Sunil Pathare & Kapil Pathare
Chairman and Managing Director & Director VIP Clothing Ltd
The dynamic Jaikumar Pathare started the VIP innerwear brand in 1971 when the market in India was a virgin territory for men's undergarment brands. Today, the Pathare brothers-Sunil and Kapil-helm the company. Sunil Pathare, Chairman and Managing Director, and Kapil Pathare, Director, share their vision for VIP Clothing Ltd for the next decade with M Mistry.
Take us back to how the company was started.
VIP Clothing Ltd, formerly known as Maxwell Industries Ltd, has existed since 1971. It has 45 years of rich and vast experience in the innerwear segment. The company is known for innovative ideas and creating various brands, which have been its core strength.
What have been the major changes that the company has seen, besides the name?
As we are recognised by the name-brand VIP, the focus is mainly to strengthen our brand and revive the name of VIP. The company has integrated SAP (systems, applications and products) systems and field assist software, which support secondary sales. The company's focus is mainly on strengthening its various brands. The company has focused on a brand building exercise and new product development and has hived off the backward integration processes, which were making no value addition. This has brought the overall margins for the company on a positive side.
Why was the name of the company changed?
It's our endeavour to keep up with changing times. The company name Maxwell Industries Ltd suited the business that we were in earlier-like spinning, knitting, processing, etc, focusing more on backward integration. However, with the focus shifting to the brand, the new name represents the industry that the company operates in. The company has been a pioneer in the innerwear space in India, and with our continued efforts we are looking forward to reaching the pinnacle of success once again. Our products reflect our new vision and it was time that our biggest asset also reflected this thinking.
What are the other brands under the VIP umbrella?
The other brands are VIP- classic and contemporary; Frenchie-for the fashion-conscious youth; Feelings-for beautiful and content women; Leader-economy segment product; Brat-for kids.
How are the products faring? What segment of the market is VIP catering to? What about EBOs?
The products under the VIP umbrella include men's briefs, trunks, vests, gym vests, boxers, and track pants. We don't disconnect brands or products, but with the market growing, we keep upgrading them. We are catering to the women's mass market with Feelings, men's with VIP and Frenchie, the mass market with Leader, and kids with Brat.
VIP is readily available on our site storevipclothing.in (company owned and operated portal) and on Amazon, Flipkart and Myntra, besides other online shopping sites.
We currently have two company-owned and company-operated EBOs in Mumbai. These stores are on the lines of current retail stores (by competition) and catering to the customers' needs and different styles. The company plans to expand its retail outlets to different towns.
What are the prices for the different VIP brands? Which is the strongest market segment in India?
The pricing varies for brands and products. For VIP, the range starts at ₹100 onward for briefs and trunks and goes up to ₹700 for boxer shorts. For Frenchie, it's ₹100 for briefs to ₹600 for track pants. For Feelings, the prices start at ₹250 for panties and go up to ₹600 for a track pant. The mass segment in the men's innerwear market is the biggest draw for VIP. VIP has been the innovator in this category with the Frenchie brand, and this segment continues being the biggest contributor to VIP.
What sort of advertising, marketing and promotions are being done now?
About 5 per cent of our revenue is invested in marketing initiatives. Marketing is mostly focused on last mile branding-that is in-shop branding like (dealer boards, danglers, posters). The company has realized that digital advertising is another important medium. The audiovisual scope of digital helps us engage with consumers at multiple levels. Hence, the company has ventured on to digital platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
How has the styling changed for the different VIP brands?
The styling of products has changed keeping in mind changing consumer preferences and trends. At one point, the men's market was dominated by trunks, which then moved to briefs and now short trunks are coming into fashion. Our products reflect these trends. Earlier, colours were the standard darks-black, brown, navy blue, but brighter colours are now being accepted. Printed briefs / trunks are another design trend. Motifs are a popular choice in prints.
Where are the products made? And what is the capacity? Who designs the innerwear for men?
Our manufacturing units are in Umbergaon, Thinglur and Kolkata. On an average our production capacity varies from 30 lakh to 40 lakh pieces per month depending on the demand. We have a product development team that designs and develops products as per market needs and demands.
What is the latest in product development?
In keeping with the brand traits, VIP has been integrating technology in the new products. The VIP Fresh range with a quick dry vest, cooling vest, and breathable brief and trunks are the latest additions to the portfolio. A long-time popular designer range has been revived under Frenchie, which has printed inner and outer elastic products. This range will see more additions over time. In Feelings, we have introduced a few new printed panties in various cuts-hipster, regular.
What are the different fabrics and styles offered for the different VIP brands?
We have different fabrics like single jersey, ribs and interlock in white, colours and prints as well.
What is the latest in product development for Feelings?
The newest range is the VIP Fresh and VIP Quickdry range of products. The products have a breathable fabric that helps keep the body cool and dry. One of the vests has a quick dry fabric and the other has a cool finish that keeps body temperature 1-2 degrees lower.
What are the different fabrics and styles offered for the different Feelings brands?
We have mainly 100 per cent cotton and cotton Lycra as the main type of fabrics in Feelings. In panties, we have three cuts-bikini, regular and hipster-that are differentiated on the coverage provided. In bras, we have t-shirt bras, fundamental bras, sports bras and nursing bras. All our factories follow environmental norms and compliances.
What is your strategy for the kids' segment?
We currently cater to the kids' segment with both our men's brands VIP and Frenchie. We are looking at strengthening our kids' portfolio by expanding products in these two ranges. Frenchie Junior offers a range of flashier colourful products, while VIP Junior has more sober colours and designs.
How many styles and categories are there under Feelings? Who designs the collections?
The core portfolio ranges from bras and panties to camisoles and socks. The company also plans to venture into loungewear. All products are designed and developed by our in-house product development team. The quantity and type of products depend on the annual plans.
What are the retail plans for Feelings? How are the categories under the Feelings umbrella faring?
The South markets are strong for Feelings since the overall retail scenario is quite organised in the region. Feelings as a brand is focused on secondary retail sales; hence, the retail programme is very organised. Panties are the biggest contributor to the portfolio. There is a conscious effort to increase the sales for bras. The launch of new bras is a step towards that direction. These two categories are the main contributors to the sales of Feelings.
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