India is our most important market outside Italy: CEO & MD, Benetton India

Sundeep Chugh speaks about Benetton’s focus on India and how the country has become top of mind for all leading global brands

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: May 22, 2018 9:55 AM

Italian fashion brand Benetton is focusing on India in a big way. During its over two-decade journey in the country, the brand has witnessed a consistent growth and is now looking at leveraging the big potential that Indian retail offers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities too.

In an interview with exchange4media, Sundeep Chugh, Chief Executive Officer and MD Benetton India, spoke about the brand’s focus on India and how the country has become top of mind for all leading global brands.

Edited Excerpts:

Having spent over two decades in India, how would you sum up Benetton’s journey so far?

I would say it has been fascinating, interesting, exciting and also challenging. Two decades is a great stint for a brand that still maintains a leadership status. We have done all the right things and have looked into each nook and corner of the country. With all this, I would say it has been a very overwhelming journey for us.

How would you describe the evolution of the Indian retail space over the years? What kind of opportunities and challenges does it present for global brands like yours?

The retail space in India is in a stage of evolution. If you look five-seven years back, there were only high street stores, and then came the mall culture. From a retail landscape perspective, too many things have happened in the last eight to 10 years. In India, things may happen late but they catch up very fast. If you look at e-commerce, it came in a few years back and has now become the fastest growing channel in the industry. I would say the final evolution of the retail landscape will take another two to three years. Also, the organized market is only 8 to 10 per cent, while the rest is unorganized. So, in such a market, we definitely have a long way to go. And that also speaks about the potential and the challenges involved.

How important is India as a market for Benetton globally?

India is our most important market outside Italy. It is the number one subsidiary outside Italy and there is a lot of focus on the Indian market. We have just opened a store in London, which is our latest flagship store. Soon, you might see a store on the similar flagship format in Delhi too. This is the kind of importance India has for Benetton  That is the kind of importance India has for Benetton. Also, it is a country with huge potential. We have grown consistently at a rate of 15-18% in the last 7 to 8 years. So, from the performance point too, Indian market is giving a consistent performance year after year. It is difficult to seek these kinds of numbers outside India. I would say India is top of mind not just for us but for all global brands.

How are you leveraging the growing popularity of e-commerce in India?

We were the first to realize the importance of online because it is a very popular channel to connect with the youth. In a country that has over 60 per cent of the population below 35 years of age and has almost 400 million smartphone users (which will become 700 million by 2020), online makes a lot of sense. In fact, we started in 2011 and the performance has been encouraging since then.

We also know that online is a marketplace where offline can get cannibalized. So, we strategically created a business vertical like footwear online. In just few years, we have nurtured this channel very well for our brand. We will be selling close to a million pairs of footwear by next year. So, we are looking at e-commerce as a channel where we can develop new business. But it is important to be in this channel in the right way.

How would you describe your marketing strategy in India? How significant is digital in that mix?

Currently, there is lot of focus on digital. We will be allocating more than 50 per cent spends on digital as we feel it is the long term medium and it is where we find our target audience. Moreover, it is easy to measure and allows quick feedback, which in turn helps to change direction or deploy a more effective strategy. We have used TV very rarely. Spend wise, after digital, it is mostly print and outdoors.

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