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In Retail Nothing Stand still




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India: Facing up to 2005

With just eight months to go before MFA quotas are phased out, the industry in India is buzzing with activity. However, amidst this development, challenges and fears also remain.

With textile and apparel exports of about US$14 billion, India is one of the larger players in the US$360 billion global trade. Not surprisingly, the phase out of quota is being watched, analysed and debated with a mixture of concern and enthusiasm.

Government Support to the Industry

The restrictive industrial policy followed by successive governments over the decades has created an industry that is largely fragmented and dominated by small-scale enterprises. However, in the last 12-15 years, governments of all political affiliations have realised the importance of allowing the Indian industry a free-play, and these restrictions have been steadily removed.

Over the last few years, among the significant industry-friendly policies put in place by the Indian government are the following:

  • Removal of industrial licences that artificially choked manufacturing capacity, and later opening the textile and apparel sector to larger-scale investments.

  • Removal of taxation and duty imbalances which favoured small, unstructured companies. A unified Centralised Value-Added-Tax (CENVAT) mechanism in the textile supply chain has been established, though different rates of duty remain of various products.

  • Steady reduction of import duties on machinery and capital goods by the textile and apparel industry to allow factory modernisation. Simultaneous reduction in import duties on fabrics and other raw materials.

  • Providing soft loans under the Textile Upgradation Fund Scheme (TUFS).

  • Setting up textile and apparel parks to bring together textile mills, apparel producers, service providers, with centralised infrastructure such as effluent treatment and power.

  • Use of e-commerce by setting up B2G (business-to-government) initiatives such as the one by customs authorities to facilitate quicker processing of export and import shipments.

  • Increasing the convertibility of the Indian rupee against major international currencies, and simplifying foreign currency purchases, thus allowing the industry freer access to raw material, trims, services and technical inputs.

Industry Gearing Up

In sectors such as spinning, where control was dismantled first, Indian companies have become amongst the most competitive in the world. India now holds a 25 per cent market share in world exports of cotton yarn.

Others sectors are now beginning to follow. A recent report by investment research firm SSKI highlights the opportunity Indian industry has to dominate the global trade in home textiles. Companies such as Welspun and Trident (Abhishek Industries) are already among the largest suppliers to the world’s largest retailers, while others are also ramping up capacities.

Previously neglected areas that are also seeing significant investments include weaving, where shuttleless looms may treble in the next three years. The fabric dyeing and processing sector has an estimated current capacity of 4 billion metres (not including traditional dyeing methods), and is seeing expansion of existing plants as well as new start-ups.

After the de-reservation of apparel from the small-scale sector, large mills are drawing up aggressive plans to integrate vertically into apparel manufacture. What initiative they had lost to the unorganised powerloom fabric sector, they are now aiming to regain through apparel.

A case in point is Raymond, India’s largest worsted suiting manufacturer and one of the largest denim producers. While expanding its denim capacity (slated to go up from 20 million metres to 35 million by mid-2005), it is also looking at setting up a denim apparel plant of 10,000 units a day with the potential for further expansion. It is also planning a tailored apparel plant in Bangalore. The total investments planned are in the region of US$46 million. In addition to this, Raymond is also said to be planning an apparel factory in Thailand, and evaluating opportunities in China.

Similarly, Arvind Mills, one of the largest denim producers in the world, has set up a denim garment factory in Mauritius with an annual capacity of 1 million pieces (planned to treble subsequently). It has also doubled the annual capacity of its shirt manufacturing plant in Bangalore to 4.8 million units.

Even yarn spinners have been investing in forward integration into fabrics, dyeing-processing and apparel, with the aim of providing a one-stop solution for customers.

Many of the larger companies have used recessionary trends in recent years to cut organisational flab, improve plant productivity and also reduce interest and other costs. This will now stand them in good stead as they look to compete more effectively in the global market.

The Role of Retail

Industry experts concur that the growth of organised retailing within India could be a huge enabler for improving product variety, quality and productivity amongst the supply base.

Though the largest Indian retailers are minnows compared to their global cousins, many of them have been steadily adopting management processes that compare well to global best practices including category management and B2B e-commerce. This has filtered through to the textile and apparel supply base as well, whether it is the adoption of data-interchange driven merchandise planning, or quality-improvement on the factory-floor.

Observers, including Indian retailers themselves, agree that foreign retailers would do much to hasten this process of development.

The government remains unmoved, although the Indian Finance Minister recently confirmed in an interview to the press that the government is “committed to the principle of allowing up to 26 per cent investment in retail by foreign companies,” provided the domestic retailers have achieved a scale where they can compete more effectively.

Opening of FDI certainly strikes a welcome note for financial investors and venture capitalists, who could later sell their stake to foreign retailers once the market opens up further. But the statement has left international retailers largely unmoved since many of them want a larger, if not complete, ownership of their operations in India.

More and more, India is seen by the world’s largest retailers as an important future market in which they must have direct access through their own subsidiaries, rather than through franchise or licence agreements, or minority stakes.

As a sign of their commitment to the country, many of them have been making politically-correct noises about increasing their sourcing volumes and supporting the local supply base.

JC Penney is looking at sourcing over US$700 million of merchandise in the coming years, while Gap is said to be already sourcing about US$600 million from the region. Others also see India as a growing source, and a potential market. The visit of Debenhams’ international director, Francis McAuley, was widely reported by the local press earlier this year.

Wal-Mart is also stepping beyond its generic sourcing of about US$1 billion to test market Indian brands in the USA. It has begun a pilot project in Houston (TX) with the producers of the Amul brand in India, to sell their sweets and ghee to the Indian population settled in the USA. If the response is encouraging, Wal-Mart plans to expand the presence to California, New York and New Jersey, the three largest states where the population of Indian-origin is sizeable.

UK’s Woolworths states in its CSR 2003 document that: “India is a growing source of inspiration…and it is essential that we develop our understanding of the potential to manufacture chosen products there.”

However, the world’s second largest retailer, Carrefour, deferred its plans to set up a retail operation in India, and recalled its representative Jean Chritophe Goarin in March this year. Carrefour initially explored the option of entering through a franchisee, before stating its preference for a direct presence, which is not allowed under current rules.

For most international retailers the domestic retailing angle will not be explored until a clear policy emerges from New Delhi. This must wait until the elections are over in May and the new government is firmly in place.

A Wildcard: Free-Trade with China?

An interesting recent development in March this year was the beginning of discussions to explore bilateral free-trade between China and India.

The two sides are scheduled to work out a clear timetable and study the areas of co-operation in trade, investment and other issues. Also, they will try to work out a specific five-year programme for economic partnership. Discussions are bound to be slow and tortuous given a 40-year old border dispute and traditional economic rivalry.

Bilateral trade between the two countries jumped 54 per cent in 2003 to over US$7 billion. Indian companies have also been actively exploring direct investments in China (currently estimated at only US$40 million).

Chinese companies have not been as enthusiastic to return the favour, seeing India as a large market for their entry-priced products rather than a new production base. Currently Indian infrastructure costs, such as power, remain higher than Chinese costs, as is the cost of borrowed capital. Industry sources also point to the lack of transparency in Chinese costing, which could indicate additional government subsidies, making it more attractive for Chinese companies to manufacture in China.

However, India’s rising resistance to inexpensive Chinese goods is an obstacle to setting up a free trade agreement between the two. In 2001 and 2002, 36 anti-dumping investigations were launched by Indian authorities against Chinese imports.

Sceptics also point out that the launch of a free trade agreement between India and Sri Lanka has not yet had any significant impact on trade between the two countries, and they do not expect quick wins from the Sino-Indian dialogue.

Re-Establishing a Business Model

However, Indian firms remain undeterred as they are looking to use a mix of Chinese, Indian and other production facilities, driven by Indian design and merchandising capabilities, to service their brand and retail customers. Among the companies said to be exploring this option are Raymond and Aditya Birla group.

Indian companies such as Shahi Exports, the House of Pearl etc, have already been following this model over the last decade, and have grown sizeable businesses through a mix of manufacturing and trading. Others are following suit.

Indians have been global textile merchants for thousands of years, selling goods produced in their home country as well as those produced elsewhere. 2005 may see the re-emergence of the “Indian trading house” with a business model that is driven more by design and product development with production taking place in multiple countries one of which might be India.

 

The author, Devangshu Dutta, has been involved with the fashion, retail and consumer products sectors as an entrepreneur, a manager and a consultant , working with companies globally. His currently works with companies in the area of strategy, outsourcing and incubation of business operations, and corporate finance.

   

(Published in www.just-style.com, dated 12 May 2004)

(Copyright) Devangshu Dutta, April 2004

 

Gentlemen, Fasten Your Seatbelts

The warm-up over, India’s retail industry is revving up for its most exciting phase ever. (By M. Rajshekhar)

Consider this: through the 1990s, organised retail in India added just 1 million sq. ft. of space a year. The pace picked up from 2001 onwards. But estimates have it that in 2003 alone, a breathtaking 10 million sq. ft. was picked up by this fledgling industry. If you thought that was heady, think again. The most exciting phase for the retail industry lies ahead.

Over the next three years, a confluence of events will push organised retail into a new orbit. One, a series of glitzy malls has already begun to redefine the shopping habits of urban Indians. Some call it “shoppertainment” or shopping and entertainment – and it’s quickly catching on. But guess what? Even till last year, the number of malls in operation was barely in double digits. This year at least 50 new malls – of 100,000 sq. ft. size and above – are slated to go into business in 2004. Retail consultants KSA Technopak estimates that another 200 malls will come up in 2005 and 2006. “In all, 40 million sq. ft. of organised retail space will enter the market in the next 3-4 years,” says Devangshu Dutta of Third Eyesight, a retail and sourcing consultancy.

Two, the sudden ramp up in retail real estate could create over-supply. After all, not every mall owner will find it easy to seek tenants. That, in turn, could bring down property prices. And suddenly, experts reckon, the new economics could make it attractive for a new set of players to join the party, especially retail formats like furniture and consumer durables, which need a lot of space. So if apparel and grocery led Phase I of development, new categories like furniture, pharmacy and fast food could help propel growth in the near future.

Three, the early birds – retail chains like Shoppers’ Stop, FoodWorld, Lifestyle and Pantaloons – are now well past the experimentation stage, and are findings ways to take their growth trajectories higher. Kishore Biyani, managing director, Pantaloon Retail, agrees: “There is a new sense of confidence in every Indian retailer. We now have formats that have been tried and tested.” But that’s a claim that very few other retailers can rightly make. While most of them have been largely risk averse and stuck to Western models like department stores and supermarkets, Biyani has tried innovating to discover what he loves to call the “pan-Indian model of retail”. In 2002, after much trial and error, he appeared to have hit upon one such winning formula: the Big Bazaar hypermarket model. Today, the chain of seven Big Bazaar outlets contributes close to Rs. 4000 million to Pantaloon Retail’s topline. Biyani says he plans to set up nine more by 2005.

It isn’t just Pantaloons though. Much of this rapid scale-up across the sector is helped partly by the fact that organised retail is no longer starved of funds for expansion. The older players are generating more substantive cash flows than ever before. Also, says Bala Deshpande, director (investments), ICICI Ventures, “The favourable stockmarket performances of Trent and Pantaloons have helped loosen the purse strings of promoters and banks.” RPG has also begun diverting its investments from Old Economy ventures to retail. Shoppers’ Stop, in fact, is readying for an IPO this year. Even Pantaloon, which scared away most investors with its over-aggressive investment strategy, is now finding takers in the market.

So what’s in store? Experts say that the current land grab will hit a higher pitch. Growth will attract newer players and fuel more growth. KSA Technopak CEO Arvind Singhal says: “The share of organised retail in the total retail pie is likely to grow from 2% now to 5-6% by 2007.” In their latest Indian Retail Review, real estate consultants Knight Frank presage a share of 20% by 2010, perhaps a shade too optimistically.

But things are likely to hot up once global retailers can set up shop in India. Current FDI norms don’t allow global retailers to step in, except for cash-and-carry formats, franchisee operations and special licences. Opinions differ on when the government will open the door. But even die-hard opponents of FDI concede that they won’t be able to stall the move for more than two years. The €52-billion German giant Metro AG has entered in the cash-and-carry mode. French hypermarket chain Carrefour has set up a representative office to develop an entry strategy. There are several others tapping their feet outside the door, trying to listen in closely.

Indian retailers are fully aware that they have about two years. Hence the hurry to ramp up fast. The frenetic pace of expansion will, of course, throw up a new set of challenges.

What will these be? Come, grab a ringside view of this fast-changing battlescape.

   
(From BusinessWorld, issue dated 16 February 2004)

Press Quotes from IMAGES – Coverage of IMAGES FASHION FORUM, February 2004, New Delhi

Devangshu Dutta, Chief Executive of Third Eyesight, a retail and fashion services firm, said. “Retailing in India is set for the next big leap – what began as forward integration for manufacturers such as Bombay Dyeing and Raymond in the 1960s, has almost suddenly reached a stage where even smaller companies, individual entrepreneurs and real estate owners are willing to build organisation and structure into their businesses.

“The availability of quality real estate in the form of shopping malls is probably the biggest enabler of the organisation of retail business. From small 300-400 sq. ft. outlets in disorganised high streets, one now has the option of opening a well-furnished store in the well-equipped environment of a mall.

Highlighting the challenges ahead, he pointed out that, “The biggest challenge for the mall owners is going to be to find enough different brands to fill the space, so that the differentiation between the malls is maintained. Otherwise the 35-40 million sq. ft. that is coming up will end up looking the same all over, and one can foresee a bloodbath in the mall business. The challenge for retailers, on the other hand is to develop people at all levels, from frontline sales staff to middle-rung and senior managers to run the retail business. Their skills need to be of global-best standards, to allow indigenous retailers to not only compete with foreign retailers in India, but also to enter markets outside the country.

“Indians have a long history of being merchants of fashion, and moreover, of being able to build powerful brands informally – we need to combine these capabilities to create a truly vibrant fashion and retail industry where innovative and uniquely Indian brands are created, that are world-class and globally accepted. Outsiders have long appreciated the Indian industry’s strengths – the industry now needs to realise these itself.

Speaking about malls presenting competition to high street retailing, he commented, “High streets need to reinvent themselves quickly. Unlike European high streets which had a lot of protection from urban planners, and some lead time to develop a competitive strategy against out-of-town shopping, Indian high streets are faced with the prospect of sudden demise with the entry of huge malls in their own vicinity. Local market associations must rush to making sure their members work together and recreate a vibrant and different shopping environment to retain their customers – otherwise independent shop-owners will fall prey to Indian organised retailers much before foreign retailers even hit Indian shores!”

India, Outside in

Over a decade ago, when the first structured concept notes were addressed to European and American companies about the opportunities in the Indian consumer market, the pitch was new, the opportunity was bubbling and path looked fresh.

Now, the pitch is well-practiced and heard from not just consultants but entrepreneurs themselves, several firms have tried to tap the opportunity and the path is littered with half- dead business plans!

During the late-1980’s and early-1990s, when the first foreign consumer brands started coming into the market, what drew them in was the image of hundreds of millions of Indians eagerly waiting to burst upon rows of shelves filled with their products.

Several years on, the image seems to have evaporated – so have millions of dollars in expenses for some companies. And there don’t seem to be too many more foreign brands and retailers in India than there were ten years ago.

Well, the reality is that, despite the hype the foreign brands’ boom in India never really happened. While a number of companies showed interest, not many actually entered.

You could blame it on policy barriers raised by senior government officials who proclaimed that there was no need for India to learn retailing from foreigners. You could blame it on domestic, regional or global politico-economic uncertainty.

Or just blame it on the investment magnet of the world, China, which has simply sucked up a large portion of the investments made in Asia. Even now, through bilateral frictions, health scares etc., China remains red-hot. Inward investments have remained consistent. Despite manufacturing job-loss protests, imports from China into the western markets march steadily upwards.

Even a comparison of country-specific investment funds shows that while India funds are trading at a discount to their value, The China Fund is trading 25% above the value of the fund’s holdings.

But, at the beginning of 2004, the India-buzz seems to be back. It’s a confluence of factors – each taking its own time – collectively growing into critical mass for change. India seems to be back; still tentative, but definitely back on the agenda.

The Market from Outside

For once, there is a realisation among the foreign brands that, once you do proper research, the market size looks a lot smaller than estimated earlier, but is still big enough. Consumer products companies and fashion brands are now looking at potential market sizes of a few tens of thousands (for premium brands) up to possibly 50 million, as a realistic starting base. Further, it presents the promise of significant growth with all-round growth in prosperity.
Within this market, the economic fundamentals are sounder than earlier. GDP growth is looking better than projected, a smart case of underselling and over-delivering. Foreign exchange reserves stand close to US$ 100 billion, of which US$ 30 billion grew in 2003 alone.
Industrial growth is diversified, with new competitiveness in sectors as diverse as health & pharmaceuticals, information technology, the automobile industry, business process outsourcing, telecommunications, housing & construction, bio-technology and, not the least, in textiles. This is obviously an engine for economic prosperity all round, which means more individuals and families with money to spend.

In the early to mid-1990s, western companies looked at the Asian economies for additional growth. Compared to India, countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and even Thailand proved to be more attractive due to higher incomes and better infrastructure.

While some of these are still attractive first choices for many brands and retailers, from some India at this stage presents a better opportunity – early entry into the market, and a chance to shape the competitive landscape.

In terms of sheer numbers, India’s potential has always been clearly visible in the long term, but now the economics are beginning to make sense for initial exploration and early entry activities.

Negative Perception as Supply Base

Prior to the 1990s, India has been associated with all the third-world images that you can conjure up. Fact and imagination have blended to create an unpalatable business reality.

You might wonder why it would matter to a retailer or brand looking to source from or sell into a country. It does, simply because the retail business is made up of individual people who are prompted not only by rationality but by emotion.

The designers and buyers who create product ranges like to visit places that are exciting and appealing – think New York, London, Paris, Mauritius, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo, even Hong Kong and Bangkok. Travelling is easy and relatively hassle-free. “Fast-paced, exciting, flamboyant, exotic” are some adjectives that come to mind. Doing business here is a pleasure, even in this mind-boggling complexity of the fashion business.

Other centres that are not as appealing don’t attract the buyers – they are used as manufacturing outposts, and monitored by a lower-profile technical team from a buying office, or an agent. They lose out in terms of new products, in terms of value-addition, and in terms of share of mind.

Of course, practical constraints such as production capacity, quota, and costs matter – that is why these unglamorous centres do have business. But you can bet that, given a choice, the buyer would like to buy from somewhere else, to where he or she can travel.

Similarly, retail managers are generally risk averse, and like to move in packs – where there are some brands, more come in and create a mutually reinforcing business environment.

They create an environment of opportunity for their suppliers, too – not just for quality finished goods, but raw materials, trims and accessories, even logistics and other service providers.

This virtuous cycle has already begun for the Indian fashion and retail industry, but is not very visible to most foreign retail brands and their suppliers. In their mind, they carry a picture of a certain level of capability, which has not been updated.

In fact, I remember visiting a store in Delhi along with a senior European retail executive when he kept asking if the fabric, buttons, labels and bar-coded hang-tags were produced in India. When the usual visits are limited to carrying specification packs to factories and getting quotations only on those, there isn’t much chance of developing a fresh picture.

Then, again, several buyers have been attracted to India’s wide ranging capabilities but have been badly burned in their business transactions.

Some time ago, I met with the head of apparel buying for a large European retailer – he tossed and turned products from several factories, obviously not interested in looking at anything seriously. About 20 minutes later, he gave up and said, “I don’t really want to buy anything from India – Indian suppliers can do a very limited product range, quality isn’t always good and the shipments are always late.”

I inquired about his previous buying experience with India, and discovered that his last deal was in 1992, and he has never set foot

in India again. Much as we might present statistics and facts about the developments in the Indian textile and apparel industry, a personal injury early in his career has left a deep scar that obviously influences this gentleman’s buying decisions which are worth over €300 million in global apparel sourcing.

Another instance that comes to mind is a series of sessions with a US$ 3 billion retailer, to analyse 40 countries as global sourcing options for them. On factual evaluation of several short-term and long-term factors, India appeared high on the list for a number of products for this company. However, five years later, their total sourcing from India remains under US$ 10 million.

Among other comments, one which sticks in my mind is: “I’ve always had very poor experiences with India – in an order of 10,000 pieces, maybe a few hundred will match the specifications.” And another: ”I don’t know why the garments always smell! Even when I am in our stores, I can tell which garments have come from India, just by their smell.” Exaggeration? Maybe, but certainly based on reality. And I don’t believe we even got around to talking about any infrastructure or macro-economic issues.

Buyers are human beings – they want to buy from a supply base that is pleasant and reliable, from a centre that is fun to travel to. Given a chance, they will work with such a supply base again and again. And depending on the skills, they will place their better and more value-added products there, too.

Without creating too much of a controversy, dare I say that Delhi’s US$ 2+ billion apparel exports result from the combination of sheer selling entrepreneurial zeal, manually-skilled labour, and weekend trips for the buyer to the Taj Mahal and Rajasthan.

Imagine, then, even without any major change in macro conditions (given the already improved highways to Jaipur and Agra!), if a set of Delhi-based companies can match their internal performance against the best suppliers that their buyer has, what the results might be.

Poor quality practices are certainly deep- rooted, too, and need to be tackled systematically. A quality consultant working with a mid-sized exporter recently remarked in despair, “The company needs to rip out their current way of working, and maybe even provide VRS to several of its executives, if it wants to survive beyond the quota phase-out.”

Even buyers who express confidence in the Indian supply base (such as Gap which reportedly is sourcing over US$ 500 million from this region, or a little under 10% of their total sourcing), have anywhere between 40- 70% of their people here focussed on in-line and post-production quality issues.

Until this ratio shifts towards more people being allocated to product development (which can only happen if the inherent confidence in quality improves), the growth rate of the industry will remain below the true potential.

Small production capacities are the other major problem, especially for larger customers. As a result, despite all the talk about compliance norms, people at some of the largest buying offices acknowledge that their orders could occasionally be produced on subcontract in sheds that would fail every test of health and safety that these offices claim to impose.

Compare this with what a senior professional from one of Hong Kong’s largest apparel companies said: “Indian industry looks like a formidable competitor, the day it decides to wake up.”

Another comment, this time from a Singapore entrepreneur: “The Indian garment industry can go far, but for some reason, people here don’t really want to work in partnership with others.”

Can the industry make that change?

Brighter Side: Better Image and Cultural Infusion

he picture is not completely bleak – and much of it has to do with “image”, sometimes completely unrelated. And the image right now is a lot more positive than it has been for a long while.

For one, since the late-1990s, “Indian” has begun to equal “Intellectual”, mainly credited to the software professionals. While the Indian doctors, the professors, the management consultants and the investments bankers have lived overseas much longer, they have largely had to fit into the local (western) form and customs.

On the other hand, the techno-geeks have travelled to the west for relatively short stays and have not had time (or the need) to fit-in. They’ve been “Indian” and yet delivered superlative results.

Thus, the ultimate accolade from popular culture is the presence of super-engineer Asok in the hugely popular cartoon strip Dilbert, compared to the grocery store owners Apu and Sanjay in the older early-90s cartoon, The Simpsons.

The next wave of re-programming of “image” is happening through entertainment and culture.

The mystical east has always appealed through films like the Merchant-Ivory’s productions, but recent years have drawn further attention to Indian creative talents or influences in the mainstream – whether Shekhar’s Kapur’s Bandit Queen and Elizabeth, or the Australian Baz Luhrman creating Moulin Rouge as an Indian-style musical with Hollywood superstars. Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding and Gurinder Chadda’s Bend It Like Beckham have become surprise hits, not mainstream yet reaching a broader audience than earlier Indian or Indian-themed films.

The next wave of re-programming of “image” is happening through entertainment and culture.

The mystical east has always appealed through films like the Merchant-Ivory’s productions, but recent years have drawn further attention to Indian creative talents or influences in the mainstream – whether Shekhar’s Kapur’s Bandit Queen and Elizabeth, or the Australian Baz Luhrman creating Moulin Rouge as an Indian-style musical with Hollywood superstars. Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding and Gurinder Chadda’s Bend It Like Beckham have become surprise hits, not mainstream yet reaching a broader audience than earlier Indian or Indian-themed films.

Selfridges held a Bollywood festival for 23½ days, complete with Indian street-side food and street fashion. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London stage production, Bombay Dreams has now spread across the Atlantic, too.

processes and people in their organisation. Secondly, the growth of organised retailing is helping to create unparalleled visibility – large retailers, carrying a wide range of merchandise produced in India are the best showroom India’s manufacturers can have locally.

On the spiritual front, Time has done a cover story on meditation and yoga – it’s not that the phenomenon is new, but the size and spread of it is suddenly visible and high profile.

Does all of this have any impact on the Indian fashion industry? I believe a major one, though indirectly – India, and things Indian, are becoming part of the mainstream everyday consciousness. So long as these positively reinforce each other, and are supported by tangible business performance, it presents a clear business opportunity to attract western companies into India for sourcing or for marketing partnerships.

How is the fashion industry reacting? Well, for one practically every business person worth their salt is busy upgrading systems,
I agree – India, the Indian market and Indian industry will need to get beyond being a fashion statement that slips out of people’s minds once the fashion peak is over. And the good news is, I think, that it’s beginning to grow into something more than last year’s fashion statement. I believe that even when the so-called “India look” dies down, the Indian fashion industry’s chances of growth and influence are strongly sustainable.

India Outside in

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