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Mufti: Successfully balancing the demand-supply paradigm of the dynamic menswear market

by Shubhi Srivastava

15-January-2019  |  11 mins read

Menswear fashion has always witnessed a slower rate of change when compared to womenswear segment. Yet, it has taken strong strides to come at par with its counterpart with a rise of 2.8% in 2016 as compared to the 1.3% increase in womenswear. Previously limited to pinstripes, checks and solids, menswear consumers have now matured to adopt trends that are more progressive. This transition stems from the rapid inclusion of varied consumer groups owing to fashion becoming increasingly accessible and a flexible spending power. As per shopify.com, a plunge in buying power is expected by 2020 with the number of potential buyers increasing by 1.2 billion. What creates avenues for diversified fashion products is the fact that these new consumers are within the age group of 16 to 24 and 25 to 34 years.

Mufti is one of the most popular Indian casualwear brands and thrives on the basic principle of including novelty in menswear fashion. This is how the brand was first noticed in the Indian market amongst the competitive international brands. Striking the right balance between fashion and comfort, Mufti caters to the changing demands of the diverse Indian menswear space while ensuring the best for each type of consumer.

Launched in 1998 by first generation entrepreneur Mr. Kamal Khushlani , Mufti has expanded into multiple categories like Shirts, Jeans, T-shirts, Trousers, Blazers, outerwear and footwear and currently retails through more than 1500 points of sale across India. The brand revolutionized the basic category of shirts, which were of free-size and silhouette in the late 90s by shortening their length and making them tapered at the waist. After a couple of years they started selling jeans with Lycra and went against the conventional rough and tough denim fabric to suit the needs of the travelling and active consumer. When athleisure fashion spread in the market like wildfire with sudden influx of joggers, Mufti started creating denim joggers to provide durability to this popular product category.

“The brand has its roots in India while the design aspirations and sensibility is very international. Our ability to interpret and execute the international trends to suit the Indian consumer gives us an edge over international brands. The consumer groups are getting younger and we use our resources to create transitional fashion for these young consumers,” says Vipul Mathur, Chief Operating Officer for Mufti, in a conversation with Apparel Resources.

CREATING BEST RELATIONS WITH VENDORS FOR HAPPY CONSUMERS

Mufti works on an effective product development system that takes into account all levels of the supply chain. With quality as the highest priority, this system aims at understanding the need of the manufacturers to deliver the products that are at par with what the consumers demand. This cycle starts with incentivizing the vendors by following a tight payment system that ensures on-the-spot payment to the vendors.

“We believe that if we are ensuring the monetary cycle of our vendors, they will stay loyal to us, keep our orders on priority while providing top-notch quality,” adds Vipul.

The second stage involves a stringent quality inspection system that follows 100% inspection of the products at two levels, once they are received at the warehouse, and secondly at the time of dispatch. This is a more efficient system in comparison to sample inspection, which is the most common form in the industry. Stringent Fabric Package Test parameters such as dyeing, shrinkage, colour fastness tests are followed even on finished products to provide the best post-buying experience for the consumer.

The final stage ensures that every Mufti-labelled product being delivered to the end-consumer is of the best quality. Shedding light on the process, Vipul adds, “We even buy the products that are defective, so they are not sold elsewhere. We sell these products after a gap of two seasons after making sure that all the labels are cut. This is another process which ensures that the quality is sustained and the brand image is intact.”

E-COMMERCE IS AN OPPORTUNITY RATHER THAN A CHALLENGE

The consumer psyche is changing everyday on the lines of geographic as well as the age diversities. A 40-year-old consumer is now open to pulling off a collegiate bomber jacket effortlessly and the credit of this phenomena goes to consumer awareness at the global level coupled with the access that social media provides. According to the market trend that Vipul observes in the Indian Retail Space, brands that are 20-30 year old are reinventing their entire identity because the mental age has also started to shift.

Tapping the segment of aware consumers is the key, which leads Mufti to uphold its e-commerce segment as an opportunity to consolidate its retail presence in India.

“Our agenda is to reach maximum pin-codes through e-commerce. We are investing significantly in the content that can go online to create brand visibility. Our biggest performers are Tata Cliq and Flipkart. Tata Cliq is perceived to be as a channel that is supply driven rather than discount-driven, and it matches our brand’s philosophy that assures more fashion and less discount. Only last season leftovers are discounted,” informs Vipul.

According to the Brand Trust Report, this model has been very effective for Mufti as it was touted the fourth most trusted brand in a study spanning across all categories for 1000 brands and about 6000 point of sales.

EQUAL POTENTIAL ACROSS ALL TIERS OF THE INDIAN MARKET

The rise in e-commerce has also increased the demand across different regions in India. Tier 2 and 3 markets are emerging as the ripe demand areas with the rise in organized retail in India. Vipul explained the changing market dynamics along with geographical factors, “The amount of business that happens in one metro is high but the amount of total quantum of business that can happen in the peripheral zone is much higher because market is getting bigger.”

Not just limiting themselves to online expansion to reach the consumer, Mufti has an elaborate strategy to expand their brick and mortar presence across all tiers of the market. “We will start big for the metros by investing aggressively in the flagship stores through a multi-category approach,” says Vipul. They will then focus on tier 2 cities by measuring the performance of existing stores and establishing new stores in the proximity of the better-performing outlets.

Finally, the Tier 3 segment is being scrutinized on the basis of how the e-commerce demand lies in the area- the higher demand regions will be the new destinations for smaller Mufti stores. “Another fact online fashion is proving to us is that smaller towns are warming up to the idea of fashion and subsequent costs much before we had anticipated they would do and hence it is instilling huge confidence in retailers like us,” says Vipul.

CATEGORY EXTENSION TO ACHIEVE A ONE-STOP STORE SOLUTION

Keeping at par with their brand image of executing constant changes and additions to match the changing demand, Mufti is foraying into several new categories to provide a one-stop solution to the consumers. Its footwear category was recently launched in the market and has witnessed a positive response due to the balance of fashion and comfort it strikes. Vipul explains further, “We have used things like Skynit for the shoe top that provides a degree of breathability while the lightness of the sole enables the customer to wear it the whole day. We are also inching towards launching a line of accessories for the coming Autumn/Winter season.”

Adding an athleisure line to the product category that boasts of an assortment of t-shirts, joggers, lightweight hoodies is on the cards for Mufti for Spring/Summer 2019, as Vipul states “Not only does people want to wear something comfortable but they also want to be healthy. Our athleisure line can be worn on Sunday afternoon or for a lifestyle that is more active.”

The product category expansion is also elevating. Credo Marketing, which hosts Mufti and is further encouraging them to contemplate on launching another brand in the coming future catering to a younger consumer category. This decision is strengthened by Mufti’s strong sourcing capabilities based out of India and China, with latter fulfilling their small orders in the auxiliary categories of shoes, jackets and sweaters. Speaking about the benefits that Mufti as a buyer poses for local manufacturers, Vipul says that, “Our relationship with local vendors has enabled them to expand their horizons. Diverse product categories and processes that China was exclusively doing for us are now done by our local vendors who have become confident enough to buy those machineries and achieve the same capabilities.”