Innerwear industry in India, for a long time, has largely been dominated by big layers like Amul, Lux, Rupa and Dollar, among others, whose presence is now more in the Tier-III & IV cities. As a segment, the Indian innerwear market was associated with basic needs with little to no innovation in terms of design, as opposed to innerwear markets in the West. But, the new India, which religiously follows the global fashion market, is what brings in major changes in the way the segment in perceived. This industry is now on a faster growth trajectory.
According to data in a 2021 report by The Machine Maker, the innerwear segment was estimated to be worth Rs32,000 crore, which accounted for 9% of the total domestic fashion market. The women’s innerwear segment is projected to grow at a rate of 12.5 % over the next decade to reach Rs68,000 crore by 2028, whereas men’s innerwear, currently valued around Rs11,000 crore, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7 % over the next decade to reach Rs21,800 crore by 2028. Rising disposable income as a result of more and more people joining the workforce has made it easier for consumers to move on to other brands. Now, the general population, especially in Tier-I cities and somewhat also in Tier-II cities, is looking for innovative designs, styles and comfortable fi ts. Demand for innerwear with innovative fabrics like antibacterial, fragrant innerwear and even period panties, is seeing an all-time high. In keeping with this growing demand, there is also an upsurge in innovative manufacturing to keep up with the latest fabrication technology.
Existing players are not only facing competition from unorganised players that cater to 60-65 % of the total demand, but also from new and upcoming brands, especially in the D2C space.
Deepa Kumar, Founder & CEO of Yashram Lifestyle, says that now many brands are venturing into this segment. “Yes, there are a lot of new brands in the innerwear segment. This is fuelled heavily by the D2C growth in the country and globally,” she says. This can largely be credited to the upper hand that the D2C brands have in terms of technological innovation, consumer preference mapping and genius marketing.
Suman Chowdhury, Co-founder & COO, Clovia, gives credit to latest technology for this growing segment. He says, “Earlier, innerwear was an unorganised market in India. From being a functional wear category to being a part of day-to-day fashion, the segment has today created a niche for itself. However, the market segment is evolving gradually and moving towards organised retail. Initially, innerwear was an unrecognized segment with a lack of both product and product awareness. Lingerie has always been talked about in hushed voices in our country. It has always been a pain for women to shop from neighbourhood stores as they were mostly run by men. In the post-pandemic times, where most offline brands have embraced digital to reach their consumers, digital-first brands are leveraging latest technologies like big data, analytics and AI to make the consumer experience as seamless as ever. Advanced technology adaption is the only way to address the vast length and breadth of the country that the brand caters to.”
He further adds that in the women’s segment, consumers are now more open about their preferences and are now emphasizing on exploring more options before any purchase. Style, playing a major role, has helped consumers begin to understand the importance of quality innerwear in the overall appearance which has led to the growth of branded innerwear.
Undoubtedly, this segment comes with a lot of opportunity and future growth. But, how profit table is it for brands to try their hand at it? On this, Kumar says, “It is a tough industry to operate in, in terms of margins being tight as the raw material & supply chain prices are constantly increasing while the consumer is price conscious. But, with constant innovation and tight operational discipline, profi ts are possible.”
Chowdhry says that with the lingerie sector evolving with new styles and designs, it has tempted the Indian consumer enough. “Broadening the product range would help increase the profitability of the lingerie industry. Lingerie involving certain innerwear such as padded bras, shapewear, panties, and nightwear is an essential part of women’s life, giving support and care to the most sensitive parts of their body. India has just started to scratch the surface of the lingerie market. But to keep up with this evolving segment, one can witness a lot of innovation in terms of technology, design and supply chain. Digital savvy consumers and growing e-commerce industry is what is fuelling these innovations,” he says. Kumar adds that with the e-commerce boom and brand discovery becoming more and more frictionless, the customer has become easier to access. With SaaS-based technologies on the manufacturing, supply chain and sales processes, it’s become less capital-intensive for entrepreneurs and I believe this is fostering growth for more brands.”
For Chowdhury, with the recent resurgence of omnichannel drive among companies, e-commerce industry is focused on technology for a better experience. His lingerie brand is one of the few companies at the forefront of the omnichannel model. “Data is used to improve our product, supply chain, distribution as well as post-purchase customer services. Clovia started with its online store initially to understand customers’ needs and started catering to them as per fi rst-hand response. Gradually, when the business started to grow we realised we are missing a huge chunk of customers that are not on the internet or may not be comfortable buying online. As the product market fit has been a roaring success for us and the feedback and customer response/retention is epic, the focus now is primarily to meet demand and ensure growth on all channels of distribution. We are currently expanding both in the online and the offl ine space with equal vigor and as we evolved, our focus was reaching out to the customers through an omnichannel strategy and being present at every customer touchpoint,” he concludes.