Balancing Western trends with Indian hues and colours, stakeholders from the kidswear brand Gini & Jony talk about competing with strong international brands, tapping Tier-2 markets and the power of the Indian customer.
The boom of the kidswear segment in ever-dynamic Indian apparel market is a reality no one can deny. Estimated at Rs. 66,904 in 2017 as per studies undertaken by indiaretailing.com, a CAGR growth of 8.1 per cent is being projected for the Indian kidswear apparel industry to reach a whopping figure of Rs. 1,45,445 crore by 2027. This resonates with the fact that India is home to the largest population in the age group of 0 to 14 years totalling to 29 per cent (337 million) of its total population.
Earlier it took about a year for an international trend to reach India, but now it simply takes days, or maximum weeks. We use Indian colours with Western trends, so our products are a mixture of both.
With these numbers, numerous international brands have paved their way into the Indian kidswear market and a sudden conversion to the online commerce sector has been witnessed. To keep up with the fast-changing market dynamics, Indian kidswear brands are revamping their retail game to cater to the newly aware customer – the one who has greater disposable income and a strong urge to follow international fashion. They are also exploring the realms of Tier-2 markets for expansion.
One of such brand is Gini & Jony – which prizes itself as being one of the first Indian kidswear brand to have entered the market in 1980. With about 1,300 points of selling spanning 100 cities in India, Gini & Jony has a stronghold on the Indian market.
Their strength is highlighted through the fact that they spotlight quality over price – a feat they achieve by manufacturing all their products in-house via two main manufacturing units. Based out of Himachal Pradesh and Daman, these units are utilised for end-to-end processes, right from design to development and production to in-house quality checks. Another unit located at Vapi is in the pipeline.
COMPETING WITH INTERNATIONAL BRANDS IN THE CHANGING INDIAN MARKET
In the Indian market where economy changes as fast as the trends do, Gini & Jony has found numerous ways to stay at par with its international counterparts and make way for others to follow suit. They changed their product offering to target the millennial generation of parents and kids in 2010 by simply doing what international brands do to entice the Indian population – bring in the latest trends from across the world and serve it to India.
Shedding light on the entire procedure, Sailesh Lakhani, VP of the Boys Category for the company says, “Trends used to come a little late to India before, as it took about a year or so for a trend to reach India, but now, it is completely different, it simply takes as less as a day or maximum a week. We use the Indian colours, with a Western twist – so our products are mixture of both.”
Due credit is given to the history of collaborations they have had with international brands such as designing for Benetton, managing production to distribution for Levi’s and Puma, etc. “They entered the Indian market through us. Through Levi’s, we increased our knowledge, we got their license and our factory became International Standards compliant. Our measurement and sizing became very good. All these collabs gave us a lot of knowledge,” says Sailesh.
Conforming to the economic changes such as demonetization and GST, the company had to undergo several changes. By reducing their warehouses from 15 to 2, they slashed their overall prices by about 10 per cent, a step that was also undertaken by their competitors such as UCB and USPA kids, despite their international roots.
THE ERA IS ONLINE AND DIGITAL
In the previous years, a whopping increase of about 300 per cent in their online sales was seen despite the fact that no extra measures or campaigns were held to promote the same. They give the entire credit to the convenience provided by e-commerce as Jay Lakhani, the Executive Director of the company states that, “Online shopping is very convenient. We feel digital marketing can boost these sales further. We sell through all the major online players like Jabong, Amazon, Firstcry, Flipkart and Myntra, but not that much from our site.”
They point out that this boost did not affect their offline sales as they sell previous seasons’ stock online at a certain discount. Calling it an ‘enticing’ endeavour, they did state their reluctance to expand online at the cost of giving heavy discounts to customers by the seller websites. “The approach is wrong for the brand. Brands who give too much discounts lose their hold – they should have the power to sell products at price they want. That is how brands grow. Just because it’s tempting – we can’t discount too much. E-commerce has a 10 per cent share in our overall sales,” adds Sailesh to the argument.
CUSTOMER IS EVERYTHING
With an extensive system of Visual Merchandising in place, the stakeholders at Gini & Jony believe in the power a customer holds. As a trial run for new collections, stylists are placed in their stores to survey the customers visiting them. They use customers’ feedback to make combos of categories while providing them with alternate ways to shop if they find something missing. Kiran Lakhani, Category Manager for the Girls’ segment says it is crucial to try new things and get feedback as, “People like that and we are paying attention. In India it is still all about service.”
The brand uses its offerings, loyalty programmes and USP of creating products that are not ‘just cute’ to increase their popularity. They are conformed to the wearer rather than the parents. They want the kids to feel comfortable in their own skin and strictly avoid the use of uncomfortable fabrics like shiny polyesters, rexine, etc. even for the festive collections.
Kiran sheds further light on this as she talks about Gini & Jony Gold, a brand which deals with boys’ festive offerings like linen kurtas. “We work with fancy fabrics, while still avoiding uncomfortable materials like mesh and sequins; it gets hard for the kid. Girl’s category isn’t too big as the acceptability of such westernized clothing is less. Boys wear is our strength. It sells really well, we are very good with basics – nobody does graphics better than us,” she adds.
STRIVING FOR NEW: THE INNOVATIVE AND SUSTAINABLE TRENDS
When asked about trends, the category specialists showed enthusiasm for All-Over-Embroidery, and their recent venture that explores several washes for their collections to give them an edge over competitors.
Kiran further states that, “A very new trend is washes. We have done many experiments in washes like organic wash, bubble dyeing, cold pigment dyeing, reverse dyeing across all our categories. We sometimes fuse washes with AOP, washes make fabric soft.” Washes resonate with denims, and Gini & Jony strives to make denim an innovative and sustainable product category as Sailesh chimes in, “We use different fabrics and we definitely avoid polyester. We are now exploring a lot of blended fabrics – cotton+tencel, linen+viscose, rayon, and bamboo fabrics. Our mills are always up-to-date with fabric trends. We prefer innovation at fabric level too. Tencel and linen are great fabrics. They keep you both cool and warm. We use linen in denim and non-denim both.”
FUTURE PLANS: METROS, TIER-2 MARKETS AND BEYOND
Gini & Jony has effectively divided the product range and price points conforming them best to suit the places they are being sold in. They retail their sub-brand, Palm Tree, in the Tier-2 cities at 30 per cent cheaper rates. They believe that the Tier-2 market has better prospective for the Indian brands due to inclination of metropolitan consumers towards bigger brands and the increasing access to disposable income of Tier-2 customers.
Kiran adds, “The retail avenues might be better in Tier-2 markets as customers in metros are more aware of the bigger retail brands. The Tier-2 customers are showing interest in investing in clothing now and it promises potential. To enhance our hold in the metros, we are going to retail via new MBOs like Shoppers Stop (with about 60 stores), Central (35) and Lifestyle (60-70 stores). Even Reliance, with about 2,000 outlets, is showing interest as they are looking for B2B operations avenues.”
All-over embroidery has replaced AOP as a trend as AOP was very common. Another new trend is washes. We experiment with them and sometimes fuse washes with AOP too. We strive for innovation at fabric level too.
Targeting larger MBOs in metros and smaller EBOs in Tier-2, Gini & Jony is expecting about 250 store openings next year. The brand is also eyeing Nepal with a recent inauguration of a seven-store franchise there. Their only aim is to make a pioneer brand for kids spun out of Western trends woven in Indian hues.
Sailesh compares the Indian retail sector to a jungle that runs on the rule of survival of the fittest and further adds that, “Within this environment, Indian brands have to prove their worth, how they are better than their international counterparts. They can grow by understanding the sensitivity of Indian consumers and make them relate to us. We have loyal customers. We try to convince the new millennial parents to use our products; we do a lot of investment in them. We look to promote trust on individual basis and promote technical comfort. Our product is our main weapon.”