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Growth cannot come at the expense of profitability: Industry leaders

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Leaders share their understanding of India’s highly competitive fashion market and mantras for success at the 22nd edition of the India Fashion Forum

Bengaluru: India’s fashion industry is highly fragmented. And this provides opportunities and room for growth and scalability, business leaders said in a panel discussion on the first day of the chairman of the ongoing IMAGES Group’s India Fashion Forum.

However, leaders stressed that growth cannot come at the expense of profitability; a tightrope for brands to walk.

To achieve the fine balance, brands need to have clarity, a deep understanding of consumers and the nuances that define the Indian market or Indian consumers. “India isn’t price conscious, it’s performance conscious. For every brand, there is a market, as long as you are giving value. It comes to value creation for consumers. We are clear about what we want, and there is no distraction,” said Amisha Jain, MD & SVP, South Asia, Middle East, Africa, Non-EU, Levis Strauss & Co.

Sharing his view on businesses that have added value over the years, Chaturvedi of Arvind Fashions and the Chairman of the 22nd IFF, cited the success of brands like Jockey, Manyavar and Titan. “Let’s think of Jockey. Just imagine they are selling at tens of thousands of points of sale across India when others are struggling to do it,” he said. He attributed the innerwear brand’s success to staying focused, and not getting into many categories. Another example he cited was that of Titan which, according to him, commands more than two-thirds of the market share.

According to Chaturvedi what helps brands succeed is capability building.

“In my 30 years in the fashion retail industry, I see brands focusing too much on growth and other things like macro level data, such as moving from unorganized to organized. There was even a time when some pundits predicted that when India reaches $1000 per capita, consumption will thrive, thankfully India reached that and nothing happened,” Chaturvedi stressed. “So only companies that have built good capabilities will thrive,” he added. Growth, according to the chairman of IFF, is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition.

On the future of the fashion retail landscape, Vineet Gautam, CEO and Country Head, Bestseller India said, “Retail has a long-term future, not short term. We will reach $10 trillion; I don’t know when, but it will happen, and that’s long-term. And that’s going to happen from Bharat. That’s going to drive consumption.”

India is a saving economy, but as we are becoming younger as a nation, we are spending more, Gautam stressed. But the concern is that people are not building brands, they are building labels, he added.

Panelists said consumption of everything from food to fashion is expected to boom when India’s overall economy is expected to swell to $7 trillion in the next ten-15 years from about $3 trillion at present.

The session concluded with a consensus among leaders that the Indian fashion industry has bounced back, it’s thriving, and it offers more opportunities than industry watchers have seen.

The panellists included Shailesh Chaturvedi, MD & CEO, Arvind Fashions Ltd.; Amisha Jain, managing director for South Asia, Middle East and Africa for Levi Strauss; Dilip Kapur, president for Hidesign; Nirupa Shankar, joint managing director of mall developer Brigade Enterprises and Vineet Gautam, chief executive officer of Bestseller India.

They were speaking at a panel discussion on understanding the delicate momentum brands must maintain to ensure their relevance, visibility, scalability as well as profitability. The panel discussion was the first of many insightful sessions at the 22nd edition of India Fashion Forum (IFF) that kick-started today at Bengaluru’s Conrad.

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