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Marc A Lewkowitz
Executive Vice-President Supima Cotton
There is a lot of opportunity for brands to establish a position in India
Pima cotton has immense opportunities in the Indian market. Marc A Lewkowitz, executive vice-president of Supima Cotton talks about the potential market for Pima cotton in India, along with its growth and challenges in an interview with Fibre2Fashion.com.
What challenges do you expect to face in the Indian market?
With a population of 1.2 billion people, a demographic that is changing quickly and a growing middle class, I think there is a lot of opportunity for brands to establish a position in the Indian market. I know we need to be in the Indian market early, and work with great partner brands to position the recognition of Supima cotton. Supima cotton is not readily recognised when it comes to a readymade marketplace.
The Egyptian name is readily recognised in India. But unfortunately, there is no control over that labelling. This cotton variant does not refer to any standard in terms of quality or authenticity. In Egypt, they grow everything from extra long staple (ELS) to very short staple. That is what sets Supima apart, because it refers to 100 per cent American-grown Pima which is ELS. The amount of cotton available in Egypt is again pretty less. Their long staple production is down 30 per cent. The ELS production in Egypt is only going to be 1300 tons this year, which is nothing as compared to the past. US production of ELS is down as well, almost down to 400,000 bales of production. But in comparison to 1300 tons, our production is much larger.
I think we will have to educate consumers about the quality of fibres with our partners. We did some DNA testing on products back in the US. We tested 40 different products from retail store shelves that were all labelled as 100 per cent Pima cotton. Pima cotton is supposed to represent ELS cotton. But in the tests that we conducted, we found that only 10 per cent of the products were authentic. Sixty-seven per cent were blends, I.e. ELS and upland cotton. Twenty-three per cent were completely upland cotton, and there were no ELS in them at all. So, 90 per cent of the products that we tested, which were legally labelled as Pima, were non-compliant. This is what we have to fight. We have a supply chain that calls an illegitimate variant as Pima. Price is always a challenge, be it high or low.
India is still a nascent market in terms of retail, branding and growth. There is so much of an online focus. There are companies who are only into digital marketing which is different from what we do in the US. Identifying and locating a specific audience and the right partner brand, who understands the value of quality is a challenge. It's hard finding a right partner who understands that we are bringing a superior cotton variant in the best price that we can.
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