Images Fashion Forum (IFF ’06), the largest congregation of fashion and retail in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East commenced on January 24 in Mumbai. Shankersinh Vaghela, Minister Textiles, Government of India, inaugurated this two-day forum. Vaghela also released Images Year Book 3rd edition at the occasion.
The event’s first day was attended by some of India’s leading fashion and retail corporate majors, best-known brands, retailers, and fashion houses. The Fashion Vision Conclave at IFF’06 saw leaders of the fashion and retail industry discussing the future of retail in India.
Meher Castelino, Spokesperson, IFF ’06 said, “The IFF, one of the premier events in India has been the driving force guiding the fashion and retail industry in the country. IFF ’06 in it’s sixth year has attracted fashion stalwarts not only from India but also around the world, who will brainstorm on the progress and growth of the industry in the country and also on the global level.”
Vaghela said, “The global textile trade is expected to grow at least 5 per cent in future. The fashion and retail industry would have to play a healthy role in creating brand value to create ‘Brand India’. Images play a strong role in determining the market potential of a product. A critical need of the country now is to prepare its resources to build high quality products at affordable prices. The textile industry contributes about 14 per cent to the industrial production and about 4 per cent to the national income. The Indian textile industry is expected to grow to a staggering 85 billion by 2010. We have observed changes in lifestyle with the increase in income. The growth of consumer malls is perhaps an indication of the new trend.”
Sharing his views during the welcome address, B S Nagesh. MD and CEO, Shoppers’ Stop, said, “Indian retail is the most exciting domain today. The GDP growth in the past year has crossed 8 percent while the sensex is at an all time high. Increase in the net FDI inflows has surpassed $10 billion and I am sure that this is just the beginning of what would become a consumption revolution.”
He added, “Fashion is defined by a mindset. Fashion has to be built across various sectors right from textiles to gadgets and automobiles. Also, the fashion industry should be a strongly governed industry and focus more on the masses.”
Killick Sudeepto Datta, Chairman and CEO, Global Brand Marketing Inc (GBMI), USA, shared his views on ‘The vision of Global Fashion Brands for India’. He said, “ India has been the source of inspiration for the world of fashion. Fibers of fashion found their foot in India and it is this country that gave the world the right materials and ideas that changed the way people carried themselves around the globe. However, someway in between India lost its direction while rest of the world marched ahead. Initiatives like IFF are thus crucial in regaining the leadership position globally.”
He added, “All major brands are looking for the next growth area, and China, India, Russia and Brazil are the next promising markets. EU has slapped anti dumping laws in China and this has opened floodgates of opportunities for India. The Indian market that was earlier dominated by local brands is now slowly being exposed to global trends. There is a need for quality products and emphasis should be laid on design and production to compete with European and US collections. I strongly feel that there should be no dilution for the Indian market.”
Patrick Hanly, Group Commercial Director, Harvey Nichols, UK spoke on ‘Brand extension through innovative retail concepts’. The moderator for this session was Eric Musgrave, Editorial Director, Drapers, Emap Retail, UK.
Commenting on Harvey Nichols’ being an ideal extension of brand extensions, Hanly said, “We at Harvey Nichols take brands differently by taking environment and service to a higher level.” Harvey Nichols has extended its brand by entering the food and hospitality area. Many Harvey Nichols stores have restaurants, bars and cafés as the management realized that food is a very important experience while shopping there.”
According to Hanly, “Food and restaurant have become a catalyst for the business. As nations become richer, they start doing the same things- such as appreciating luxury goods and fine dining.” Harvey Nichols also has own label products that pose as a huge opportunity.
He added, “The more up market your business is, the more focused your business has to be. A huge part of retail is to first have a ‘point of difference’.” Some ways in which Harvey Nichols built brand excellence is by being exclusive but accessible, a leader in fashion and creative ways to connect with customers. Hanly said, “ We are trying to make retail both fun and a feel good factor.”
Jon Penrice, Global VP, Marketing, Invista (Lycra) shared his views on ‘Making of a global brand - learning for brands in India’. Penrice said, “The best way to build a brand is – grow it, innovate it, sell it, and protect it. While building brands ask yourself- What promise am I trying to keep with my consumer? This is because a brand is not a product or a concept but a promise.”
Lycra’s brand recognition is based on clothes treated with it fitting better and allowing maximum freedom of movement. Penrice said that Lycra’s key strategy is to partner with other brands and advertise itself as a co-brand.
He said, “Young brands need to think how will they innovate? The first way to do this is by being different.” Taking Lycra’s example he said that Lycra was born after detailed consumer research that revealed an unmet demand of T-shirts that shrink and lose shape.
Adding technology resulted in the discovery of Lycra that is today not only applied to clothes but also cosmetics such as nail polishes and hair care products. This, said Penrice, was important, as consumers buy products across various categories and brands have to be present in different categories to connect with consumers. He said, “Lycra’s brand positioning in India is exactly as it is worldwide.”
The day’s concluding session discussed ‘Investment in the business of fashion- venture funding, equity stakes and strategic tie-ups’. The moderator for the session was Sanjiv Gupta, MD, Indivision (Former President, Coca-Cola, India). Speakers in thia session were Kishore Biyani, MD, Pantaloon; Madhivanan B, GM, ICICI Bank Ltd; Pradeep Bhandari, Group President, Raymond; Sunil Rajshekhar, Head, Private Treaties, Bennet Coleman; Harish Mehta, CFO, Giny and Jony; and Rajan Mudaliar, MD, ColorPlus. A number of issues such as the future of fashion industry in India, roles of investors and what do companies look for in investors, and different ways of funding the fashion industry were openly discussed.
While Biyani said that companies should decide whether they want to be demand led or supply led, Bhandari’s view was that though manufacturing and retail require different skill sets, a company can do both efficiently. Biyani also believes that while companies go in for IPOs very sson, funding should first be done through private equity and IPOs should come at a more advanced stage.
Madhivanan said that one way of funding the fashion industry was first have the manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers using electronic transactions that make cash flow tracking easy. He said that this will help banks be more ready to finance some companies.
Commenting on making fashion retail more attractive, Bhandari said, “It is very important to offer quality products. Companies also need to realize the importance of human capital more than financial capital.”
As Castelino rightly said, “IFF ’06 is a multi-dimensional expo of fashion and retail in India. There are brand launches at Spring Board, business ideas at Fashion Concepts, collections at Fashion Theatres, shoplift ideas at the Asia Shop, retail space at The L Cube, networking with business leaders at the evening of Fashion Titans and celebrations at Lycra Images Fashion Awards.”