A Closer Look at Mumbai, the Fashion Capital & Retail Hub of India

by Shubhi Srivastava

12-February-2019  |  13 mins read

Retail Hub of India

A veritable maze of neighbourhood, Mumbai is the metro city that holds more diversity with respect to people and businesses than probably the rest of India, thus justifying the title of being the Commercial Capital of India. Traditionally it has been the seat of Indian Cinema and the flagbearer of fashion. No wonder this vibrant city is also home to many fashion brands and retailers, originated and initiated by both companies and celebrities. The fashion and retail industry in the city today thrives on this hub of economic activities and without any doubt, it served as the breaking ground for the retail wave to consolidate its reach in India in the late ’90s.

Apparel Resources visited this leading brand hub of India and interacted with the top management of major domestic and international retailers based in the city, who are tapping on the aspirations of the dense Mumbai population to kick-start their operations throughout the country. The major shift from unorganised to organised retail, is emblematic of this brand culture, a trend that was first observed in Mumbai.

Having proximity to the port and major manufacturing hubs based in the south-east Asian countries, Mumbai serves as a hot spot for all major retailers in India. These retailers are not restricted to a particular product category, as the city offers a vigorous mix of exclusive brands, conglomerates, multi-brand retailers, across categories ranging from denim, to sportswear, to kidswear and lingerie. This is what makes the sourcing strategies of these industry stalwarts diverse yet efficient, to serve all the categories they want to explore.

Menswear fashion in Mumbai is much more progressive than the rest of country, as the local consumer base quickly adopts trends evolving in the segment. This is how the major homegrown menswear retailers, Mufti and Kewal Kiran Clothing, have consolidated their position in the market. While Mufti caters to more casual segment, KKCL houses four brands that address the needs of different menswear demographics ranging across multiple geographic demarcations, age groups as well as occasions. In fact KKCL boasts of being India’s only denim company that works on zero discharge after dyeing. Lakhbir Singh, Brand Head for Killer Jeans told AR, “The infrastructure and set-up that we have includes the washing, stitching and cutting processes. Through our extensive brand offering, including Lawman, Intergriti, Killer and Page 3, we cater to all strata of the society.”

The company is open towards sourcing product categories that lie out of the denimwear domain from the south-east Asian countries. This ensures that the quality of garments it provides with internally produced denims is at par with its more fashionable products in knits, cords and linen, which can be achieved at sharp pricing for larger quantities via these international manufacturers. Lakhbir further elaborated, “We outsource bomber jackets and zippers from Korea, Japan and China. When we have to buy something in corduroy, we source from Bangladesh and all our linen products are from Asian countries.”

The kidswear arena consists of some domestic players as well, with names such as Gini & Jony, Toonz and RUFF KIDS. Gini & Jony, the oldest Indian kidswear retailer and Toonz, the eight-year old brand that started off as a business based on licensed cartoon character merchandising, are now key market holders in the domestic kidswear segment.

On the other hand, high-fashion detailed garments, strong campaigning skills and an international reach drive the success of the brand RUFF KIDS. The brand keeps diversity of product assortment as its central focus and has a firm belief in the quality that the manufacturers of South Asian countries provide when it comes to dynamic orders. Sohail Patca, Director at RUFF KIDS, informed, “Currently, production is done entirely in-house. We have factories that are completely working for us though we don’t own the factory or the people. For jackets and a few of the sweater styles, we outsource the source activity from Ludhiana, but we are looking for manufacturing allegiances with other countries.”

The brand however depends heavily on China, besides India for high quality fabric sourcing via agents. Patca is currently looking to collaborate with the expertise of other south-east Asian countries to meet the company’s manufacturing requirements. As aptly stated by him, “Seeing the large order quantities, we have to cater to in varying styles, we want to import from South Asian countries in order to enjoy timely shipments and high-quality maintenance. Our denim collection is very unique and we need such manufacturers to keep up with our demands.”

Another format that has come to the fore from this city is an influx of celebrity-led brands that tap on consumer sentiments by proving trust with aspiration. AR met two such trendsetters, each a stalwart in its own regard, namely, Salman Khan’s Being Human and Hrithik Roshan’s HRX. The two brands have observed immense success in their respective fields of casual menswear and activewear for all, respectively within a small time span since their inception.

Being Human works for achieving the highest quality, efficient pricing and best delivery times to keep up the brand identity associated with a celebrity, for which they rely on Indian manufacturers for about 85 per cent of their manufacturing and the rest comes from China and Bangladesh.

Being the solo Indian celebrity retailer in activewear, HRX works towards manufacturing the best assortment to compete with international players like Adidas, Reebok, Puma and Nike. Afsar Zaidi, CEO & Co-founder of HRX shared, “HRX is owned by Hrithik Roshan and our expertise is in getting the right structure, marketing intelligence, creative ideas to ensure brand relevance. The manufacturing, distribution and logistics are Myntra’s responsibility. We have not faced any quality issue in a long time and Myntra takes care of it. When you grow as a business, the MOQs get bigger too, and now we have the potential to tap vendors globally. Thus, by virtue of bigger MOQs and efficient inventory management, we are now working with the best factories that are catering to big international sportswear retailers such as Adidas, Nike, Reebok and Puma. We don’t want to compromise on the quality of fabrics or products we offer and now, China is a strong hub and so is Sri Lanka.”

Sharing the same viewpoint was Rakesh Kathayat, the COO of FILA India, one of the major international brands housed in Mumbai that is now assuming an identity exclusive to India. The international activewear stalwart does all its processes from design and product development to sourcing and distribution within India, for the merchandise retailed locally. “We source from India, China and Bangladesh among other countries – these three are observing the major chunk of our operations,” averred Kathayat, who also spoke at great length about the brand’s extensive expansion plans in the south-east Asian region in particular, and how South Asian countries are competing with international manufacturing hubs.

Keeping pace with international counterparts in the expansive intimatewear market is PrettySecrets, the online lingerie retailer with its reach in about 18,000 pin codes and a successful foray into the bricks-and-mortar segment. The brand started its journey with offerings in sleepwear but further expanded into lingerie, swimwear and activewear to suit the changing consumer demands. What makes it stand out is the efficient manufacturing network that it employs to suit this complex product mix. Karan Behal, Founder & CEO, PrettySecrets, explained that the manufacturing isn’t in-house, by further adding, “All the prints, designs, patterns, styling, everything is finalised by our design team; however, manufacturing is done by third party manufacturers based in India and internationally. Right now, we are outsourcing 50 per cent of our products from China while the other 50 per cent comes from India. For our products, especially bras and shapewear, India lacks the manufacturing infrastructure to be able to manufacture high quality products and that’s why we source from China and are open to sourcing from other neighbouring countries with expertise in our kind of products.”

Another format that Mumbai’s fashion industry boasts of are the major league MBOs like Pantaloons, the multi-brand retailer that is thriving after being acquired by Aditya Birla Retail Group in 2012 with a worth of Rs. 3,300 crore and over four million square feet of retail space. Their strength lies in careful product assortment for every store where they focus on expansion of their private labels while giving equal importance to national players and international players under Madura. Being price-sensitive, sourcing for these private labels is done with maximum efficiency and efficient inventory management to balance the diversity in the product categories.

Neeraj Nagpal, the Sourcing Head of Pantaloons, told AR, “Having a complex product assortment that caters to menswear, womenswear and kidswear across all categories, our manufacturing has to be very flexible. This is why we do 100 per cent outsourcing and have a base of about 200 vendors who are working for us across India, Bangladesh and China. We work through clusters, so that we can efficiently source the specialisations each cluster caters to. In fact, with about 80 per cent of our manufacturing happening in India, we believe that these Indian segments of manufacturers can produce any product categories. This is the strength of India, we have the best emerging retailers as well as the most flexible manufacturers.”

The visit to Mumbai brought to view the sole reason why Mumbai has been and continues to be one of India’s strongest retail hubs, even from a manufacturer’s perspective. The city is constantly evolving, as are its brands and retailers, leaving no stone unturned when it comes to overtaking the sales and expansion chunk, which is contributing to make India the next retail hub. The country’s retail sector is actively looking to meet its shortcomings by outsourcing from neighbouring countries in order to capture a larger market share. This aspirational value that reflects the spirit of Mumbai is what Mumbai’s key retail players are cashing on while balancing them with the correct product mix, sourced from the correct medium and correct delivery times to flourish in the dynamic Indian retail market.

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