India’s promising consumer ecosystem has bolstered it’s image as a top emerging consumer market and the nation has become a retail magnet for some of the biggest brands in the fashion world. With such an influx of international brands in India, while the local retailers are struggling to find their right place in the country’s retail space, brands like Madame from the house of Jain Amar Clothing Pvt. Ltd. (JACPL) has created its niche market and is ruling a fair share of consumer appetite for years now.
Akhil Duggar Jain, Executive Director, Jain Amar, asserts, “In the last 80 years of operations, JACPL has been able to create an array of six brands — Madame, Opt, NYCITI, GQ, Secret and Camla — under its umbrella and Madame has been the most premium of them. We are catering to almost all the categories under different brands owned by us and that gives us an upper hand against the other retailers in the market. Madame deals with women in the age group of 21- 40 years and offers product assortments including tops, dresses, denims, legwear, winter wear and fashion accessories including footwear and handbags.”
Competition from Overseas
Apart from India’s rapidly growing economy and consumption boom, a major drive that propelled the nation to present itself as a retail positive country is the government’s continued support to relax FDI regulations. As expected, some of the biggest global fashion brands have entered India in the recent years through joint ventures, franchise partnerships or directly via their Indian subsidiaries or found value in partners that can extend support across the value chain from manufacturing to retail.
While this surely expanded avenues of Indian retail market, it happened at the expense of the local brands being exposed to an immense competition.
However, with time the home-bred fashion brands like Madame decoded its strategy to fight the competition and rise as equal or even better than the existing foreign brands. Jain believes in being market- responsive as he maintains, “We take pride in having our in-house manufacturing unit which makes us very dynamic in responding to market demands and changing fashion trends. Having such a facility enables us to restock within a time span of 7 days. We turn around our stores almost 6 times a year and at any point of time, you will see more than 3,000 options in a Madame store. The stock is being rotated regularly.”
Secondly, staying relevant through continuous innovation and thereby relatable to the consumers is something Madame swears by. Jain asserts, “Being an Indian company, Madame has grown with its customers. While it has been dressing up a college going girl as well as an accomplished woman with its merchandise, its USP lies in continuously innovating its products and working at parallel roads with a lot of international brands in the segment and surviving against them. We believe constant innovation with the product is the best growth driver. The competition has, in a way, given us an edge over them to improvise even further in order to remain relevant.”
The fast fashion brand also understands that developing strategic partnerships is a crucial part that can give it an edge over larger companies. Thus JACPL’s joint venture with Barcelona-based company Camla which deals in men and women’s apparel and accessories in premium category.
While Camla products get imported from Europe, this year the brand is talking to the firm for “license to manufacture its knitwear products in-house in India”. The firm has also opened a small setup in Barcelona which gives it design inputs ensuring it remains at par with the international trends.
Fourthly, a family-owned brand like Madame knows its strengths and capitalizes on them efficiently. The brand rules customer loyalty and also a huge market spread along with market know-how which the international brands surely lack. “We are one of the geographically spread women’s wear brand in India. We have been catering to the market for the last 25 years and it has been in the brand’s veins for a long time now. Tier-II and -III is exponentially growing and doing quite well for us and being a home-bred brand, we understand the nerves of these markets and consequently, 30 percent of our presence is in these areas which is giving us a bigger edge in comparison to a number of other brands. However, we do not mind if the sales come from these retail outlets or from online platforms. For us, it doesn’t make a big difference from where the customer is buying, its more about customers’ trust in the brand than the gateway,” Jain says.
In and About the Details
Knowledge of local tastes not only helps to increase client satisfaction but is also used to build brand loyalty and generate repeat business, which is definitely working for Madame and for JACPL. It’s an area where large foreign companies usually falter, lose granularity and fail to adapt to what the market wants, thereby giving home- bred brands an upperhand.
Madame has always remained clear about working for its consumers and offering them products at par with international brands in terms of both quality and design. “Our products start from as low as Rs.699 for a t-shirt and goes up to Rs.8,000 for winter coats. 90% of the production for Madame merchandise is handled in-house at our manufacturing unit in Ludhiana, which spans around 6,000 sq.ft. in area. This enables us to assess quality of our products. The lead time ranges from 7 to 45 days depending upon product and design. For designing, we prepare mood boards at least 9 months prior to the launch of a collection, we discuss the silhouettes, colours, target audience, trends, etc. before completing our mood board. Post this, our designers visit the ramps and fashion shows in many European countries, start relating the international trends with the mood board and finally we make a balanced decision on a particular trend to go forward with,” explains Jain.
While majority of its products are manufactured in-house, Madame does outsource products which are not India’s speciality. “Some styles are difficult to be made in Ludhiana and so we do outsource the garments from outside. The main focus remains on dresses and embellishments work and heavy embroidery, which are economically not viable in-house. The outsourcing happens not only from parts of India but also from countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China. The overall outsourcing from outside India comprise of a meagre 2 percent or even less,” maintains Davinder Singh, Head- Outsourcing, Madame.
The brand acknowledges that Bangladesh is the most trending hub for garments today with “a phenomenal consistency, quality and also a great turnaround time” and while finalising a vendor, Madame ensures to engage with a vendor who specializes on the product it wants and can deliver the merchandise under a manageable turnaround time. Singh further elaborates, “There are also certain fabrics like georgette, lycra and GTX fabrics, certain kinds of stretchable velvet, fine jacquard, etc. which are not available in India and so we have to depend on other countries for the same.”
The Way Forward…
Competing against a slew of national and international fashion brands, Madame has made its presence felt remarkably with a total of 150 EBOs, out of which 12 are located outside the country and rest are in parts of India. Madame also retails through multi-brand outlets, large format stores and e-commerce portals including Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon, etc. “While we retail through a total of 400 points-of-sale in total, we feel exclusive brand stores are he most viable and scalable option for expansion because it facilitates us to have control over what to display and at what cost we want to operate that particular store. We remain sceptical about the large format stores and particularly e-commerce, which changes the overall game with the kind of discounts and schemes they offer,” avers Jain. Even as international retail chains boast economies of scale and an excellent supply chain and logistics that can outperform the home-bred retailers on majority of prospects, Madame from the house of JACPL resist to sit back and prides in an expansive retail presence pan India. Moving forward, the brand is looking at a “consistent growth” wherein it has been launching a new store every month and plans to keep doing the same. In terms of international expansion, the firm is looking at moving to more markets which might include Sri Lanka followed by Singapore by the end of this year. For expansion, JACPL is prioritizing its Madame brand followed by NYCITI.
Jain also informed that the brand is now moving towards trying the concept of experiential try-ons at its stores, which will have magic mirrors installed in them. “These magic mirrors will enable a customer to navigate through the entire collection available at the particular store and try them virtually even before starting to shop. The concept has been working fantastically for us in terms of engaging the customer with the brand. However, it has not really helped us in increasing the sales because we think its more of a visual merchandising piece for the Indian market as our customers, who are mostly women, like to feel and enjoy and try the product physically before making the purchase,” quips Jain. The fast fashion Indian company has registered a turnover of US $ 65 million for this financial year and growing at a CAGR of 30 percent, aims to double its revenue in the next 3-4 years.
Even as India has opened its gate to some of the biggest brands in the fashion world and their success has enticed others to explore the opportunities in the country, the home-bred brands have up their ante, playing along their international counterparts.