With the changing scenarios, focus from specialisation in single product category is shifting to multi-product manufacturing. Team Apparel Resources gets in conversation with the apparel industry buyers and exporters about the advantages and disadvantages of multi-product categories in manufacturing and retail. Here is what they have to say:
Ramjan Mondal, Proprietor, Jahura Handicrafts, Nadia (West Bengal)
We are into niche product manufacturing and we have been witnessing a huge increase in demand day by day. The margins are robust. We are now manufacturing bedsheets, stoles, scarfs, bags, jackets, cushion covers, and at the same time, our products are handcrafted. We do a lot of kantha work, a type of embroidery craft mostly done in the eastern regions, on our products. We are seeing that the demand for these types of handloom products is getting more traction; even the demands are high out of India too. We won’t go for multi-product manufacturing because our buyers are happy with what we are serving to them. We are seeing a multiplication in our clients’ list daily.
Dealing in similar trade from ages has given us a proper grip over our business and this is an added advantage for us. Now we actually know what the client wants from us. But then if we will experiment with the new things or think of adding other categories, then we are not sure that the same client will like our new products. There is a chance that we might lose our business; basically it’s a risk for us. We are happy with what we are doing now, and in future also, we will be doing the same thing. Maybe, we will experiment with the designs, but product categories will remain the same.
Tapan Bansal, Regional Manager–India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Mothercare, Bengaluru
Interestingly, in our manufacturing world, we call segments as knits, woven and then there are subcategories. Being a 0-6 years’ focused brand, there are specialised products in poppet category, and it is so difficult to find factories which can achieve optimised efficiency in poppet products in Bangladesh and in India as well. So, the companies which are doing this day-in and day-out, are experts and have optimised their efficiencies, and therefore, they have good customers, whether it is in the US or Europe. In the 0-2 years category, poppet products like body suits and sleep suits are unavoidable. We had to partner with one factory in Bangladesh to train and coach few lines to do this product because the way you handle the poppet operations changes the whole game from the safety point of view and it becomes difficult and this is again where the category specialisation comes in. I keep telling so many people who are dealing in men’s and women’s categories to develop a mindset towards this because you can get 35,000 pieces out of 20 machines which is unimaginable. So, I would say that new categories are emerging, and in order to optimise the overall bandwidth closer to the market, understanding the product will be the key thing.
Ramniklal H. Desai, Proprietor, Kamini Krafts, Mumbai
We are manufacturing in specialised category. We believe in doing one thing at a time. Trying hands in everything may make you ‘Jack of all trades’, but will end up making you ‘master of none’. With this thought process, we have established our business. Being into single product manufacturing, we have been winning our clients’ faith and business regularly. We are manufacturing scarves, stoles, shawls, bandana, womenswear and are seeing a huge growth in this; hence, we have decided that we will be doing the same thing in near future. See when you have your own business, then the priorities are different. Either you focus on the growth or the company is at a level where it earns enough and is able to pay for all the expenses. So far, so good!
Mohammed Arif, Director, Kagzi Exports, Jaipur
We are doing multi-product manufacturing. And I personally feel multi-product manufacturing has a lot of advantages. Let’s say, if the business of one category is not picking up, then you can balance the loss through business in another category. There will be no slowdown in your business, as you are not dependent only on one category. Generally, what we do in the rainy period is that if the export is slow, then we pick up the demand from the domestic market, whereas in the specialised or niche category, your business is dependent only on one product. If the demand of that product is slow, then the business is also down and hence it suffers. All the months may not be equal for you. We are happy serving our customers with our multi-product categories, and with the growth in our business, we will keep on adding new products to our category. We are now manufacturing womenswear, and from next month onwards, we will be manufacturing menswear too.
Shirish Srivastava, Head Sourcing – Apparel, Puma, Bangalore
Try and become the master of one product! There is an advantage in this. It is not always necessary to do all products in one factory. You can be a master of one product and be very good at it. For example, there is a factory in Portugal which has a tie-up with Porsche. They do Porsche-designed products. They are so good at it that we don’t mind paying anything to them. Then there is M&S which excels in seamless, and hence price becomes secondary. So there is a choice to be made – either we become too good at a craft to pick it up as we know there will be demand for it, or we become a multi-demand factory wherein the game is to pay on the basis of efficiencies. This is a difficult game for India because we have not been known to drive that kind of efficiency. There are a lot of categories in which we can become really good and then it is no longer about the efficiencies as it becomes the niche that you create for your own manufacturing set-up. The trend reverses and brands follow those factories.
Tanuja Sinha Roy, South Asia Head, JCPenney, New Delhi
There is a need for more partnerships, and of course, with the core being fashion, it is much easier for a retailer to plan production or give projection, if you have multi-categories experience with your partners. So if your factory is much more agile to the needs, then you can be better partners given that you can do multi-categories, not knowing where the demands are going to come from because customers are changing frequently and are using diverse means to shop. Hence, multi-product manufacturing is preferred nowadays as flexibility is what dominates the market scenario at present.