Akanksha Kaushik, an instructional designer, is usually a disgruntled shopper. The 34-year-old from New Delhi dreads apparel shopping. She doesn\u2019t like going to stores, as she is unable to get a size that accommodates her heavy arms and thighs, and online shopping is a mix of trial and error. \u201cThe ill-fitting clothes have put me off ready-to-wear outfits completely,\u201d she says. \u201cIf I match my waist size, I have to sport clothing that\u2019s tight on my arms and if I pay attention to my arms, the waist goes for a toss,\u201d she rues. Kaushik may be among the growing number of customers who are now opting for customised clothing. So it\u2019s not without reason that the good old neighbourhood darzi is now a corporate entity, running an online portal and delivering your choice of western or Indian attire. Retail giants in India, however, are missing out on sales, as the likes of Kaushik would rather get their clothes stitched than pick up ready-to-wear attire that needs altering. But all this could soon be a thing of the past when the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), under the aegis of the ministry of textiles, comes up with a standardised \u2018India Size\u2019 chart for the ready-to-wear garment industry. For this, a National Sizing Survey will be carried out across six Indian cities\u2014New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Shillong and Kolkata\u2014which will collect sample measurements of 25,000 people starting June. Interestingly, this is the biggest sample size ever undertaken for such a survey. \u201cDuring the Textiles India conference held in July 2017, there was a round table on the \u2018India Size\u2019 project,\u201d Sarada Muraleedharan, director general, NIFT, tells us. \u201cAt that time, leaders of the industry came forward and said they wanted a national size chart. This included big e-commerce and retail giants. We had a discussion with the Fashion Design Council of India as well. and designers also said they were interested in a size chart,\u201d says Muraleedharan, adding, \u201cFinally, it\u2019s being executed.\u201d Size matters Globally, 14 countries, including China, Spain and Germany, have their own size charts. In India, most home-grown brands adopt US\/UK size charts, while international brands sell their global sizes. \u201cCurrently, we are using international sizes, but Indians aren\u2019t anthropometrically made the same way,\u201d says Noopur Anand, a professor at NIFT-Delhi and the principle investigator of the India Size project. \u201cIf you ask somebody their size, they will give different sizes for different brands, so what we are looking at is to have a numeric value, which I can pick up from anywhere in the world,\u201d she adds. NIFT has already put out a tender to acquire heavy-duty, high-tech, whole-body 3D scanners that would be used for the survey to extract hundreds of measurements from a person. After this, the NIFT will work out a weighted average to develop a comprehensive India size chart. \u201cThe numeric nomenclature will be the closest to the Indian body type. We are also taking inputs from experts who have undertaken sizing surveys internationally. Once the basic sizing is out, we will further customise the data to get archetypes for different body types, like \u2018petite\u2019, \u2018pear-shaped\u2019, etc,\u201d says Anand. Around 120 anthropometric elements\u2014including height, weight, waist size, hip size, bust size, wrist measurement, etc\u2014will be included in the survey. The project, to be conducted over a period of two-three years, will incur a total cost of Rs 31 crore and the resultant size chart (expected to be out by 2021) will be available at no cost for retailers. In the absence of a standardised size chart providing well-fitted garments, most big players have come up with their own sizes that they feel best cater to their clientele. Take, for instance, Fabindia, one of the country\u2019s oldest retail chain stores, which started offering ready-to-wear garments in the Eighties. \u201cAs ready-to-wear was a new and relatively unexplored area at that point, we evolved our own size charts and grading logic. this was followed by others as well. Over the years, we have further evolved our sizing based on feedback, research and customer expectations,\u201d says Charu Sharma, director, Fabindia, adding, \u201cThe feedback is an ongoing process, which helps us evolve sizing and fits. Over the last few decades, we have evolved fits and sizing that answer the needs of Indian consumers.\u201d Then there is aLL, a clothing brand of Future Group, which caters exclusively to plus-sized people. aLL, too, developed its sizes through market inputs, observation and customer feedback. \u201cOur country is different-bodied and following international sizes wasn\u2019t a great idea for us,\u201d says Hetal Kotak, CEO, aLL, whose online portal has seen a 300-400% jump in business in the last four months. \u201cIt\u2019s largely because we offer well-fitted and suitably-styled clothing to Indian women, keeping in mind several details like post-pregnancy shape and post-marriage weight gain,\u201d says Kotak, adding that their exchange rate is as low as 6-7%. Women\u2019s branded apparel-maker TCNS Clothing, too, commissioned an anthropometric study of Indian women in the early 2000s and introduced six sizes. The company, which sells women\u2019s clothing under the brands W, Aurelia and Wishful, utilises in-depth market research and data analysis to emphasise its fits. \u201cIn 2010-11, we revisited the study undertaken to assess apparel sizes and introduced a seventh size to offer the best fit possible to our customers,\u201d says Anant Daga, managing director, TCNS Clothing, which filed draft papers for an initial public offer last month. But even though big retailers have spent years researching the Indian body type, they are looking at the developments keenly. Fabindia has \u201cwelcomed the initiative\u201d and is \u201clooking forward\u201d to the survey\u2019s inputs and findings. Kotak of aLL agrees: \u201cThis survey should help everyone\u2014brands and customers,\u201d he says. A point reiterated by others. \u201cSome of our sizes are altered as per the regions we cater to,\u201d says Ajay Chablani, head of sourcing, FBB, a retail apparel brand under Future Group. \u201cIn the north-east, for instance, our medium size would be smaller than what it is in the rest of India. In the south, the medium size would be a little larger than the normal range, as it\u2019s a different body type there,\u201d says Chablani, adding, \u201cSizing is a vast subject. So if the NIFT comes up with more data than what is available today, it would definitely make sense to incorporate the changes.\u201d But not everyone is convinced. Fashion designer Anita Dongre, whose retail brand AND caters to the contemporary western-wear market for women, says she won\u2019t adopt the national size. \u201cWe follow the UK sizes, but we tweak the sizing, keeping in mind the Indian woman. The lack of a national size hasn\u2019t affected the brand in the Indian or international market,\u201d says Dongre, adding, \u201cSo we won\u2019t be carrying out any changes.\u201d Customise & cater As per a 2016 report by management consulting firm Technopak, the Indian fashion retail market, whose size was Rs 2,97,091 crore in 2016, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.7% to reach a market size of Rs 7,48,398 crore by 2026. Interestingly, over 10% of this market consists of online portals\u2014a number that\u2019s expected to go up to 30% by 2020. Also, according to a study by India Retailing, a website that keeps track of retail news, the ready-to-stitch segment in India accounted for a 20% share of the apparel market in 2015, growing at an annual rate of 5.5%. To tap this market, ready-to-wear retail giant Biba, which specialises in women\u2019s ethnic-wear, partnered with Amazon India for a ready-to-stitch collection in January. The demand for fitted silhouettes has also led to the opening of several customised clothing outlets. One such is Corporate Collars, a custom tailoring retail store in Mumbai, which started operations in 2013. Corporate Collars offers \u2018tailoring on wheels\u2019 where a mobile van goes to a customer\u2019s doorstep to customise his\/her clothes. \u201cThe consumer has evolved from not being bothered about the fit of his clothes to making well-fitted clothes his priority when buying either off the rack or custom-tailored clothes,\u201d says Harssh Chheda, founder, Corporate Collars. The company, which offers customised western-wear for both men and women, is currently seeing an year-on-year client growth of 140-150%. It was a market full of ill-fitting clothes that led Chheda to start his own venture. \u201cWhen I returned to India after graduating from the US, I could not find the right fit for my clothes. A medium size was too large for me and a small was not big enough. Frustrated by the lack of options, I decided to start Corporate Collars,\u201d he says. Then there are online portals that offer \u201ccustom-tailored\u201d ready-to-wear options. Take, for instance, FableStreet, an online professional-wear portal for women. To tap the market that exists in the absence of well-fitted ready-to-wear clothes, FableStreet is following a middle path\u2014it offers ready-to-wear clothes (70%) and customised clothing (30%). \u201cNIFT\u2019s survey is a great initiative and much needed. Being such a large industry and not have our own size chart is a big disadvantage that we face,\u201d says Ayushi Gudwani, founder and CEO, FableStreet. It was her own experience of not finding \u201cproper-fitting\u201d western-wear for women in the Indian market that made Gudwani open her online store in September 2016. To develop her brand\u2019s size chart, she did market research for a year, taking measurements of around 1,000 women, and got a basic chart developed for the portal, which caters to clients across the country and even internationally. \u201cWe have seen a 200% growth year-on-year since our launch,\u201d says Gudwani, adding, \u201cOur exchange rate is less than 5% compared with the 15-30% seen by most other players.\u201d It\u2019s this lacunae of people not being able to find their \u2018right fit\u2019 that the NIFT believes it would fill once the India Size is released. \u201cWe are moving into fitted silhouettes for both men and women. In India, with various ethnicities, there are different body types and these can\u2019t be boxed into \u2018small\u2019, \u2018large\u2019, \u2018medium\u2019, \u2018extra-large\u2019, etc. The need for a proper size then becomes all the more crucial,\u201d says Muraleedharan of NIFT. Till that happens, though, Kaushik and her ilk may have to spend a few more harrowing hours outside trial rooms of different brands or keep visiting their neighbourhood darzi.