We will never go for over-the-top advertising: Brand & Marketing Head, Fabindia

Karan Kumar says Fabindia tries to engage with customers only intermittently

e4m by Dolly Mahayan
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 8:55 AM

Ethnic lifestyle retailer Fabindia is riding high on the experience centres that it recently started. These are huge stores that have separate categories by apparel, furnishings, alteration facility, kid zone and Fabcafe, among others.

The brand has a unique marketing strategy of connecting with customers through meaningful stories rather than spending big budget on advertising. We spoke to Karan Kumar, Head-Brand & Marketing at Fabindia, to understand how intelligent storytelling successfully drives brand conversations and the marketing strategy of the company.

Edited excerpts:

What is the marketing strategy that Fabindia believes in?
The marketing strategy for Fabindia revolves around the fact that we tell stories behind our brand and our products through honesty, evocatively and in a compelling manner. We find various platforms to tell such stories. Newsprint has been one of those platforms. Digital and social media are the other platforms. We fundamentally believe that Fabindia was born with a strong belief of becoming the bridge between the rural craftsmen/craftswomen and the urban Indian consumer market. At one level, assistance is provided to craftsmen to develop products from our very rich traditions and cultures, and at another level, it is ensured that these products are modern, contemporary, of high quality and relevant to the lives of the consumers who reside in urban India.

How many stores does Fabindia currently operate? Do you have any plans to increase the number?
We currently have about 275 stores in India and about 12 odd stores outside India, which takes the total number to 280+. We will be looking forward to adding 30-35 stores across the country by the end of this financial year. These stores would adopt various formats, including the most exciting ‘Fabindia experience centre’. The experience centre is a very large space that is absolutely beautiful, to engage the consumers. It offers a whole lot of other services, which regular Fabindia stores do not. Kid zone in most cases and alteration studio and café in some cases.

So for us, the experience centre is one of those very exciting formats that we really think adds a whole lot of experiential dimension to the retail industry. And it is one of those formats that we would try to popularise even more as we go forward.

How are the experience centres helping the brand? Any plans to promote this new concept in the coming days?
The experience centres have been attracting a lot of new audience and customers. We want the neighbourhood to know that this is a new destination for them and their family, across generations. So, we will do lot of work to localise the experience centres, maybe carry out hyper local marketing around each one of these stores.

Fabindia products are mainly sourced from villages. How important a role do these villages play in the company’s success?
The lifeline of Fabindia is our value system. Our belief is to work with these clusters in villages and to ensure that these kinds of crafts continue to thrive. We’ve supported a lot of clusters in the process, both, financially as well as from the training point of view. Therefore, the emphasis will always be to source products from diverse geographies and clusters spanning more than 50,000 craftsmen. We engage with people across multiple clusters to ensure that we bring forward products that are authentic, genuine and hand processed. 
We have not seen Fabindia spending big on advertising and marketing. Any reason behind this?
We’ve always gone for what we thought was just the right amount of advertising. We have never really advertised over-the-top, and we will never do so even in the future. Fundamentally, Fabindia is a well-known brand. Therefore, for us, the issue is not so much of salience, something that largely drives large spends by other brands across other sectors.

The objective for us is to continuously improve our consideration, relevance and adoption. However, to get right consideration and adoption, one need not look at the amount of advertising or marketing spends. It is about the kind of advertising and marketing spends. We advertise a little bit in newspapers and magazines. We’ve also been very active digitally and socially. We have become very active with various influencers and opinion leaders. We are very active in participating with industry stories. So, we spend our marketing money in a variety of ways, in which we think we can more intermittently engage with our audience. This by telling them the stories we want to tell them, making them experience the brand in the manner we want them to experience, rather than blustering on the conventional above-the-line media with over-the-top spends.

Do you have plans to come up with more budgets?
We will come up with more budgets when we think there is a need to drive in a greater intensity of storytelling. The choice of platforms will be made accordingly, be it social, digital or conventional- print, TV, outdoors, and magazines. Our marketing budgets are always adequate to the task that needs to be accomplished, but never over-the-top because that’s not who we are as a brand.

How is Fabindia exploring the e-commerce space?
We’ve been looking at this area very seriously for a couple of years now. We have a fairly robust e-commerce business which drives a fair amount of business through our own website and web store. We have selectively engaged with various marketplace brands and aggregators. We are obviously very conscious about product pricing and discounting. In an environment, which till now has largely been discount led, we’ve been slightly conservative with regard to how we’ve wanted to go about driving our sales. That said, I think we have a very serious play in that business, and it continues to grow with very healthy margins quarter on quarter.

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