At a recent industry forum I attended, we deliberated on the changing dynamics and the booming growth that is expected in the near future. Opportunities such as digital marketing, improved consumer engagement in stores and branding by leveraging technology were also explored at length. However, challenges exist in the form of a huge unorganised sector, regional diversity, shortage of skilled staff with specialisation in fashion and under-penetration of digital marketing.
Large share of the unorganised market continues to pose a challenge
The Indian apparel industry continues to face a challenge from the presence of a large unorganised sector. Especially within womenswear in India, the unorganised sector has a significant share, due to the prominence of ethnic wear in the country. The share of the unorganised market is higher in the smaller tier two and tier three cities due to its affordability. Consumers in these cities are even more price conscious given their lower disposable incomes. Players such as Pantaloons Fashion & Retail Ltd and Lifestyle International Pvt Ltd have been launching affordable ranges of apparel products to attract consumers from the unorganised sector to the organised branded apparel sector. Private label brands have also been doing well in the tier two and three cities, with fbb (Fashion at Big Bazaar) from leading hypermarket Big Bazaar (Future Group) being a prominent example. The fbb brand has a wide variety of affordable apparel and fashion range and has been running campaigns such as “Let's Make India Thoda Aur Stylish” (Let’s make India a little more stylish) to bring new consumers into the organised market.
Regional differences vary significantly in India
The Indian consumer base is very diverse and is made up of many ethnicities. Every region has its own unique dressing styles, based on physical build, weather conditions and ethnic backgrounds. These factors have also helped in the growth of regional apparel brands in the country. Some prominent examples of regional brands with ethnic focus that have been doing well recently include brands such as Meena Bazaar and Chhabra 555 in northern parts of the country and brands such as RMKV Silks and Ramraj in the south. International players would be best advised to invest in researching the regional needs of Indian consumers before launching new products.
Shortage of skills acts as a deterrent
Apparel players have been raising concerns about the lack of availability of designing and merchandising professionals with exposure to international fashion trends in India as a big deterrent for growth in the market. The current need for the apparel industry in India is to have a large base of professionals who understand international fashion concepts, trends, and distribution strategies to tailor them to the Indian market.
Indian fashion brands have not yet evolved in social media
The ABCDE of Indian consumers are Availability, Breadth of Assortment, Convenience, Deals and Discounts, and Experience. However, connecting with young dynamic Indian consumers continues to remain challenging for apparel brands. As per Euromonitor International’s Consumers data, the median age of the Indian population is 27 years, with around 77% of the population being younger than 45 as of 2015. These young consumers, on average, spend three to five hours a day online surfing social media, blogs and online retailing channels. Social media, digital marketing and blogs are also driving sales of store-based brands by increasing brand awareness. Hence, store-based retailers will also use technology to understand their consumers. Social media is therefore a crucial instrument in spreading brand awareness among consumers. Social media is uniting Bharat and India online – bringing together rural and urban regions. Awareness of international brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, United Colors of Benetton and others is on the rise in the smaller cities of India due to digital media. These international brands are active on social media and are investing in digital marketing to reach out to consumers. However, Indian apparel brands are still in the learning phase and are yet to evolve in terms of social media campaigns. As a large number of consumers are conducting research about brands and products online before buying, Indian apparel players are advised to have a dedicated social media team and invest in digital marketing to attract consumers to their brands