EVOLVING WITH THE CONSUMER

Submitted by admin on Mon, 09/25/2017 - 13:31

Ashish Jajoo, VP & Brand Head, Innerwear Business, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd talks about the brand’s strategies towards making its presence felt in a significantly crowded segment

 

By Samarpita Banerjee

Q] You launched Van Heusen Innerwear in the South first. How has the market responded?

We launched first in the south because we are based out of South and wanted to start in the home turf. Since we were just entering the business, we wanted to be sure of what we were doing and wanted to take baby steps initially. Once we got the confidence, we decided to give it a momentum. South is the strongest market for Van Heusen as a brand and we have seen a great response.
 

Q] Considering it’s a price-sensitive market, has India opened up to the idea of premium innerwear?

India is at the cusp of an elevation in all categories and the mid-premium and premium space is becoming larger everyday. Demographics are changing with more young consumers earning and spending more. In the innerwear segment, economy contributes to around 45-50% and the mid-premium and premium segments also contribute roughly the same amount. However, the mid premium and premium segment is growing faster than the economy.
 

Q] Was being a late entrant in the category a challenge?

We like to look at it both as a challenge and an opportunity; challenge because we were not the first players. It’s a fairly competitive market. However, at the same time, there is a lot of opportunity. There are a few large players that are dominating the space, which gives an opportunity. If your product and approach to the market is differentiated, it gives you a lot of opportunity to build a space for yourself. We see it as a huge opportunity in the mid-premium and premium space which is not as crowded as the economy spaces today.
 

Q] How many outlets do you currently have and what are your expansion plans?

We launched the product in September last year. For the first six months, we were largely present in the top three to four towns in south because we wanted to ensure that our bearings are right. Towards the end of March of the last financial year, we started expanding. In a very short time, we have expanded substantially. In the south, we are present in 22 headquarter towns which service over 80 towns, which covers almost all major towns of south. We have just expanded to the northern market with launches in Delhi, NCR, Lucknow and Chandigarh. We have also recently launched in Mumbai and Ludhiana. Now, we are going national. Currently, we are already present in over 2600 plus doors across the country. In terms of number of outlets, we are looking at opening 6000 odd doors by the end of this financial year.
 

Q] What is the size of the innerwear market? How fast is the mid and premium segment growing in India right now?

The total innerwear market currently is at Rs 20,000 crores. The men’s segment is at Rs 7500-8000 crore and the women’s segment amounts to around Rs 12,000 crore. Interestingly, in case of men’s wear, it’s more organized. Around Rs 6500 crore in the men’s segment is organized and Rs 1000 crore belongs to regional and local players. However, for women’s wear, only Rs 2000 crore is organized and Rs 10,000 crore is still regional, local, unorganized players. Meanwhile, the economy segment today contributes to 50% of the value of the innerwear segment. Mid-premium and premium put together is roughly 45-47% of the category, but it will be growing at the rate of around 13-14% versus economy which will be around 10-11%.
 

Q] With a few already established national and international brands in the market, what gives you an edge over competition?

You cannot consider any one brand as competition because today, competition is just round the corner. What gives us the confidence, more than the edge, is that there is enough scope for another large national brand to come into this space, provided your offering is differentiated. And with the pedigree of Van Heusen, we should be able to create our own market very soon.
 

Q] What are the marketing strategies you have been using to promote the products?

Firstly, we want our communications to be insight-driven rather generic, which is the case in the category where everyone is talking about masochism or lifestyle, etc. All our communications would be either on the fulcrum of differentiated fashion, or a differentiated product offering. We have run two campaigns in the South, one that talks about our underwears with a metallic waist band, which is a very new product in India and the second is about the anti-bacterial innerwear, which again is a very innovative product. We were the first brand in the country to talk about this and the fact that it solves a deep-rooted consumer problem of sweat, itching and social awkwardness. On the marketing front, we are looking at consumer insights and will create a product that will either help solve a consumer’s problem or a product that is very innovative. Secondly, we are investing a lot in the digital space because we are looking at targeting a younger audience. We have started being active across social media, and that’s the strategy we are going to use.
 

Q] Is there a growing demand for the mid and premium segment even in smaller towns and cities?

Absolutely. The kind of potential that exists in the smaller towns are surprising. India is becoming one large market and the Tier II and Tier III cities hold a lot of potential.
 

Q] Are your marketing strategies for the smaller cities different than that for the larger cities?

Our strategies would be more nuanced, rather than being different.
 

Q] What will be your primary focus for the next few years?

We will look at a quick expansion across the country. We are also working very hard to ensure that there is a depth in every market that we enter. We want to become a fairly significant player in this category. We are also looking at the women’s segment closely. There is also a lot of potential in the athleisure space which takes the best from the performance of the athletics wear and the comfort from the lounge wear. We have mixed it together and created a new category which is already a big phenomenon globally.
 

Q] What part of your revenue comes from the athleisure segment?

Approximately 30-35% of our revenue comes from Athleisure, and 65-70% comes from innerwear, and it’s growing.
 

Q] What is your media mix? Which platforms do you use for reaching out to consumers?

Currently we are spending a lot on Outdoor. Since we have not yet gone completely national, we are expanding city to city. We are ensuring that we take the city-based outdoors and hoardings. We are investing a lot on the medium because we are engaging in localized communication. We are also investing a lot on Digital. However, once we become more national, we will look at other mass media possibilities.
 

Q] Van Heusen had entered the innerwear segment around 10 years back too but later pulled out. How has the market evolved since then?

At that time, we decided to pull back because we wanted to focus on our core category, the apparel business. The market has evolved a lot since then, and so has the country, and the innerwear category has not been untouched by that. The evolution has happened in terms of consumer buying process. Earlier underwear or innerwear used to be a functional product. Today, it has become more lifestyle-driven. People are buying more often and they are changing their wardrobe, including innerwear, very frequently. The overall consumption, not just in terms of number of people who have come into the fold, but also the per capita consumption has increased over a period of time.
 

Q] In a market that is evolving so fast, how do you manage to stay relevant?

Brands that cease to be relevant, not just in India but even globally, find their demise sooner or later. Relevance means your ability to evolve with the consumer. A lot of people have to realize that the consumers are evolving much faster than we think they are. Hence, innovation has become fundamental. Your ability to reach out to consumers or the way you want to sell, or the way you are dealing with your retailer, everything needs innovation. You need to do something that no one else is doing. Those are the things which are going to make you relevant.

 

@ FEEDBACK Samarpita.banerjee@exchange4media.com

Category: 
Volume No: 
14
Issue No: 
16