Booming middle class makes it exciting time for lifestyle clothing- An interview of Mr.Ashish Dikshit, president (Lifestyle & Retail) Madura Garments

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Extension of the erstwhile men’s only brands –– Louis Philippe, Van Heusen and Allen Solly –– into segments such as women’s wear, youth and fashion is an attempt by the country’s biggest apparel marketer to leverage the country’s changing demographics, says Ashish Dikshit, president (Lifestyle & Retail) Madura Garments, a division of Rs 3,578-crore Aditya Birla Nuvo. Excerpts from a recent tête-à-tête:

What are the opportunities in the apparel market?
The burgeoning of international brands and ever increasing consumerism are the two big opportunities that India is witnessing right now. I think it is an exciting time for lifestyle clothing because of the expanding middle class. The disposition that they have towards brands is one reason that will boost the growth of branded apparel clothes. It enhances the scope of more brands and creation of sub-categories. Home-grown brands have learnt lessons from international clothing brands. What they require is to scale up the volumes and focus on categories more sharply.

What are challenges for Madura Garments?
Louis Philippe, Van Heusen and Allen Solly were, at one point of time, classic men's wear brands. We had a very strong positioning for these brands. But slowly we saw distinct and different facets emerging in the Indian demographics. We spotted the opportunity in the women's wear segment as early as 2001. With Allen Solly Woman we introduced our casual and formal wear for women.

We witnessed (Allen Solly) women's wear reaping the success and (thereafter) we started pushing other brands (into other segments) as well. It is still very small but choices are expanding. Apart from it, we also witnessed a new set of shoppers emerging –– youth. So now we have fashionable clothing range under all our brands. The extensions are made in casual and leisure wear for youngsters and we are also working on the new positioning for these brands.

Recently you introduced casual dressing styles with few of your brands? Are these brands getting a young repositioning?
We are surely extending our brands and targeting women and youngsters. But it will be over stretching to say that we are making the brand ‘young'. We think that there is a huge market opportunity by targeting women and youth.

We have to make our brand relevant in the present scenario and we cannot afford to miss the critical mass of consumers. The workplaces are increasingly being dominated by women and younger talent. Broadening the apparel into categories such as formal wear, casual dressing and leisure wear for them is just a tip of the iceberg.

Madura Garments is conspicuous by its absence in the Rs 15,000-crore kidswear market. Why?
I agree that we have not yet addressed the kidswear market. We are still researching and studying the market dynamics. We are doing a SWOT analysis and think we will soon enter this market too. It's surely the next big thing for us.

How is the partnership with Esprit shaping up?
Esprit is one of the leading international fashion brand that we decided to bring in during 2005. We saw a huge potential in youth fashion industry and thought it to be an appropriate time to introduce a brand that could cater to this segment. The market was prime for lifestyle clothing and Esprit played in the premium casual wear market. With an inclination to set footprints in new segment and attract more consumers, we got sharply focused brand Esprit. We have reached the critical mass and hope to grow three-fold next year.

Any other international brands that you’re planning to launch here?
We are constantly working on making the premium dressing a significantly large business. There are few international brands that we are planning to bring in India but are currently working on a feasibility report for them. Currently, we are focused on making Esprit a highly recalled brand. We will also invest around Rs 400 crore in establishing exclusive stores for Esprit, increasing the retail space and investing in brand extension.

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