Interview with Charath Narsimhan

Charath Narsimhan
Charath Narsimhan
Managing Director
Indian Terrain Fashions Limited
Indian Terrain Fashions Limited

On a Fair Trajectory
Their smart crisp shirts are part of most men's clothing repertoire—just the aim that Venky Rajgopal started out with when he launched Indian Terrain Fashions Ltd in the year 2000. Now retailing through 1500+ points of sale across the country, this premium smart-casual clothing brand is focused on expansion and sustainability. Managing Director Charath Narsimhan looks back on the journey this far and the road ahead.

Two decades in the industry-what have been the highs and lows in this journey?

Indian Terrain has successfully completed 20 years as a brand with a strong nationwide footprint. We are further expanding our retail points in the country. From signing actor Kunal Kapoor and cricket legend MS Dhoni as brand ambassadors to launching exclusive capsule collections based on renowned movie franchises such as Marvel, Starwars and more through the years, Indian Terrain has ensured its consumers stay fashion forward. 

A major achievement is our collaboration with Fair Trade India. Reaffirming our 20 year commitment to offer best-in-class quality products to customers and echoing the nation's call of creating strong national brands, we have joined forces with Fairtrade India to create an exclusive sustainable fashion line that protects the environment and empowers Fairtrade farmers in Gujarat. 

Going forward, we intend to produce over 50 per cent of our entire portfolio with Fairtrade cotton and other natural fibres, work with certified suppliers and extend sustainability to other processes through bio-degradable packaging and product circularity. 

It's been a momentous journey over the last twenty years with numerous highs and a few lows which we had to encounter along the way. Among the highs is opening of the first store in Chennai on TTK road in 2000 which to date remains the largest and most loved store. Then being rated among the top 20 most trusted brands in the year 2010, the company going public in 2010 and having many marquee investors share in the vision. The launch of the exciting boyswear range in 2016 and the 200th retail store last year. Opening 20 stores amidst the pandemic itself is a big high. As a brand, we have been amongst the pioneers in the industry to start many things - be it outerwear sourcing from overseas or mobile based loyalty programmes. The journey has also had its share of hiccups; the closing down of the womenswear business on the back of the 2008 financial crisis. On the whole, it has been an extremely fulfilling journey and the brand is here to stay and become a force to reckon with. 

What are your expansion plans going forward? What is the retail presence of Indian Terrain as on date?

We are further expanding our retail points in the country with the launch of 20 new retail stores in tier II and tier III markets. 

We have found that the smaller towns in India are showing more resilience and the consumption impact as a result of covid-19 is much lesser there. This expansion strategy was always part of the long-term plan which has been expedited in the present situation. We recently launched our stores in Hubli, Lucknow, Siwan, Ganganagar, Ooty, Sembakkam, Thiruvannamalai, Kanchipuram, Ramnad and Dharmapuri. Indian Terrain today retails across the country through 1,000+ multi brand outlets (MBOs), 400+ doors of large format stores like Lifestyle, Shoppers Stop and Central, 150+ exclusive brand outlets (EBOs), and key ecommerce platforms as well.

COVID-19 has been a major blow, and it continues on and off in various pockets. How have sales been affected? What were the footfalls and conversion rates of customers in your stores prior to COVID-19, and what are the figures now?

The pandemic has had a significant impact on sales especially in the first two quarters. With most stores and point of sales closed or slowly opening up, the impact was deep and wide. The festive season with the start of Onam has been good overall, and we expect that barring any drastic event there will be a continued uptick in consumption in the next 2-3 quarters. The footfalls have reduced 20-30 per cent post covid-19 with the smaller towns / tier II and tier III cities showing better resilience. However, the customers now are extremely focused on their requirements and hence the conversion levels have been much better (almost 85-90 per cent) as against 60-65 per cent earlier. This is cushioning the impact of the reduced footfalls. 

What changes do you see in consumer trends and buying behaviour with the markets opening up and how does Indian Terrain intend to sail through the existing uncertainties?

We have seen a reasonable demand and conversions in the recent past with the Unlock. The consumer walking in is clear about what is he/she is looking for. Further, with WFH being the new normal, many companies have adopted comfort dressing for online meetings, especially in metro cities. This has led to an increase in preference towards t-shirts, shorts, joggers and ringer t-shirts from the product line. We are receiving positive response for our boys' collection. With education too continuing to be online majorly, most parents prefer the children to be presentable which has given rise to another trend in the last couple of months. 

With people restricting outside travel, ecommerce is gaining more popularity. What is your strategy wrt ecommerce and omnichannel?

With the impetus on digital in the current situation, we are working towards mitigating the pandemic's impact by focusing on Direct to Consumer Channels—EBOs, store-to-door initiative, increased traction through the brand's own webstore and constant communication with consumers via social and digital channels. 

Riding the wave and adapting to our consumers' buying behaviour, we have invested in our digital strategy to strengthen our ecommerce set-up by re-launching our own website enabling it to have an enhanced user interface and omni-channel experience with order fulfilment being implemented from stores. Also, we are focused on building strong strategic partnerships with marketplaces such as Myntra, Flipkart and Nykaa to ensure higher visibility. 

Indian Terrain has also introduced multiple consumer centric initiatives for seamless engagement digitally. The store-to-door ensures that a curated virtual catalogue is sent to the customer via WhatsApp and the product is delivered at the customer's doorstep. We are further strengthening our delivery models for customers. 
This article was first published in the April 2021 edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 21/04/2021

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

This interview was first published in the Apr 2021 edition of the print magazine

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