Like all categories of fast fashion, ethnicwear segment too has undergone a major transformation wherein it has included in itself a new category altogether which is a mix of Indian and westernwear-fusionwear. While the trend is new, the majority of women’s ethnicwear brands are now entering into the segment in one way or the other. The growth in ethnicwear has been subtle and factors like changing lifestyles, rapid urbanisation and increasing fashion awareness have constantly given it a boost over the past few years. According to a study by Technopak, India’s ethnicwear industry is currently pegged at over Rs. 82,200 crore and is expected to grow to Rs. 1,26,210 crore by 2019. This market is dominated by the women’s ethnicwear segment, which constitutes 83 per cent of the business. Fusionwear has revolutionised the industry to such an extent that topnotch brands like Soch, Biba, W, etc. have added an element of the same in their collection. “We are confident that the ethnicwear market will witness good demand generation. This is going to be backed by rise in disposable income among the growing middle-class, influence of social media and celebrities as well as easy accessibility to e-commerce and omnichannel routes. A crucial part of demand generation will come from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities as consumers are aspirational. In our next phase of expansion, we are definitely looking to increase our footprints in these towns. Currently we largely service them through our e-commerce and omnichannel routes,” maintains Vinay Chatlani, CEO, Soch.
With the trend…
A peek into the womenswear trend brings to the fore the fact that Indian ethnicwear is facing stiff competition from the westernwear segment which has made strong inroads into the Indian woman’s wardrobe, across the country. And this has led the brands in the ethnicwear genre to revive their collection and give them a fresh and modern twist thereby attracting women to try an entirely new range of collections and this cult of Indo-westernwear is proving to be a boon for the ethnic fashion industry. Soch is one such brand which has fashioned itself to cater to the Indian woman’s desire for ethnic clothes with a trendy twist as this makes total sense since this territory is growing by 15-20 per cent a year. “Soch finds a prominent place in the wardrobes of Indian women because of its exclusive designs that keep pace with the rapidly changing trends in ethnic fashion. Our strength lies in the ability to respond nimbly to market needs. From being a pure ethnic player in the initial days, Soch has today transformed into a stylish designer brand that retails fusion products such as tunics, palazzos, fusion suits and stoles, apart from traditional staples such as salwarkameez, kurtis and sarees,” asserts Chatlani.
Targeted at the modern woman largely in the age group of 22 to 35 years, Soch offers kurtis, a range of bottoms including patiala salwars, palazzos, leggings, jeggings, skirts, stitched and unstitched CD sets, kurti sets, ghaghra choli sets, sarees, etc. The ratio of sale for topwear to bottomwear is 85:15. Furthermore, with the growing population of working women, there has been a new demand for ethnic and fusion workwear as well. Chatlani prides, “Soch has always been at the forefront of combining style with comfort in womenswear. Women are an integral part of our workforce and it was a natural progression for us, as a brand, to venture into workwear and launch a line that combines the best of the ethnic flair that Soch is known for, artfully integrating it with contemporary silhouettes and trends and creating a workwear range. This range has been received very well by the consumers and the performance has been as per expectations.
What goes in the backend?
Unlike women’s westernwear brands which are heavily influenced by the seasonal calendars followed in the West, Soch does not work on the basis of regular seasons. “We are a fast fashion model and provide new styles to our stores every month. With more than 52 catalogues in a year, we are effectively launching new collections every week. Outside of our catalogues as well, we launch multiple concepts and products, providing fresh styles to our consumers every time they walk in,” boasts Chatlani.
The brand also customises its products in few categories and offers a wide range of merchandise in different colours, silhouettes, fabrics, etc. to cater to a diverse country like India. So, what really goes into making this possible and keeps the brand ahead of trends in the category? Soch does not own its manufacturing units and all the manufacturing is done by its trusted vendors — both domestic as well as international. While the lead time varies from product to product based on the quantity and complexity of the manufacturing process, typically Soch’s sourcing cycle is anywhere between 30 to 90 days.
For Chatlani, sourcing from either the domestic vendors or exporters has its share of advantages as well as disadvantages. “The advantages of going to an exporter lies in the scale, as exporters generally have a bigger set-up. Hence, for bigger order volumes, it usually is better to work with exporters. Domestic manufacturers, on the other hand, are cost-competitive and are more willing to do smaller quantities,” he explains.
Soch has sensed the Indian market and understands that brand visibility is what will help it going forward. An expansive retail presence is what Soch abides by. The brand retails through 120 EBOs across 43 cities and 72 shop-in-shops across the country beside e-commerce websites including Myntra, Flipkart, Amazon, Jabong, etc. The brand also caters to its consumers outside India through its international site. With the inception of in-store technologies, there has been a complete revolution in the offline retail experience, and every other brand today is now working towards it. Soch too has equipped its stores with multiple tools to enable great customer experience. “We have implemented a display technology solution composed of video walls and tablets, linked by a central content management system which helps us play content linked to stock currently in stores. Not only has it helped bring the merchandise alive to the consumer by showcasing it on video, it also promotes offers live in stores in real time, helps in conversion at the point of sale by helping consumers appreciate product details like flow, look, ensemble, etc., in a better way. We have also launched omnichannel retailing, with the capability to deliver sizes and styles not limited by the store’s physical inventory. This has helped ensure better consumer satisfaction and minimise sales loss,” prides Chatlani. Soch offers its consumers a premium retailing experience wherein they can find easily what they are looking for.
In terms of store presence, while 65 per cent of Soch’s stores are in Tier-1 cities or metros, the remaining 35 per cent cater to the growing market of Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns. “There has been a crucial amount of demand generation from Tier-2 and Tier-3 regions as consumers are becoming aspirational by the day. While we are fairly new entrants to MBO and LFS, we see larger growth in terms of touchpoints here. In terms of revenue generation, all tiers are doing well for us while Bangalore is doing exceptionally well. The East and North Indian markets are very big, lucrative and exciting and we have just started to explore them. We are at brand building stage in Delhi as a territory and are looking to continue to delight consumers in newer markets. We even plan to aggressively expand our foothold in East and North markets while continuing to grow in the South and West,” informs Chatlani.
Even as the ethnicwear category remains dominated by the unorganised sector with 85 per cent of the market controlled by them, the differentiating factor, that is, the growing demand for fusionwear, is definitely giving the organised sector an edge. Also, factors like consumers increasingly looking for convenience, comfort and style in ethnicwear, among others, are driving the growth of the organised sector as well as ready-to-wear ethnics rather than ready-to-stitch. Soch has also been at the forefront in keeping its consumers engaged with the brand by means of brand campaigns, bi-annual sale and its loyalty programme.
With a detailed brand strategy in place, Soch clocked Rs. 375 crore in the previous financial year and is hoping to register a turnover of Rs. 490-500 crore by the end of FY ’20, registering a growth of 20-25 per cent every year. Going forward, the brand is planning to ‘essentially double its footprint’ in the next 3 years besides expanding its product offerings. “Last year, we forayed into our weekwear collection which is everyday fashion for all occasions. We have introduced kurti suits with jackets, tunics with embroideries and pintucks, as well as work appropriate kurtis which can be paired with fashionable bottoms to carry the look from office to partywear. We are continuing to innovate with new fabrics which are a blend of cotton and polyester. They allow breathability and are easy to maintain. Our fits are relaxed with functional elements like pockets keeping in mind the requirements of the customers,” informs Chatlani.
Soch has worked towards offering the best to its consumers during its 12 years of journey and imbibing the recent fusion trend is just its way of conforming the brand to today’s fashion industry and to the needs and demands of its consumers,” concludes Chatlani.