Segment and rule

Written by Alokananda Chakraborty | Updated: Dec 4 2007, 07:02am hrs
Only Vimal, only Vimal, only Vimal, Vimal.

For all practical purposes, this eighties jingle announced the arrival of two brandsVimal Suitings and its advertising agency, Mudra. Two decades on, Vimal, in a new avatar, has its task cut out. But first things first.

When Vimal Suitings was launched in the early eighties, it was up against some tough competition. Brands such as Raymond and Grasim had a firm foothold in the mens fabric market and tugged at the heartstrings of the Indian male with advertising loaded with fancy vector images, patterns and typefaces. The communication was largely product-leddominated by heavyweight fabrics and macho imagery.

Little wonder, the path Reliance chose for Vimal Suitings raised quite a few eyebrows. It constructed the brand within a strictly consumer durable framework. Vimal ads actually carried insets of the state-of-the-art machinery that the brand had at its disposal (From Indias most modern textile plant, the ads said). The positioning statementOnly Vimal (chosen by Reliance patriarch Dhirubhai Ambani himself, goes the story)made it aspirational, so much so that the brands advertising became a platform for the best male models in the country. Kabir Bedi, Deepak Parashar, Deepak Malhotra, Bikram Salujathey were all there strutting their stuff.

In its early days Vimal advertising was very iconic, points out Jishnu Sen, senior vice-president, Grey Worldwide, the agency handling the account now. In a way, it changed the face of fashion advertising in India. Indeed, the juxtaposition of product benefits and aspiration went on to become the hallmark of Vimal advertising. And the brand, which started its innings as a saree and dress materials range, came to be identified as the leader among suiting fabrics with sales of close to Rs 500 crore.

Somewhere along the line though, the brand began to show signs of fatigue. Its sub-brands refused to take off, the advertising remained stuck in a groove and the market began to slip under its feet.

Cut to 2007. Vimal is back, complete with a new wardrobe, a new target audience and a brand new communication strategy. (Lamha lamha badal rahe hain hum/Ek naye andaaz mein badh rahe hain hum goes the new jingle.)

The new wardrobe comprises three new sub-brandsVimal Red, Vimal White and Vimal Blackstraddling different price points. Vimal Red, positioned in the popular segment, offers formal wear in the Rs 699 to Rs 899 band. The trendier Vimal White is in the mid-price market with price tags between Rs 799 and Rs 1,099). Vimal Black is priced upwards of Rs 999, targeting consumers of premium fabric. The current Vimal portfolio would be high quality mens wear along with lifestyle accessories, says Anand Parekh, president, textiles division, Reliance Industries. Sarees and dress materials are being studied carefully.

But this may not be the market that Vimal has known.

For starters, the mens apparel market has grown by leaps and bounds with a plethora of domestic and international brands jostling for shelf space. Valued at Rs 36,740 crore, the mens wear market in India has registered growth of about 13% in 2006 over the previous year, against a volume growth of 5% in the same period. This was higher than the growth rate it registered in 2005, when it stood at 12% and 4% in terms of value and volume. (Source: Images Yearbook, Volume IV, No 1) Among all categories in the mens wear segment, mens shirt had the largest marketat Rs 13,510 crore in 2006, followed by mens trousers at Rs 9,430 crore. The category spanning mens suits, jackets and blazers too has changed beyond recognition. From being largely tailor-driven, readymades have come to occupy a large chunk of the Rs 3,240-crore market. Overall, volumes have grown over 6% in 2006, while value growth has touched 13%. Like in mens shirts, in this category too, the super-premium segment has shot up considerablyboth in value and volume terms (37% and 24% respectively).

With growth picking up across categories, established players have become more active, while premium international brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, Canali have thrown their hats into the ring. Raymond, Arvind Brands, Madura Garments, Zodiac and Reid & Taylor are active across price points and have taken the battle right into the territory once ruled by Vimal. To top it all, polyester viscose (PV), which was Vimals mainstay, is no longer in fashion; worsted fabrics is the order of the day, making up 60% of the market.

Given this, can Vimal regain lost ground Why did Reliance decide to relaunch the brand with such fanfare in the first place

The overall growth of textiles, the growth of branded mens wear within the same, and the current size of branded mens wear market, were the key considerations for the relaunch of Vimal, says Anand Parekh, president, textiles division, Reliance Industries. The rapidly changing lifestyle of Indians, particularly the youth, offers an opportunity to a large, long-term player who can afford differentiated products, differentiated retail.

If one looks closely, Vimal fits perfectly in Reliances overall corporate plan. Points out Pavas Bhatia, associate director, Technopak Advisors, Reliance is going full throttle into retail and plans to have 20-22 formats. The company will bundle Vimal wherever its fitsin its hypermarkets, super-markets or even its specialty apparel vertical. Thats besides the fact that the mens wear market has huge potential and despite the large number of brands, it is not serviced100%.

Vimal is not afraid of competition. The competition, when Vimal was first launched, was obviously quite different, admits Parekh. While the number of competitors in fabric was, perhaps, more, the number of apparel players was much less. The technology of worsted suiting had not arrived, finishing technology was much older. Retailing formats, which were largely fabric oriented, were quite different. The business of mens formal wear too has evolved a great deal over the years. Simultaneously, consumer lifestyle has undergone a huge change with a higher disposable income and the propensity to spend, he adds.

Reliance will take advantage of its existing formats such as Reliance Mart and Reliance Trendz to showcase the Vimal range. The brand will be available at the 24 new flagship stores along with the existing 200 existing franchisee stores. Bhatia of Techno-pak surmises that while Vimal Red will be mostly the PV variety, Vimals White and Black lines would be worsted and partially or fully outsourced.

The communication strategy has been suitably tweaked to connect with the youth. Says Parekh. Focus on todays youth, innovative products, retail environment and celebration of Indias achievements in various fields would be the key to our communication. Currently, we have no proposal of associating any celebrity.

In keeping with this framework, the new advertising talks about Dressing up New India. We wanted to do advertising that was contemporary and yet did not alienate the target living in small town India, says Greys Sen. The Only Vimal tagline had to be retained as it made for superb playback. To this day, it has great recall, he adds.

Parekh expects quick results. We are confident that Vimal will regain its position of preeminence sooner rather than latter, he sums up.