Along with the technological advancements, shifting customer expectations have made the need for upskilling and reskilling more important.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

The retail industry has morphed into a new and modernised version of its former self in the recent past. Digitisation, introduction of different schemes and upgradation of technology has seen the evolution of this space from unorganised trade to organised retail. This has been made further possible by demonetisation and the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST), as these have helped organised retail gain a fair share of the market from unorganised trade. Improved business models, changing demographics and increasing per capita income have played a crucial role in propelling the retail industry forward.

Which factors will act as roadblocks?

Despite the lucrativeness of the apparel industry, it is facing certain challenges. Entry of international brands, changes in preferences from non-branded to branded have changed the course of value fashion. Consumers have become more adaptable to changing fashion trends, leading to a challenge for retailers to stay upbeat with changing demands of the customer. Despite growing at a promising rate, value fashion is facing its own challenges.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Sustainability and the demand for green products is a reflection of evolving consumer awareness and preferences. Consumers have become progressively more concerned about the environmental and social impact of their spending decisions. This concern has manifested in an increased demand for environmentally-friendly products and a trend towards eco-labelling.

5. JAY PRAKASH SHUKLA, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, 1-INDIA F...

66 NARINDER SINGH DHINGRA, CMD, NUMERO UNO

Narinder Singh Dhingra possesses an in-depth experience of more than two decades in the apparel segment with a comprehensive understanding of the Indian retail landscape. He incepted Numero Uno in 1987 with his astute vision of growth and expansion which has now transformed into a dynamic unisex casual wear brand. Numero Uno started by manufacturing jeans for men and slowly moved into jeans for women, eventually designing and manufacturing complete wardrobes for men and women.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?
The fashion industry, for me, is an opportunity to play with product and bring trends to life. The ability to conceptualise an idea to getting the final product designed is the driving force for me.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion, to me, is a culmination of comfort and trend defined through what you wear and how you wear it. Everybody (most of the people) like to be fashionable and show their personality through clothes. Lot of trends get highlighted during fashion week and since the world is connected through web, it penetrates every corner of the world simultaneously. In India a lot of home grown designers and brands have found a foothold who keep on infusing trends in the country regularly. Apart from this there is no dearth of international brands who highlight style as well. If you look around you’ll notice that people have become more aware of what works for their body type and embrace fashion accordingly. At the end of the day a good design sells, and consumers are getting conscious of their preferences more.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation is brought at many levels of business starting from designing of product to marketing it, selling it at stores and finally at the after sales level. At each step one needs to bring about innovation to keep up with the times. At design stage in Numero Uno innovation means unrestricted use of fabric, design techniques and fitting of a garment. We have started to mix and match fabrics to create unique products, for example we have used knitwear and denim fabric to create a stunning jacket which was not a popular choice in the past but now is. Even the way our brand communicates to the customers has gone through changes, in the past traditional marketing like print advertising was heavy but now digital medium to connect with consumers is at the fore front.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?
Technology plays an important role from start to finish of a business and no part of business is now untouched by it. Due to technology we see that our process have become more efficient with higher productivity when used correctly. Designers are the brain for product design, but technology is the backbone for the same. No longer does the industry depend on individual thoughts and liking to know the trends since the forecasting is now done with the help of tools and analysis. Moving on to our dealers meet, we have started to use a technology which has made it easier and faster to place order and generate detailed analysis. With the help of this technology we have gotten accurate production quantities depending on each of our business partners past and future performance analysis. When we look at our production end, our technology partner Jeanologia works closely with us in the dry and wet processes in laundry. They also help us in finding solutions to reduce our carbon footprint and help in making eco-friendly fabrics. Apart from this we have technology helping us at our logistic end to help improve our sell through as well.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customers today are quite evolved. They are looking for great products at great prices. Today’s customer is spoilt for choice as there are plethora of products/brands to choose from, especially with the advent of the Internet, spoiling the customer for choice. They have retail at their fingertips.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Fashion business means change, the key product remains the same but how you present it to the consumer needs to change. A pair of denim is classic but adding a twist to that pair becomes imperative since consumers are always on the lookout for something exciting or new. Fashion over the last 10 years has become less restrictive, consumers open to fast fashion. While mixing of fabrics was difficult in the past to create a new look, it is possible now, both because of technology and consumer acceptance. It’s all about pushing the boundaries to create an interesting product which also needs to be liked by people.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Absolutely, product is the star always, everything revolves around it. If you have a great product it will be relevant in any season/year.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

I’d like to say, India scores quite well when it comes to fashion industry. India’s design talent is growing as per international standards and people from outside are always looking at our country for either fabric, design or inspiration. However, India doesn’t have advantage of product as we lose to other competing countries when it comes to production. This is mainly because we do not have the support from labour laws. Efficiency is low of our labour force as compared to the competing countries like China, Vietnam or Bangladesh which is an inheriting disadvantage.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

India should focus on being a hub for all of the three. With the talent pool we have, we can easily be design centric, with the capacity that we have as a nation we can easily become a value base manufacturing hub playing on volumes and without technology we cannot grow so that’s a must too.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

In India, we are geographically blessed with different pools of talent in varied parts of the country. In certain regions we have the efficiency to mass produce at great prices and in other regions you would find great design talent.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

Availability of capital to execute a business plan backed by a great product and a friendly labour law can help in accelerating the growth in fashion.

Which factors will act as roadblocks?

If one doesn’t have support from the government to build infrastructure/ transportation facility around a newly developed unit then it becomes absolutely difficult to run the set up and we have seen such instances a few times already. Apart from this other roadblocks can be unfriendly banking support to run the business. Labour laws also need to be re-looked at to have a balanced approach rather than heavy support only to one party which is not fair.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Sustainable fashion is need of the hour and the only reason why brands do is to contribute to the environment. We all have a responsibility towards the earth so that there is a better future for the coming generation. Government has already established and shown its support towards sustainable processes on paper, however the implementation of those are still in question which needs to be looked at.

6. NARINDER SINGH DHINGRA, CMD, NUMERO UNO

77 NATHASHA AK KUMAR, FOUNDER & CEO, VAJOR

With more than five years of experience in the B2B garment industry dealing with Tier II and III city consumer demands, Nathasha A R Kumar has been able to implement her learnings from the grass root level to lay the foundation of her ventures. She understands the potential of a private label like Vajor in the industry. She believes that fashion is no longer a commodity and wishes to change the current scenario of marketing products. And Vajor is achieving that by selling an overall experience to its consumers.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

I would call myself a fashion and lifestyle entrepreneur. What I have built here with Vajor and my other B2B ventures has so much more to do with creating a lifestyle and delivering holistic experiences to the consumers. Fashion is a medium to communicate with and cultivate a tribe of people and that is what I feel the most passionate about building with the brands.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion for me is anything that falls in the category of comfort yet has the power to create an impact, to narrate a story, to speak about who we are visually. When it comes to how fashion impacts people, it’s as evident as it gets with the current social media driven day and age. It’s no more a commodity, instead fashion has been influencing people, spreading awareness, driving causes, breaking stereotypes, empowering ideas.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

In the current scenario, innovation and solutions have more or less become synonymous for us. As a brand that has values like comfort, body positivity, functionality and sustainability at its root, we are constantly working towards finding new ways to deliver the same to our end consumer. Few innovations we are working on at present are launching a new vertical that is an everyday wardrobe solution for those who seek versatile, breathable clothing. We are also looking at revamping our entire packaging to make it more eco conscious by reducing plastic and making it reusable. Innovations at the digital front include coming up with more ‘next-gen’ savvy communication and experiences.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Over the years the fashion business has seen a peak for many. The age of internet has been such a catalyst that has lead not only Vajor but many other brands to reach where they are and to be able to expand and reach to newer heights. Vajor has been able to adapt and incorporate technology within its sphere to a great extent. Even though Vajor launched as an e-commerce brand, today its blurring the lines between online and offl ine. Vajor store are the perfect take at a next-gen omni channel experience.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

I believe the major difference today’s consumers and those of the past is awareness. The consumer now is more conscious and aware of what they are buying and have access to a huge chunk of the global market. They want to spend money on things that holds value, is sustainable, would last for a longer time, is not harming the environment in any form and of course, worth every penny they spend. Brands today need to sell ideas and ideologies rather than selling a one-off product.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Products have evolved along with the consumer psyche and buying behaviour which has resulted in merchandise that is not merely trend driven but driven by concepts of storytelling, art & culture, sustainability, consumer first approach, etc.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Having a great product is an essential ingredient, yes. It forms the grounding of any brand. However, what makes any product great is not just the general making of it but, what it is able to speak to the consumer. If it is able to establish a connect which only happens when a product comes along with a holistic experience and is a balanced mix of form and functionality.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India is being recognised and known for its heritage and culture. We are known for our gorgeous textiles, handicrafts, the skills of our artisans and the diversity of inspiration. The key lies in recognising the potential of everything that lies at our core and banking on the fact that today is the perfect time for us, owing to the consumers already being on the hunt for all things rich and authentic.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

It is important to acknowledge that we as a country are catering to a fair chunk of both global and domestic consumers. India is already a manufacturing hub and has reached a considerable growth when it comes to being a design hub. What we need to focus our energies towards is to become more focused on fashion technology.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

The differentiating factor between today’s consumer and that of the past is awareness and demand for more conscious, eco sensitive products. Being simply trend driven or design driven will not cut it. The definition of a successful product/brand itself encompasses being sustainable today.

And companies that have recognised the same are to gain the attention of the larger section of their targeted audience. They are to gain a recall value and in turn repeat sales as well. A company with a sustainable product and a sustainable working model has a higher probability to sustain itself altogether.

7. NATHASHA AK KUMAR, FOUNDER & CEO, VAJOR

88 RAGHUL SIKKA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DIXCY

A second generation entrepreneur, Raghul Sikka has over a decade of experience in the hosiery industry. Raghul has led the expansion of Dixcy and its product portfolio to target newer markets. He has ideated several innovations within the product portfolio as well as numerous marketing activities, making the innerwear brand a name to reckon with in terms of innovation and marketing.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

As the son of a first-generation entrepreneur, my formative years revolved around Dixcy Textiles or Prem Hosiery as it was known then. My passion and pull for the industry grew steadily over the years. I eventually followed my calling. I have been privileged to witness as well as be a part of the growth of this company from a small hosiery manufacturer in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu to one of the leading players in the innerwear market catering to people across class, region and generations.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

In the millennial age, fast-fashion has become a buzzword and the defining feature in our industry. Global brands like Zara and H&M have driven and set benchmarks in this segment. Zara launches 24 new lines every year in this segment.

People are becoming more fashion conscious here. They possess and are driven by a refined sense of aesthetics. The industry has been characterised by high growth as we have kept the prices reasonable when compared with other industries. During the period 1995 to 2004, the consumer price of clothing has grown at a reasonable rate of 156 percent against a growth rate of 272 percent for all other goods in our country.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

According to me, innovation is the game changer. I take immense pride in saying that as a company, Dixcy has been at the forefront of innovation in the innerwear category. We were the first company in India to introduce innovative lines like gym vests, hooded sweatshirts and Spandex elastics. Around a decade back, we thought of athleisure, ahead of other competitors in India.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Technology is all about the digital age. From the consumer viewpoint, online spending alone does not capture the growing digital influence. Technology has helped overcome the barriers of distance and time. Companies and customers can communicate and listen to each other without any layers or hierarchies in between. The digital space is also driven and increasingly defined by the mobile device.

Phone has become increasingly indispensable to Indians. More purchases are made online through the mobile phone than through any other device. About 80 percent of urban e-commerce takes place on phone. It is imperative for companies to be more mobile friendly.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

The fashion product of today is characterised by simplistic and minimalistic design. Companies are evolving their product mix to find opportunities at every price point. Planning themes in fashion will be driven by people’s aspirations. In fact, innovation across various parameters will be a part of the product stories that companies will showcase.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

I couldn’t agree more. A product is the most important aspect in fashion. Fashion is all about aesthetics and tangibility. Without this, it would lose its relevance. It is the single biggest driver for purchase.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

In the apparel export market, India ranks fifth worldwide with a four percent share. The domestic consumption is nearly two-and-a- half times of our exports. In a nutshell, we are one of the largest manufacturers of fibre. I feel that the fi bre policy of our country needs to be relooked for global competitive advantage.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

India should focus on becoming a design-centric hub as well as a fashion tech/IT hub. Both are sustainable for long term growth. As a design hub, India has the potential to be a centre for high quality fashion. Fashion tech/IT hub can be integrated and entrenched in the system to achieve better synergies.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

All major brands are headed towards fast-fashion. The ability to think and act fast, in a proactive rather than a reactive manner, with the customer in mind will be a crucial skill. This is extremely important as brands are cutting timelines for product design and launch.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

I feel that the factor that will act as an accelerator is the ability of a company to act in a lean and efficient manner delivering fast-fashion by reducing the apparel calendar for the “See Now, Buy Now” generation. For example, companies that are vertically integrated like Zara own their store infrastructure. Hence, the product’s journey to the store is faster. Also, since prices of garments have not increased significantly over the past decade, the sale of apparel will increase with the corresponding rise in the purchasing power of the people.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

I strongly feel that India’s fibre policy needs to be to our advantage. We face an uneven playing field versus Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia with regards to the tariff s that are imposed. To make it more favourable, we need to negotiate better with high performing countries.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

It set me thinking as to what we as an industry could do to set right this process. Any solution cannot work in isolation. The textile industry consumes fertilizers and fossil fuels across the production value chain. There is a need to follow the best practices followed by countries like Germany with regards to the production, discharge and recycling norms. Also, since India has a great affinity for cotton, we need enhanced safety standards for cotton production, considering its economic and social impact. We, at Dixcy, have consistently endeavoured to put Tirupur on the global map for following the best practices in sustainable production and waste discharge. As of today, nearly 80 percent of our power consumed is through renewable and sustainable sources.

We also need to direct our CSR investment into R&D projects with leading universities to adopt and innovate sustainable technological initiatives. With greater public and industry initiatives, the government will come up with legislations to offer a level playing field as well as incentivise sustainable production.

8. RAGHUL SIKKA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DIXCY

99 RAHUL AGARWAL, DIRECTOR, DONEAR GROUP

A young and energetic businessman, Rahul Agarwal heads Donear NXG, the apparel division of Donear Industries that deals in formal, semi-and casual wear.

Rahul’s interests lie in the best global practices relating to manufacturing and resource/people management. He has worked extensively in different capacities, be it handling the family office in real estate portfolio or understanding the textile business from grassroots, he has shown his eagerness to learn and master the various aspects of running a business.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

My father, Rajendra Agarwal, has been in the textiles and fabrics industry ever since I was a child, so I had the wonderful opportunity of learning everything about the fashion industry at close quarters. The same led me to go ahead and study Textile Engineering. Being surrounded by this environment further encouraged me to set foot in the same space so as to continue enhancing our family’s legacy and my personal passion for our brand and industry.

The most exciting thing about this industry is that it is dynamic yet rooted in its own way.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is usually subjective, depending upon an individual’s requirement when it comes to apparel and clothing. For me, it is about that perfect combination of comfort and style.

There are two aspects of fashion’s impact on consumers–
Psychological Aspect– Any particular trend, or something that is ‘in’, inspires or encourages people to think about buying similar apparel. Subconsciously, they begin looking for similar patterns and styles, thus resulting in something becoming a ‘hit trend’. In the same way, if a particular pattern is not appealing, it will not be accepted by the people and eventually, that particular style will fade away. And then they are the classics, which are perennial and never out of trend.

Economic Aspect– Basis the psychological aspect, it has a direct impact on the purchase patterns of consumers, which lead to increased demand of particular styles. This further leads to other market players introducing same or similar trends.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

We have always been ahead of times and competition in innovation. This is an important feature of our process and we constantly work towards this.

Innovation happens through people and processes. Our workforce is extremely dedicated to producing the best quality products and innovates to align fashion trends with utilitarian benefits. On the processes front, we are always quick to jump onto the bandwagon for better efficiency. Having amalgamated technology into most of what we do, we find a way for trends to reach consumers faster.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Technology has evolved considerably in the past few years. Every process is interlinked to make the best possible use of time and competencies. New software are a seamless plug and play.

Technology has dovetailed into our existing processes and ensuring lead time reductions and an error free production regime. At our company, we’re constantly scouting for better ways of doing things. From partnering with industry tech giants for our manufacturing efficiency to developing a strong in-house tech team so we are kept abreast of the latest in the market and more often than not, develop our own.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, there weren’t many players in the market. In fact, in certain areas, there used to be monopolistic brands as the reach was limited, from both ends.

Today, everything is available at our fingertips. We can sit at home and purchase anything across the country – there are more choices and increased exposure which further lead to cumulative consumer insights which help in better decisions for all the market players.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

The quality and quantity of consumer insights have enhanced due to wider reach, thanks to the Internet. This has helped fashion brands to develop products which are in accordance with the consumers’ expectations. While developing new products or pushing the current ones in markets across India, brands can now make better informed decisions, which help in increasing their market value and puts them in sync with their consumers.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

I strongly believe that at the grassroot level – a product is of prime importance.

A product has many layers associated with it – it needs to be the right colour/ design/trend to befit the occasion, it needs to be available and at the right price point. All those factors are interlocked to prompt a purchase. The experience is truly felt once the product is tried on and the reflection of your persona is seen/felt.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

Around 13 percent of the country’s export earnings is from the textile and apparel industry thus the position is well established. We are the second largest producer of textile and apparel in the world. There are few challenges which is being worked upon as an industry to enable us to become the leaders globally. Few challenges for the nation overall are illicit markets, excise duty on man-made fibers and the impact on environment. Having said that, our company has very stringent policies regarding sustainability and counterfeit products.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

A prudent mix of all three is essential for this sector to move forward. A manufacturing hub that quickly churns out product, an expertise of design hub that resonates trends from leading fashion-capitals and evolving with technology needs to be a mandate.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

I think one just needs to have the following skill sets for stepping into fashion industry the right way – Creativity – Be it colour, design or pattern, one must have an eye for relevant details whilst having the ability to play with them

In sync with overall trends – One must be in sync with all the trends existing in the fashion ecosystem to be able to appreciate it and develop newer trends using insights gathered for the present styles

Future Planning – The individual must be able to gauge the current way of fashion and make decisions for future product development

Experiential Ability – The ability to create an experience out of fashion.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

India is a wellspring of opportunities. To accelerate growth we have to look towards infrastructure development, skilled workforce and innovation and technology. Only with a healthy mix of all three can we leapfrog into a global arena.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

The current labour laws aren’t conducive for growth. Also, the high import cost of machinery which enables us to upgrade technology are some roadblocks.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

It is, without any doubt, a necessity to have environmental-friendly products to come into play. Sustainable fashion is a need of the hour, given the current scenario of depleted resources and waste pollution. Yes, I do expect certain government regulations to come up soon to foster sustainable and environment friendly processes/ products. Although I do hope that we don’t reach a dire stage where it becomes inevitable, but yes, it should be a conscious choice across the fashion industry.

9. RAHUL AGARWAL, DIRECTOR, DONEAR GROUP

1010 RAHUL VIRA, CEO, SKECHERS

Rahul Vira comes with over 20 years of experience in retail. Known for his successful strategic and tactical leadership across lifestyle and luxury retail, Rahul has, in a short span of four years, carved a niche for Skechers in the competitive footwear market of India. Under his guidance, Skechers, a relative new-comer in the Indian market, has scaled to a turnover of over `440 crore with more than 2,000 retail doors. He is at the helm of diversifying the brand’s business, increasing brand awareness among the Indian audience and exploring newer avenues for business expansion.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

The Indian fashion industry is fast growing and in the last decade, has moved from an embryonic stage to staggering heights today. It’s quite widespread and with the rise in digitization, there has been growing consciousness towards fashion which make consumers more open to experimenting with fashion. I personally love the fashion industry. For me the most exciting part is that I am doing something that I love.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is no more limited to dressing up. It has, over the years become an extended version of one’s personality, an expression of oneself. The industry as a whole, over the last decade, has seen a revolutionary change and is making its mark on the world stage. The growing inclination of Indian consumers towards fast-fashion is allowing brands and retailers to sell their products all-year-round whilst creating employment opportunities. Fashion has become affordable, clothes available at reasonable prices.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation, after a certain stage in a business becomes very vital especially when there is cutthroat competition. It is what sets your brand apart from others. Being innovative, I believe, not only gears up the sales ratio but also provides your customers a wide range of products to choose from.

Skechers is now focusing on offering innovative designs and technologies in products in order to build on the brand image and gain a larger share of the consumer’s mind. Our latest innovation is ‘Luminators’, from the Skechers kids category, which uses fibre optics to light up the uppers of the shoe. Skechers also recently launched a special collection in collaboration with Japanese manga and anime series, One Piece. These shoes are designed after the main characters of the show.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customer expectations are rising faster than ever. They have evolved over time, but never as rapidly as they have in the past couple of years. We can thank technology for most of these new customer expectations. With growing consumption of digital content, consumers today are increasingly updated with latest fashion trends. The amount of information that’s available online makes nearly everyone expect more. Customers earlier were brand loyal but with the rise of aggressive competition and access to information, they now have a wide array of choices for every product in different brands around the same price range. Also, higher disposable income has led to more purchasing power because of which demand for fashion and luxury brands are growing in the market.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

Fashion trends change so fast that sometimes it’s hard to keep up. The fashion industry has evolved a lot over the years, but the good part is that fashion repeats itself. Consumers expectations are increasing rapidly from the fashion industry and consumers are more welcoming of different styles, patterns and trends which is fun to play around with. Fashion, for some is undying, while some believe in trends and being up-to-dated with what’s in store. Keeping the consumer trends and needs, Skechers recently reiterated the 90s chunky sneakers with the launch of ‘Skechers D’Lites’ which is a great amalgamation of 90s dad chunky sneakers with a new age design.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Definitely. I believe a good product speaks for itself. Consumers in India now are aware that the quality of the product exceeds anything else. They are, in fact, willing to spend more in order to receive a better quality product than settling for something average. Good quality products invariably build stronger brands.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

While India scores very high on traditional art and weaves which also become inspiration for large fashion houses globally, we are still not the leaders in driving the fashion industry. We need to promote and build platforms of international standards to enable fashion to get highlighted and not just traditional Indian wedding wear.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc.?

A combination of all is super and I think India has the capability of doing all of this.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment for Indian manpower in the future?

I think, when you see it from a macro level, skill sets across all levels of this industry right from creating, to manufacturing, to retailing will be in high demand. In fact, industries which are involved indirectly will also see an increase in demand.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

I think affordable fashion is one area where I see India experiencing quantum growth. India is still growing, and our purchasing power is increasing year-on-year. Easy access to global fashion trends will be one of the major reasons for this quantum growth.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

Well I don’t see any major hurdles as the government is listening to the industry, laws are being modified for the new India, FDI regulations are getting clearer though not as fast. Overall I am very positive about India and things will change for the better.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

This is the new mantra across all industries not just fashion. As people of this planet, we have to look at sustainable and eco-friendly products and processes. This would help the planet at a larger level. Across the globe, governments are working towards it along with the industries to create policies, incentivising and occasionally bringing in tough measures as and when required.

10. RAHUL VIRA, CEO, SKECHERS

1111 RAVI MODI, CMD, MANYAVAR

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

Men’s ethnic wear was never considered ‘fashion’ in the apparel. Back in the late 1990s, people did not consider ethnic wear to be a daily wear option, it was only limited to specific occasions, hence the perspective need change amongst the consumers. To fill this void, we started our journey to make ethnic wear more acceptable and more fashionable with Manyavar. It was an exciting journey as we created a completely new space and created some classic trends in men’s ethnic wear.

The most exciting part is that we are the catalysts of the ethnic category and have become synonymous with wedding wear and festive wear. Due to the industry’s ever-evolving nature, trends change every day opening space for evolving designs and palettes according to consumer demand and trends. This keeps us pro-active and extremely perceptive to trends.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Rising consumerism and higher disposable incomes have led to increased demand for fashion consumables. With fashion, the scope of differentiated products and services is extremely high. The fashion industry has also seen a major change in terms of distribution channels and promotion channels. Fashion is no longer referred to in the broad sense of the term as a lot of niches and differentiated offerings have popped up which serve Indians according to their preferences.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

We implemented ERP way back in 2002, long before it was introduced to most of the industry players. Everything happens in real time which leaves no gap in any transactions.

Auto-replenishment of stock ensures we have the right products in the right place at the right time. There is no manual intervention, and everything is managed in real-time. Our algorithms tell us what to procure and produce with absolutely no manual intervention! We also have an advanced in-house technology where on only has to enter basic details and the products get delivered from the nearest store to your POS. This ensures quick turnaround and satisfied customers.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

There’s a host of major consumer trends emerging in recent times. Today’s consumers have radically different priorities, along with a transformative effect on the fashion industry as well. The paradigms are shifting in terms of the way people consume fashion and engage with changing trends.

There used to be a time when seasonality based buying behaviour was a thing. Now people have very specific needs. There’s a changed buying behaviour for different segments — different needs for different occasions.

Consumers have now started to reimagine ethnic wear in a whole different manner. Earlier, ethnic wear was limited to specific occasions, now consumers have changed their buying pattern by incorporating ethnic wear in their dayto- day space also.

The consumer is much more conscious about his/her fashion quotient today compared to say 10 years back. Because of the sheer amount of fashion they consume through social media, they are more informed, evolved and involved in fashion. Constant updating and huge volumes of fashion discourses online have ensured that they are always on top of their fashion game. Major trends are now completely driven via social media where consumers are readily absorbing them and going back for validation.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

A product is an input in the fashion sector and that is what drives the whole industry.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

Ethnic fashion is ideally more accepted in women’s space rather than men’s. There has been a huge growth in ethnic fashion space amongst women as there’s a lot of options available to choose from, and now it has forayed into fashion in a much deeper level. Getting men to be more conscious about ethnic fashion is a huge multiplier to this growth. As an ethnic catalyst, we are continuously working on making ethnic fashion more acceptable in men’s space. Overall, more consciousness will certainly lead to quantum growth.

11. RAVI MODI, CMD, MANYAVAR

1212 RISHABH OSWAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MONTE CARLO & FOUNDER, ROCK IT

A third generation of the Oswal family, Rishabh Oswal acts as the Director of Cotton County Retail Ltd., and Oswal Woollen Mills Ltd., the parent company of the group and one of the top producers of woolen and acrylic yarns in the country. Innovation and customer satisfaction is the top priority for Rishabh, which has helped Monte Carlo extend its reputation in the apparel industry. He likes to work out a lot which has fueled his dream of launching his own athleisure brand, Rock It.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

Fashion has always been a source of passion for me, as dynamics varies vastly across the change of season. The evolution that Indian fashion industry is witnessing urges me to contribute towards this growth, where there is a huge scope to create an everlasting change.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion as an industry has gone through a sea of change, yet the essence of it remains singular. Fashion is often considered to be a vibrant representation of the current thought-process and ideas. It is an art form that can never die due to its ever-changing nature, which reflects on living a lifestyle.

India is known for its diverse fashion sense, which has evolved over time. The rich tradition and conventions from ethnic to the modern sensibilities of western both find space in this diaspora. You can see a change in the value-expressive attitudes transforming the mentality and central beliefs among the citizens, transforming how one leads his/her life.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation for us is the essence of change, where we bridge the gap between the consumers and the industry, with best ideas possible. We have always strived to come up with creations that would add a shade of innovation to our patron’s lives. It is essential to marry the idea of innovation with age old traditions, in order to create a bracing impact. Starting from the knit to the shade, we try to emulate the pulse of the current times.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Technology and information superhighway are the game changers in the business today, providing us with newer avenues to create a long-lasting impact. While understanding and reaching out to our customers has always remained our focus, with technology it, has been possible for us to adapt to the evolving times while maintain a healthy discourse with our clientele.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Fashion reflects on the sensibilities of the wearer. Hence, the evolution in fashion came owing to the evolution of tastes. Present day consumer is further well-versed with the industry, updating themselves on a daily basis. Hence, understanding of fashion, product and quality has changed extremely which has a lead to increase in the number of expectations from the brand.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

As with the taste, the products have evolved at a rapid pace, reflecting upon the current and upcoming scenario. The positioning of product has evolved from being an accompanying factor to an asset that accentuates the wearer. Innovation has added the presence of newfound value that now every consumer seeks out of the product, as how one markets and sells it.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Product has always been the hero as a great product creates a pleasurable experience for the consumer, allowing the space for further engagement. While marketing has grown to great lengths in creating value, a stellar product is what creates value for the brand in the eyes of the consumer.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

Similar to every other avenue, Indian fashion has left its mark on the global scenario. Be it our batik prints or our much loved designers such as Bibhu Mohapatra, the global players and consumers are appreciating our contribution to the whole diaspora of fashion. Digitisation of fashion is emerging yet there is a great deal more work to be done, in terms of competing with other digital brands. Also, products that are sustainable and yet maintain ecological balance are on the lesser side. This has to be promoted on larger scale, keeping diverse tastes in mind.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

To think of the fashion industry emulates a host of characteristics, where focusing on any singular one would create a vast gap in the growth of the industry. Hence, while India has help proficiency in manufacturing, it needs to embolden it’s grasp over marrying the cause of fashion with technology, while improvising on it’s already brilliant base of design proficiency.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

India has always held proficiency over manufacturing, with the sheer manpower that it hosts. While manufacturing will continue to demand/generate maximum amount of employment, design and incorporation of technology will also see a profound leap in engagement of professionals, accelerating the industry.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

The focus on fusion, keeps on growing as wearers opt for attires that keep up with time and yet reflect upon the sensibilities that they have imbibed. Value-based clothing is also in a rise, where the product should covey value to the wearer’s thought process and image. India is on a rise, as the rate of dispensable income rises amongst its citizen, and brands are one of the preferred options amongst all. Yet, unique apparels found in independent labels are gaining traction.

12. RISHABH OSWAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MONTE CARLO &...

1313 ROHAN BATRA, MD, CRAVATEX BRANDS (FILA)

Among the youngest MDs in the Indian sports and fashion space, Rohan Batra joined the Fila business in 2008. Rohan dived head-first into the product upon joining the India business, working with the sourcing team at footwear factories, he developed an in-depth understanding of footwear technologies, manufacturing and supply chain. Rohan also heads Proline Fitness, the largest fitness equipment player in India which operates across both home and commercial segments.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

My family has been in fashion since 1983. It was a very natural progression that led me to my current role after a short sojourn into investment banking. The most exciting thing for me is the mix of creativity; process and commercial instinct that you need to run a fashion business.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

I think that fashion is extremely important to any culture, not just in India. Whether as a form of self-expression or as a functional tool, the choices people make when it comes to style allow them to fit in and stand out, often simultaneously.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

For us at, Cravatex Brands, innovation is a process. We have set up our own design lab within the company and filled it with some extremely creative people. We work on three major processes in our teams – Iteration, Innovation and Invention. Iterating your bestselling products allows you to improve them every season and grow your core businesses. Innovating by introducing new materials, technologies or manufacturing methods adds freshness, improves quality and can lead to keeping your products relevant to the market needs. While, Invention takes time and is hard to do but it is the most important. Companies that invest in research and testing of materials, technologies and new ideas will always ensure that they keep one eye looking ahead to build a future pipeline of amazing products.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Technology strategy is important for any retail company today. Just as you need a brand strategy a coherent approach to the technology backbone of a company is a must. We have areas such as product lifecycle management where we use tools to track the development of multiple projects simultaneously, often allowing vendors direct access to cut down development and manufacturing time.

The biggest change in the last decade has been the sheer amount of raw data available to a fashion business these days. We have a clear plan for harnessing this data and utilising it for improvements across our businesses in assortment planning, PLM, markdown management and inventory control. This can all be unified and used across all sales channels to ensure a higher return on capital.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Consumers today are fundamentally not different; they still seek great quality products from brands they identify with. What has changed is the way in which brands and customers interact. Ten years ago the channels of distribution were limited but now a customer can purchase brands through many different retail formats, both online and offline. The nature of the dialogue between brands and consumers is much deeper now with conversations happening in real time over social channels. We are living in the golden age of communication and connection between brands and consumers.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

I think there was a phase during the last decade where fast fashion with easily available and cheap products were the mainstay of any wardrobe but with need for sustainability in fashion rising, I think we will enter a decade where people want great quality and durable products that last. With regards to planning an assortment the greatest tool for this in the last decade has been the availability of data in real time which allows us to react much quicker to changes in the product architecture. Often no matter how much analysis we do a good old-fashioned gut feeling is sometimes required.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

I believe that great product and strong brands are the basis of fashion. The most important thing however is telling a story of a brand through its products that captures the imagination of the user. Fundamentally the product must be well constructed, have utility and is honest but for truly great product it must tell a story. At Fila, we have products like the BB01 polo which has remained largely the same since its introduction in the 1970s, but it tells the story of one of the greatest tennis players that ever lived, Bjorn Borg. His story is captured in the details such as the pinstripes, pop button placket and of course the athletic fit.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

I think in a global context the next decade will see India become a larger part of the fashion conversation. The sheer number of talented young designers and companies that are in their infancy now is incredible. Our largest challenge however is that before we conquer the world, we must conquer own backyard. That means growing distribution, increasing scale and building very strong brands in India first.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

I think India will need a great pool of talent across all disciplines but especially data driven technology professionals. Faster fashion cycles and a more complex supply chain that enables endless aisle and omnichannel strategies would need professionals who have a strong grip on not only product but a very strong understanding technology and the role it plays in merchandising and forecasting.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

The biggest growth can come through infrastructure and mobility in cities followed by the growth in distribution. Once the price war online settles down, we can have a very strong penetration across India with a very sustainable model. Investment into integrated large-scale manufacturing would also help grow the industry significantly.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

At Cravatex Brands, we have an entire sustainability department independently working across all business functions to ensure our environmental footprint is reduced and we move to a more sustainable product portfolio.

Sustainability and consciousness throughout the supply chain would be very important going forwards. The Government is already taking measures with regards to waste disposal, environmental treatment of by products and use of plastics. I think simple, clear and stable policy changes would be benefi cial for the ecosystem as a while.

13. ROHAN BATRA, MD, CRAVATEX BRANDS (FILA)

1414 SAMEER PATEL, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, DEAL JEANS

A self-made and self-motivated professional, Sameer Patel is a proud owner of a globally established brand, Deal Jeans. He believes in getting acquainted to the fashion trends followed in every corner of the world and then crafts them with fresh concepts in his seasonal collection.

What makes him stand apart from the rest is his conceptual thinking, international competence and ability to see the big picture.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

The fashion industry is a competitive place to create and leave your footprints in. We are proud to boast about our accomplishments and achievements. Today with trends changing in the blink of eye, understanding what this industry demands and fulfilling at the right time to the right people is what excites us to be a player in fashion industry.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is a spirit, an extension of oneself. It is an unspoken communication that speaks volumes about personalities and their thoughts. It encapsulates who we are on an everyday level and how we project that through our clothing. There is no rule to fashion, it simply is playing around with and breaking the rules of conventional dressing. With exposure to entertainment like music, movies and internet, fashion has a deeper influence on the lives of people and witnesses timely changes in taste as per trends focused across the nation. Fashion definitely has a healthy impact at large as it creates a wordless communication that we all understand!

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation takes place at the intersection of fashion and technology, representing a powerful way to connect consumers to brands while providing distinct shopping and wearing experiences. Design is continuously gaining importance in the development of the fashion products, coping up with this element is where innovation plays a crucial role.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Fashion industry has transitioned to becoming digital-centric. The shift from brick-and-mortar retail shopping to a world of e-commerce has forced traditional retailers to rethink business strategies and adapt to rapid changes in technology and consumer preferences. At Deal, the use of real-time data technology towards inventory management followed by social media marketing for brand promotion and internet technology which facilitates to sell online in a better manner and helps to establish the brand much faster, there is no geographical boundary anymore. Use of technology for superior in customer experience and sophisticated CRM is a great opportunity for the brand.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

The customers 10 years ago, had minimal exposure to fashion as compared to the present scenario. Also, the accessibility of internet lacked which today plays a crucial role in bringing fashion trends across the globe with ease. Today, fashion influencers have risen to prominence, the number of apps in our social media rotation has quadrupled, the way that consumers make purchasing decisions has dramatically altered: they stand in stores, using their smartphones to compare prices and product reviews. All these aspects have created an impact on the fashion orbit.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

The fashion product has significantly evolved over the years. India has witnessed a huge transformation in the consumer lifestyle which has been influenced by the geo-demographic, socio-cultural factors, psychographics, preferences, norms and behaviour. Rising disposable income continues to drive increase spending. Rise in brand awareness and educated consumers accessing internet to follow global trends has brought fashion forward products to Indian market. The growing fashion consciousness through western culture among Indian consumer has led to the grow manifold in past decade.

Today’s fashion market is highly competitive and the constant need to ‘refresh’ product range means that there is an inevitable move by many brands to extend the number of ‘seasons’, that is, the frequency with which the entire merchandise within a store is changed. With the frequent replenishment of merchandise with fresh collection, brands are encouraging consumers to visit their stores more frequently with the idea of ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Yes, product is the lifeblood of any company. Without them, the firm withers on the vine and either dies or is absorbed by another firm. Good product also needs to be backed with an efficient marketing campaign which creates a demand for the product.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India has an immense creative side when it comes to fashion. Over the centuries, Indian fashion industry has contributed greatly to the global fashion world with both in terms of both adding to its economy as well as giving its ensembles that have been worn by generations. International fashion designers have utilised Indian prints and textiles over the years, as well as emulate some of the traditional silhouettes in an exciting and modern way.

Lack of familiarity with Indian brands has led to westerners being hesitant to purchase Indian products. Indian designers are renowned for their flair and attention to detail. Those that produce traditional garments are singled out for their ornate craftsmanship. Essentially, international markets work on principles of commercial viability and wearability. This makes the traditional Indian look hard to push on shop floors. International fashion is speeding up when it comes to production processes and lead times are shrinking. However, for Indian brands, the possibilities on either side of the equation are large: A domestic market with more than one billion potential clients, as well as an international market keen to see them combine traditional fl are with Western commercial viability.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub,etc?

We strongly believe India should focus on being a value based manufacturing hub. Reason being it’s long standing history and developing textile and garment sector. India is the second largest textile manufacturer. Also recent government initiative “Make in India” has renewed focus on invigorating the country’s economy. Now given the right support and growing consumer base can help develop the retail and fashion industry, gaining international investments.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

Fashion industry is an extremely competitive and dynamic market. Trends and styles change with the blink of an eye. Data Science can be used here on historical data to predict the trends which will be in demand and hence potentially save a lot of time and money. We are moving into even more of a data-driven world. But numbers alone are useless there’s a human who can interpret them. With emerging technologies like machine learning and data science the outlook for data analysts is promising in India.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

Growth in apparel industry in India is increasing manifold with the change in lifestyle, earnings and urbanisation of the customers. The Indian consumers are adopting fashionable items quickly and conveniently with the rise in competition. The emergence of branded apparel outlets, shopping malls are also increasing rapidly all over India. The change in lifestyle of the Indian consumer, increasing working class, higher disposable income, dual career families, and many other social and economic changes offer a wide array of opportunities, and contribute in accelerating the pace of growth of all.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Style is supreme in the world of fashion. Ethical companies must recognize this and focus on innovation to make sustainability on trend. These aspects will be inspiring, commercially viable, and bang on-trend. There is the potential to lead a revolution in the way the fashion industry is run for the brands who support sustainable and eco-friendly processes. Doing this, we also need to go one step further for sustainable fashion to enter the mainstream and that is to drop the idea altogether of being worthy and instead concentrate on innovation because eco conscious shoppers might be driven by more ethical considerations when making purchases.

14. SAMEER PATEL, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, DEAL JEANS

1515 SATYEN P MOMAYA, CEO, CELIO*

A seasoned professional, Satyen P Momaya holds over 20 years of experience working across retail, telecom and consumer durables.
Satyen has a successful track record in building a strong profitable business and achieving market growth objectives. At Celio*, he spearheads the retail business right from operations and management to marketing activities and revenue generation and is also responsible for the growth and development of Celio* in India.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

It is an exciting, exhilarating experience, for me. Apparel retail is amongst the few large opportunity industries which is moving late, but fast, to organised and branded retail in our country. The constant development and innovation on product, understanding the consumer mind and anticipating fashion trends and being ahead of the curve really excites me.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion to me has to have the creativity/aesthetics which are appealing and differentiated, it also has to be simple, comfortable, as a brand it is an opportunity to create and present garments with love, passion and definitely making it accessible for people at large to adapt into it. Apart from being one of the largest and one of the fast growing industry providing huge employment opportunity fashion also has a bigger influence of allowing people to express themselves and as people disposable income grows looking good and fashion becomes even more important.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Industry research/design and product people work simultaneously on analysing the past season while launching current season merchandise and the work in progress on design for the next season, there is innovation at every stage right from cutting down product lead time, re-engineering manufacturing process to improve on costs and sustainability. At Celio* innovations is one of our core values, our designers and product development team in France is constantly innovating on the product whether it is the fabric, washing or treating the garment, performance benefits to consumers etc. In India we launch all our global innovation on product the same time to give you an example the soft touch denim is a fabric innovation and so is the stay denim, both these products launched simultaneously in India and France.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Fashion as an industry in India has been a late adapter to technology and given the revenue scale many brands have been able to achieve the allocation of resources has been constrained, but in the last 4 to 5 years the speed of technology is changing and accelerating. We have carved out a digital blue print with the intent to deliver better consumer shopping experience, improve data capture and analytics and CRM. To give you an example of providing sharper curated merchandise assortment, as an organisation we are on a retail footprint expansion drive across channels, to support this we are combining intuition with AI for our internal data to understand region wise channel wise what consumers love what is not working and constantly curating our merchandise assortment accordingly.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Over the years the customer has really changed. Before, it used to be the channel or the brands who were completely in control and dictating fashion, now the customer is in charge because technology has really given the customer access to so much information. The consumer expectations with customer service on product and price parity is higher than it has ever been.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Yes I completely agree. We are a menswear specialist; product is our DNA and creating reasonably priced fashion is our strength.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India scored high on the sheer scale of the opportunity for apparel retail and is one of the largest fast growing fashion market, the key challenges we need to address is to leverage the strength on providing technology solutions at a fraction of cost.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

India has the art and the workmanship embedded within our culture hence design is our strength we need to invest higher on technology to leap frog on fashion manufacturing.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

Apparel and footwear retail, both online and offline, is growing and will continue to grow stronger. We will need to work on developing the soft skills which will help address the new increased consumer expectations.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

Building a pool of talent across functions in fashion and investing in competency building.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Very, very important it has to be on the top of the list for most organised retailers and brands, a 360 percent approach right from sourcing to, use of chemicals and waterless treatments, worker work environment, longevity of garments etc., is something which will act as unique differentiation for brands and will be valued more than ever by the consumers including the millennial.

15. SATYEN P MOMAYA, CEO, CELIO*

1616 SHARAD VENKTA, MD & CEO, TOONZ RETAIL

Sharad Venkta has been instrumental in making Toonz one of the largest kids retail player in India today. His experience lies in key strategic decision making and initiatives including retail operations, developing new business models, etc.

With over two decades of experience in the retail industry, his last stint was with Future Group where he successfully managed operations of more than 1 million sq. ft. of retail space, administered the sizeable business (Rs 1,000 Cr+) and led a team of more than 2,000 people.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

Kids’ fashion is the most creative and innovative of all the fashion segments. With every passing year, we get to see and also design some really creative stuff for them, making it even more exciting.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is a form of art, a form where you can express yourself any way you want to. It is extremely diversified. Every day comes with new ideas, challenges and innovations. The fashion industry, in particular, is a place where imagination and creativity run wild. Kidswear is one of the fastest growing segment, these days. They are well aware of the latest trends and make their own decisions and treat fashion as a way of self-expression by wearing their attitude.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation comes out of need, and how you plan to fulfill those needs in the most creative ways possible. Here at Toonz, we aspire to provide the best range of everyday necessities for your child. Our products range from beautiful attires by our in-house brands—Wowmom & Superyoung—to bedding sets for newborns and toddlers, from toys to prams and strollers, and everything that your child requires under the sun. Our innovation lies in the fact and in the way we provide all of these products under one roof, making it a one stop shop.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Online is generating more interest even in the interiors of the country. And, better access and supply chain logistics are enabling the fashion retail markets.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

The customer of today is more aware about his/her needs. Be it a 10 year old kid or an adult, everyone around us knows what they want, what inspires them and what their needs are. Also, with the advent of technology and also with the help of increase in the disposable income, the customers today have come a long way.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

India has come a long way. Today, we are exposed with international brands and social media which are influencing the customer mindset and behaviours. Ten years ago, customers were less aware and conscious about the kind of clothes they carried. Consumers are aware of the fashion trends and popular fads, especially with the excessive exposure to social media and online portals.

Because of the awareness so caused, we are always on our toes, looking out to change the current fashion scenario and creating a trend of our own. It is not just about the price or the quality now, the product mix now consists of everything, comfort, expressiveness and ease of procurement have also emerged to be very crucial, each factor having equal importance. The theme plans and the innovation quotient have changed significantly over the years with the increasing sensitivity towards fashion trends.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Yes! If the product is not great, then the trend won’t last, and nor would it have a chance to come back, like many of the‘90s trends which are doing the rounds now. Timeless classics like the Levis straight cut jeans are still deemed to be timeless because of how great the product was in every way. So yes, a fashion product needs to be great to actually find a place in the market.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/ generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

A very important skill set that is in great demand is the understanding of the needs of the customers. It is important for the brands to follow the trend and be aware of what is going around them to be able to give the maximum to their customers.

16. SHARAD VENKTA, MD & CEO, TOONZ RETAIL

1717 SWETA SARAFF, CEO, D&G BUTTONS

Second generation into the fashion accessory business, Sweta Saraff feels privileged to be associated with a family that boasts of a rich heritage in the fashion industry. Armed with degrees in business and fashion designing, Sweta joined the business when it was in need of certain technological up gradation in terms of innovation, administration and expansion. D&G Buttons is a well recognised brand in fashion accessory, it has strong presence in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

Fashion industry has been a tradition in my family for years. It’s a gift of our forefathers and runs in our DNA. I feel closely connected to it through my genes. In India, the fashion industry is a combination of cultural heritage, elegance and colourfulness. The rapid changing nature of this industry gives me a rush. It is all about the power of visualisation and creatively breaking the stereotype.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is all about awareness. It is distinctive, innovative, descriptive and even constant sometimes. It talks about your acceptance for change and how you want to present yourself in terms of style, status, profession, etc. The fashion industry has been dominant in India for over 1,000 years. Lately there has been a rapid growth in the middle class and an increase in powerful manufacturing sector. India is now the destination to be in for international brands, due to strong economic fundamentals and increasingly tech-savvy millennial population. There is a shift from just a sourcing hub to becoming the most attractive consumer market outside the western world.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation in my industry holds two dynamics: aesthetics and technology. They are so closely knit that we cannot neglect either. The very sensitive angle to this is the price competitiveness in the market. At present we are working on alternate solutions to the conservative product composition and traditional construction techniques. Modern machineries for construction of moulds, semi- hollow buttons, stainless steel are some of such examples which sustain our goodwill.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Technology today has a great role to play in the fashion industry. Manufacturers are leveraging technology to enhance the creative experience with digital marketing displays and improved checkouts. It helps in increasing their consumer space through e- commerce as well as significantly lowering labour cost. We are presently moving to solutions based on artificial intelligence which aims at personalisation and curation as per the needs of the buyers.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customers of today are way complex than those 10 years ago. Technology was for a few. Brand loyalty was high. The market was divided into two segment: the classy and the massy. But today the apparel industry is being driven by the increasing tech-savvy consumer. There is huge awareness at all levels. The growing penetration of the internet, social media, and e-commerce is now providing with increasing access of brands and products to the consumers in Tier II cities and even below.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

There has been a drastic change in the fashion products from what it was 10 years ago. People no longer consider apparel as a durable item; it’s a seasonal concern. Quality is no longer their priority; they chase latest trends and look for bargains.

Worldwide there has been a remarkable shift towards the megatrend of hasslefree ‘activewear’ and‘sportswear’. As a result, we are forced to create collections faster and at lower R&D cost. The orthodox process of 3 to 6 months’ time frame does not function any longer. We have to rapid the process to reduce the lead time, sometimes letting go the creative aspect.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

We at D&G buttons swear by quality in terms of product and services. The quality of the products used in the fashion industry is self-descriptive. It reflects the personality and priorities at large. A great product will always provide great customer satisfaction. A well finished and designed durable accessory adds a lot more value to the product than just aesthetics. The market for branded clothes is emerging in India as they provide quality affirmation.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

Indian fashion industry is at its growing stage and has a great potential to make the mark on the world at large. Its rich cultural background and large population with cost effectiveness accelerates its global opportunity. In the last decade it has taken a blossoming take-off . India fashion industry needs to focus on product innovation and development, invest in brand building and supply chain. Trend spotting and digital marketing can also be profitable.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

India is blessed with diversity in all aspect. It can easily provide with an all-in-one solution to the world. The large population supports value-based manufacturing, the rich heritage and culture is a pillar to the design centric aspect, and the adaptation toward development make it an IT hub.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

India is a labour-intensive country. With the increasing manufacturing industry there is a huge demand for skilled labour.
Parallel to the increase in the economic growth there is more and more brands wanting to come to India, leading in construction of new malls every day. This in turn also creates opportunity for sales people at floor level.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

The favourable demographics and rising income level are believed to be the key growth drivers in this sector. Branded attires mark a significant contribution to the evolution of Indian fashion industry.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

One major roadblock in the industry is lower productivity levels. With increasing globalisation, it is one of the main factors affecting the growth of the garment industry. There is also a vacuum in investment in the infrastructure development and process standardisation.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Since the world is going global with everyday technological developments, ‘good’ fashion is the only key to success in the future. With the use of eco-finish process-electricity, water, chemical and waste can be highly reduced. It is an effective way to save energy and resources, which can build environmental sustainability and protection. The government needs to impose regulations for pollution control otherwise it will lose its existence in the world altogether.

17. SWETA SARAFF, CEO, D&G BUTTONS

1818 VASANTH KUMAR, MD, LIFESTYLE

With an illustrious career spanning 22 years, Vasanth Kumar has successfully launched, nurtured and established leading value fashion apparel and retail brands like Max Fashion and Peter England. Kumar joined Lifestyle International as President of Max Retail Division, where he laid the foundation for the brand, spearheading it into a formidable player in the value fashion segment in India. Currently, Kumar is spearheading Lifestyles’ aggressive growth plans in India.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

The dynamism of the industry is what inspires and excites me.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is the freedom to express one’s style. Fashion consumption is an indicator of economic progress hence, its impact on the nation and people is significant.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

Innovation is the tool that allows brands to ensure a friction less journey from discovery to purchase for the customer. At Lifestyle we have implemented several such innovations to ensure that the retail experience is nothing short of memorable. We have introduced ‘Click & Collect’ – an Omnichannel initiative that allows customers to order online and collect merchandise from a Lifestyle store of their choice. Our in-store Endless-Aisle initiative helps a customer find missing sizes on our online channel.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

Incorporating technology, that is both interactive and engaging, has changed the dynamics of retail. Today, technology in your day-to-day operations is not just about enhancing business functions, it is about providing a frictionless shopping experience as well.

The Self-Checkout kiosk – a facility that allows customers to bill their merchandise and complete the payment transaction in a few simple steps on their own. The Mobile POS which we have introduced for billing products some of our products such as watches, fragrances or cosmetics. Our Fitting Room Assistance program that has emerged from our insights into our customer shopping behaviour, allows for size retrieval with the help of technology. For our e-commerce business, we have introduced visual search and enabled voice-based search on our apps which has helped creating a more personalised and convenient shopping experience.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Customers are becoming more discerning and tech savvy than ever and are looking for simple, hassle-free and personalised shopping experiences. They are well versed with trends, both national and international are seeking a retail experience that is unique.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

These days, fashion is adapted to meet global trends. The focus has shifted towards creating curated capsules for various occasions rather than a “one-size-fits-all” collection. The role of creativity has a new significance, as continuous change requires the ability to quickly transform products as per customer requirement.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Products play an important role in the fashion industry. It is a key differentiator that help brands maintain their leading position in the market.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

Retail is a growing industry with huge opportunities both online and offline and the large number of new entrants be it brick-and-mortar or e-commerce platforms are a testament to that. Every player in this industry brings their own strengths to the customers. Over the years Lifestyle has carved a niche for itself amongst consumers who are looking for international products and shopping experience. Our strong private label offering and the power of choice that Lifestyle offers through a curated collection continues to distinguish us from the rest in the market.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

With huge improvements in technology and access to data connectivity, customers are now looking for seamless integration between the physical and virtual retail spaces. Hence, in the fashion industry, apart from fashion designers, planners, buyers who will always be required to manage a fashion business, we will see a big influx of e-commerce and omni-channel experts in the fashion industry. Digital and Social Media Management, Performance Marketing, Data Analytics, Web and App Development, Omni-Channel and E-Commerce Management will be some of the skill sets that will be in demand in the coming years. The core of the industry which is to design/buy, move and sell, will remain intact, and hence so will the skill sets that support this aspect of fashion retail. The additional demand of manpower will come from the new channels of engaging and selling through omni-channel.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

Building great customer relations, providing a seamless omni-channel experience and a frictionless journey from discovery to purchase supported by customer focused services.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

Adequate availability of quality retail spaces is a challenge.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

Eco-friendly fashion is soon to become an industry wide movement. Reducing the environmental impact is key and every player should work towards ensuring that systems, processes and products adhere towards sustainability.

18. VASANTH KUMAR, MD, LIFESTYLE

1919 VIJAY PAL SINGH JOHAL, DIRECTOR, TRUFFLE COLLECTION

A gritty, enthusiastic, self-motivated individual who leads by example, Vijay Pal Singh Johal has an experience of 8+ years in the footwear industry. Under his leadership the brand, Truffle Collection, has scaled new heights of success with a growth rate of whopping 350 percent since 2015. Johal’s observant nature allows him to be a stalwart in the product designing aspect of the brand which also happens to be his passion. Meeting new people and understanding new cultures has helped him understand life in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

Fashion is something which has always been close to my heart. I have loved and grown up watching people dress up and create a personality of their own. Fashion gives a voice to many of us, it boasts self confidence for many. Also, since our family business has been operating in this segment, so fashion came in at an early age to me.

I enjoy the rapidness in this field and how one has to evolve with the changes. Infact, what excites me more is keeping up with trends and continuously finding new ones. It is an everyday process.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is a broad institute in itself. For me fashion is freedom of expression, emotion, values to the extent of what you believe in and how you want to be perceived. Fashion now has a huge impact on people in India, with social media playing a huge role in this. They have started taking fashion seriously and I can see people putting in a lot of effort to rock that “effortless” look as well.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

We are constantly working towards innovations for the Indian market. We also have a team of UK based designers which makes us the foremost brand to bring key trends into India. From working on creating detailing on fl at sliders to a chunky sneaker, we are constantly researching new trends across the world to bring it to the Indian market.

What has been the role of technology in changing the way companies do fashion business in India? How has your company adapted to technology?

I think technology has major role when it comes to growing a business and reaching out to multiple customers. With the ever increasing technology there comes social media and online shopping. We strongly believe that accepting such technological changes has helped the brand to explore new market and customers.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

We live in a millennial age that wakes up to a social media post, reviews and are more active and vocal. So I think today’s customer knows exactly what they want and do not need any validation from anyone. Whereas 10 years ago if one had to purchase anything they would require that kind of validation from someone to make their purchases.

How has the fashion product changed from what it used to be 10 years ago? How has the innovation quotient and working out of the product mix and theme planning changed?

The customers today require fast fashion in which we need to turn around a lot faster than we used to in past. This has naturally led to the product being versatile and in line with the latest trends. As the customer is well informed and well-travelled, quality at no cost can be compromised, as pricing has taken a back seat.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

How do you define a great product? Is it something which is trending or something comfortable and stylish. In our case it is an amalgamation of both. So a great product for us will be fast, easy and stylish at the same time.

Where does India score on the world map for fashion? What are the key challenges which should be addressed to make it more competitive in the world market?

India is growing and increasing its demand very rapidly, and we are proud to see this. We would love for our customers to be a lot more creative with what they wear and how they wear it. While this isn’t exactly a challenge but it’s surely one of our aims.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

With the ever growing working force and peoples drive for creating, manufacturing, etc., India can definitely be a bit of all.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment Indian manpower in the future?

I’ve said retail will be the strongest in India in the long run, along with focus on online/social media where it is growing rapidly and people are willing to spend on the same.

If we are to look at a quantum growth in fashion, what factors can accelerate/be multipliers to this growth?

One should always take risks and explore new adventures by finding the right market which is the actual key to accelerate growth.

And, which factors may/will act as roadblocks?

I think consumers need to get out of the “low price” idea as you pay when it’s worth it. You get the right value and returns on your investment which is something one should also look into.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

With the changing environment and global warming in the picture, I feel everyone in every sector needs to contribute their bit to make this a better place. We being a part of fashion industry are doing our best to support such causes and it definitely impacts a good change in the environment where fashion is highly consumed.

I think government regulations are already in place, but we need to educate more people on the way eco-friendly fashion is important to us and how it impacts the society on the whole.

19. VIJAY PAL SINGH JOHAL, DIRECTOR, TRUFFLE COLLECTION...

2020 VINOD GUPTA, MD, DOLLAR INDUSTRIES

With over three decades of experience in finance, marketing and administration, Vinod Kumar Gupta is the man behind Dollar Industries’ exponential growth. His effective leadership and excellent business tactics have driven the entire organisation towards success. Being professionally qualified, he is also the member of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).

Why are you working in the fashion industry? What excites you the most here?

The most exciting thing about being part of the industry is that it is driven by imagination and a form of expression instead of clothes being just functional. Innerwear is a basic need of every human being, and it has evolved over the decades. The trend has changed significantly and the taboos behind innerwear is fading.

Being in this industry has its own excitement and challenges but being innovative in this field is the most exciting part. With new kind of fabrics that are being developed, customers are demanding more choices than ever – this requires us to constantly keep a watch on their demands and provide them with fashionable, sustainable and affordable products. It’s very exciting to see how far the hosiery industry has evolved over the last few years and there is so much happening and so much to off er.

How would you define fashion? What is its impact on people at large and on India as a nation?

Fashion is self-expression, it is extension of who you are or what you believe in. When it comes to hosiery products, comfort is the main criteria along with being fashionable, so it is important that we strive to have a balance in our products which are not just comfortable but also are trendy.

What does innovation stand for you and how is your company working on giving new innovations in the market?

This year we have experimented with fabric that is stretchable and body hugging to give a snug fit. As far as colours are concerned we are concentrating on bright and pastel shades for summers. We introduced a new product category ‘athleisure’ for consumers who love sports and invest time in staying fit.

Two to three decades ago, multiple clothing styles didn’t exist, and neither did clothing differentiation. Today, we have morning wear, casual wear, office wear, party wear, night wear and so on for all the categories – men, women and kids. At Dollar, we always look forward to giving our customers a delightful experience.

How is the customer of today different from the one 10 years ago?

Innerwear has evolved from being just functional to being fashionable. People now are more conscious of what they wear inside. Today people are prone to wearing good innerwear when they go to the gym or when they go in for sports activities as staying fit and comfortable along with being stylish plays a very important role in peoples’ lives. Innovations in this category will largely depend on the fabrics being used.

The foremost importance is that there is a hygiene factor associated with intimate wear – the taboo behind it is slowly being lifted day by day and hygiene-related communication is being promoted at all levels across our country. People have started feeling comfortable in this ‘second skin’ as well. Customer psychology has changed a lot from 10 years ago.

Some say the most important thing in fashion is a great product. Do you agree or not?

Yes, the right quotient of fashion is quality products with amazing fit, that makes everyone comfortable and yet is stylish or on trend.

Our company began its journey with the signature brand ‘Dollar’. Later we introduced premium men’s innerwear brand Dollar Bigboss, which achieved great popularity. We also introduced women’s wear brand Missy, ultrapremium wear for men ForceNXT and Force Go Wear, kids wear brand Champion and a range of winter wear called Dollar Ultra Thermals and Wintercare for all categories – men, women and kids. We recently launched athleisure for sports lovers and apart from these, we have our economy range of products including Dollar RKG, Lehar Bravery, Egyptian, etc.

Should India focus on being a value-based manufacturing hub, design centric hub, or a fashion tech/IT hub, etc?

India is very rich in terms of culture and heritage. The skill of art among the Indians is like no other. If spoken about design, the western world has deep appreciation for our art and flocks to purchase items that have traditional Indian designs. Whether art or science India is no less than any of the first world countries and slowly emerging as one of the world power houses.

Which skill sets in fashion will have maximum demand/generate maximum employment for Indian manpower in the future?

Cutting and stitching definitely requires a special skill set to produce effective work in the fashion industry, hence it is important to empower more labours with providing them the needed aid and knowledge so that we have sufficient resources and artisans.

How important is ‘good’ fashion going to be in the future? What do companies that support and foster?

‘Good’ fashion is a relative term. If spoken about only fashion, it was there before also, it is present now and it will exist in the future as well. Fashion, specially clothing, changes with time. Every season comes up with new and innovative styles which become the current fashion and stays for sometime then again it changes, so it moves on like that.

We, being one of the leading hosiery companies of India, follow eco-friendly ways of manufacturing quality products for our customers, like we have zero waste discharge machines which manages the wastes and controls it. Instead of using turbine we use wind power for generating electricity, we initiate quality check of products at every stage of production, we do a lot of CSR activities every year for the welfare of the society and underprivileged children etc. We would definitely agree that by doing these for our customers we have gained a lot of positive support from our consumers and hope to get it in the future as well.

If asked about ESG (environmental, social and governance), we are very aware, and our consumers are aware too. We are actively working towards sustainable fashion.

20. VINOD GUPTA, MD, DOLLAR INDUSTRIES
PrevNext