The adoption of e-commerce has created a transparent market wherein a brand cannot be sold at differential prices or discounts across channels. And, it will not be long before online players start targeting market share rather than grow the market. But where Indian brands underestimate themselves is their ability to adapt to trends, and to bounce back, says Jaydeep Shetty.
Liberalisation made its advent on Indian shores 25 years ago, and 45 per cent of Indians now are under the age of 30. Little wonder then that most youngsters today don't find foreign brands alien to their lifestyles as some of us old fogeys arguably do. In the last three decades, there has been a plethora of fashion and lifestyle brands that have met with different fates. In many cases, the respective destinies were written the moment they boarded their flights to India.
The reasons for the success or failure have been the same: choice of location, choice of local partner, ability to adapt to Indians, the arrogance or temerity of brand leaders, and the pricing of the product.
Recent forays by foreign entrants into the women's fashion segment have found that success is a low-hanging fruit, and the reason for this has been the sweet rental deals with malls, equivalent global pricing models, and a younger post-liberalisation demographic.
As owner of a brand called Mineral that caters to the modern Indian woman with westernwear and has just moved beyond the start-up mode, I find that the conundrums are varied and numerous. We straddle the space between European westernwear and the Indian variants that at times borders on fusionwear. The point is whether we Indian brands will find the future to be disruptive - with foreign entrants and with a consumer who is constantly pining for more choice.
Indian brands have upped the ante as far as quality is concerned and across all categories, Indian-made premium products are taking the fast fashion foreigners to the cleaners. And this has improved over the years for Indian brands. Take the example of Thailand where the best departmental stores see success in very powerful local brands that can match the quality of European brands. And foreign brands have existed in Thailand for over four decades. The foreign influx in many categories is restricted to power brands only. You can name those within the limits of the digits on your hands and feet.
Where Indian brands underestimate themselves is their ability to adapt to trends, and to bounce back. We tend to be lemmings that buy into seasons like the West, and ride the full price-deep discount phenomenon that the ERP implementations of the departmental stores pushed us to believe in.
Let's face it! Two-thirds of India does not care about seasons; we are a tropical country. The less we worry about seasons, the better we can price our products and also evade the high-margin, high-discount cycle that disrupts our cash cycle as well. The other key factor that affects the landscape is the distribution matrix: independent stores, wholesale, department store concessions, and online.