Think blue on a piece of cloth and you’re probably thinking, ‘jeans’. India, or sections of it, has graduated from the days of referring to the typically blue, hardy cloth as ‘jeans pant’ to the cooler-sounding, more appropriate word — denim. For a product that acts as a conduit for projecting a certain type of personal style, the consumer today is spoilt for choice. A good mix of international and Indian brands caters to the consumer’s demand of denims, which more often than not has an aspirational value associated with it. The Indian denim market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 15% to reach Rs 27,200 crore in 2018 (source: Technopak Advisors). Within this, the scope of expansion and increased customer acquisition are just two of the factors that have opened up the market even more for homegrown Indian denim brands. Most of their pricing is designed to bring in the consumer who has recently graduated to the branded denim space. Players such as Spykar, Killer Jeans and Jealous21, among others, have capitalised on the opportunity. So how are these local sons of the soil positioned to play the aspiration game when it comes to making India fashionably ‘denimous’?
The long and short of it
Take Future Lifestyle Fashion’s (FLF) Jealous21, for instance. A women-only brand, currently present in 95 cities, it is looking to address the fashion needs of young Indian girls. The brand is available through major retailers in the country such as Central, Brand Factory, Pantaloons, Reliance Trends and online partners like Amazon, Myntra, Flipkart, etc. Denim comprises 60% of the share of the product portfolio for the brand. The growth opportunities, however, for homegrown brands lie in non-metros. Kewal Kiran Clothing Limited’s (KKCL) Killer is looking to turn its focus on tier II and tier III cities. Hemant Jain, director, Killer shares that currently online brings in 5% of sales. To engage its consumers across cities, Jealous21 executes the Jealous21 Alert — an online event where fashion experts and bloggers assist customers in putting together a fashion look. These looks are then made available at an offer price. The event is a part of the brand’s online and offline experience. Rahul Gupta, VP, Jealous21 sums up the brand’s approach, “We are focussing more energy and resources on the digital space for engagement. Our pricing and product has a strong appeal across geography, which is why we have been able to expand beyond metros or mini-metros.” As per Euromonitor’s Jeans in India report, women’s jeans recorded retail current value growth of 15% to reach sales of Rs 4,200 crore, while men’s jeans registered a more modest growth of 12% to approach sales of Rs 12,900 crore in 2016.
Now consider how Arvind Limited’s Flying Machine has over 300 exclusive stores and over 700 points of sale. Non-metros contribute 50% of its denim sales, with Delhi and Bengaluru being its best performing markets. Small towns, the brand believes, have consumers that are more loyal and serve as strong brand ambassadors. The brand, in an effort to reach out to its target audience has in the past roped in celebrity brand ambassadors from Abhishek Bachchan to Virat Kohli, and Arjun Kapoor to now Sushant Singh Rajput. The brand also associates with leading college and university events across the country. Additionally, it promotes upcoming music bands through its stores and stage performances.
FLF’s Bare, meanwhile, has relooked at its pricing. It now retails 90% of its men’s denim products at Rs 1,999 (previously this range used to be between Rs 1,299-2,199), and the other 10% at the Rs 2,199 price point. The brand retails only through Central and Brand Factory. PL Chandersekar, brand head, Bare shares that for the brand, men’s denims is growing at the rate of 55% in metros and at 35% in non-metros while women’s denim products are growing at 20% irrespective of the market.
Then there is Spykar Lifestyle, which is present in 330 cities in India and has denims priced from Rs 2,300 to Rs 6,000. It brings with itself huge aspirations for the small town consumer segment. However, it too chooses to reach them via the digital channel. Sanjay Vakharia, COO, Spykar, shares, “The non-metro consumer is not treated or engaged differently from the metro one. We employ the digital route to engage across the board.” In the past, the brand has attempted in-film branding, associated with IPL team Pune Supergiants and created various on-ground engagement opportunities. Or take Max Fashion, a player that caters to the affordable denim buyers, which has developed four properties to engage with its consumer base: Max Elite Model Look, Max Design Awards, Max Emerging star and Max Kids Fest. The brand has recently announced a cross functional initiative called Easy Kiosk as a pilot in Bengaluru. The initiative is an intranet enabled consumer experience connected to the real-time inventory warehouse.
The garment segment’s blue-eyed boy
For youngsters across cities and age groups, denim has become a preferred garment of choice. The growth for homegrown denim brands will come from consumers moving from unbranded to branded denims. Having said that, Indian denim brands are not seen to be advertising too much and putting their name out there for capturing mind share. Arvind Singhal, managing director, Technopak Advisors notes that this inactivity is rather surprising. “Not advertising could make them more vulnerable in the long run. Right now, since the market for them is growing, they could possibly have a false sense of hope that tells them that the market is expanding despite not advertising. This could be a dangerous thing to believe,” he points out.
Nandini Kelkar, research director — customer research, Frost & Sullivan points out that a focussed strategy that aims to engage the lower-end of the market needs to be put in place. This needs to be in addition to acknowledging the needs of consumers that have become loyal to a brand but don’t typically fall under the intended target audience. Kelkar further adds, “With changing attitudes and more openness in exploring western attire, mid-age population (both men and women) can also be an untapped opportunity.” With premium brands looking to bring in their affordable lines on to the game board, it will be imperative for local players to not only cement their position in the country but also remain visible in the public eye more than they currently think can suffice. The potential for growth in non-metros is huge, and a total reliance on digital to reach consumers far and wide may be too blanket an approach.