Dia Rekhi & Faizan Haidar, Economic Times
New Delhi, June 29, 2023
Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo, is looking to set up a significant manufacturing presence in India through about 20 ‘production partners’, multiple people aware of the development told ET.
One of the world’s most valuable clothing retailers, Uniqlo already has a cluster of production partners in India and is looking to expand this network through a significantly large investment, they said without sharing any estimated amount.
“The investment amount will be significant because Uniqlo is serious about India and views it as an important market,” one of the persons said. “Unlike the existing facilities in India, which cater more towards exports, the production partners that Uniqlo will bring to India will be specifically meant for the domestic market.”
One of the company’s production partners that ET spoke to confirmed that their current mandate is to produce only for exports.
Uniqlo, which is Asia’s biggest clothing brand, had said India is one of the top priority markets for them where consumers are increasingly shifting from ‘fast-fashion’ to long-lasting essentials and functional wear.
The company’s ambitions for India are considerable with its CEO Tadashi Yanai indicating that he wants Uniqlo to become the “best-selling retailer in India”.
The Japanese brand opened its first door in September 2019, but stringent lockdown measures announced to contain the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 delayed the expansion plan.
The brand is now planning to enter Mumbai and Bangalore. It has already opened stores in Lucknow and Chandigarh after Delhi.
Uniqlo does not own any factories. Instead, it outsources production of almost all its products to factories outside Japan.
As per a report titled ‘The Uniqlo case: fast retailing recipe for attaining market leadership position in casual clothing’, this model allows Uniqlo to keep its breakeven point low and improve return on investment.
“As we expand our global sales, we continue to grow our partner factory network in countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and India,” the company has stated on its website.
As per its list of garment factories, as on March 1, 2023, Uniqlo has 227 factories in China, 54 in Vietnam, 33 in Bangladesh, 13 in Indonesia, and 16 factories in India and Japan among several other locations.
As the world’s second most-populated country, India is an attractive market for apparel brands, especially with youngsters increasingly embracing western-style clothing.
Over the past decade, global brands Zara and H&M became market leaders in the fast fashion segment in India.
“For global brands, India should be one of the most logical sourcing hubs given its large vertically integrated manufacturing sector on the one hand and the large, growing domestic market driving demand on the other hand,” Devangshu Dutta, founder of retail consulting firm Third Eyesight, told ET. “However, its weight in the sourcing baskets has historically been low due to several reasons, in spite of China being visible for decades to the management teams of brands and retailers as a concentrated sourcing risk,” he said.
Uniqlo’s existing production partners in the country include Shahi Exports, Brandix Lanka, Tangerine Design, Maral Overseas, Shingora Textiles, Silver Spark Apparel, SM Lulla Industries Worldwide and Penguin Apparels.
As per Fast Retailing’s first-half results, the company said its revenue was 1.4672 trillion yen, or around $10.2 billion, and that its operating profit had risen to 220.2 billion yen ($1.53 billion), bolstered by strong performances from operations in several regions, including India where it said it generated significant increases in both revenue and profit.
With regard to Uniqlo International, in particular, it said revenue stood at 755.2 billion yen ($5.25 billion), while operating profit was 122.6 billion yen ($852.93 million).
The company said regions like India “reported significant revenue and profit gains as they enter a full-fledged growth phase”.
(Published in Economic Times)
Indian Terrain Fashions’ plans to launch a ‘Made in America’ jeans brand using denim from a US mill made into jeans in Guatemala, is a move that bucks trends for brands sold in India. The move is an interesting twist in the growth story of a 10-year-old brand that was, until recently, a business division of the Chennai-based apparel manufacturer Celebrity Fashions. Celebrity’s notable customers include Gap, Nautica, Armani Jeans, Timberland, Dockers and Ann Taylor.
About five years ago, Celebrity had invested in growing its capacity by acquiring another exporter’s manufacturing facilities. However, Celebrity’s manufacturing and export business has been under pressure due to the difficult environment in its main markets, and last year Indian Terrain was demerged from its parent.
It now seems Indian Terrain is striking out on an independent path, with plans to launch a ‘Made in America’ jeans brand. Managing director Venkatesh Rajgopal says the company proposes to source the denim from an American mill and have the jeans manufactured Denimatrix in Guatemala, which also produces for brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch. According to him, Indian Terrain will use the same raw material as Abercrombie & Fitch, and “will be able to track every pair of jeans to the same cotton fields in Texas.”
The company’s competitors, both domestic and international brands operating in India, mainly buy denim products from within the country.
Denim is currently a very small part of Indian Terrain’s casualwear product mix which is largely sourced from its parent, Celebrity Fashions. The company is looking at launching the “mid-premium” priced brand in September that will not be “just about quality, but about offering a lifestyle.” Rajgopal estimates that denim has the potential to grow to 30-35% of the company’s business in three years.
The demerger of Indian Terrain from its parent company was carried out in 2010 with a view to achieving better valuation for the branded business and to provide additional liquidity to its founders and private equity investors. The company is currently present at about 80 exclusive brand stores and through 400 multi-brand retail stores, in eight cities, as well as in Singapore’s Mustafa Mall. It closed the financial year ending 31 March 2011 with sales of INR1.21bn (US$27m), and expects to grow its top line by 25% this year.
Its retail customers wait to see whether Indian Terrain will be able to effectively integrate denim into its core brand philosophy and grow to a third of the product range. However, for investors the critical question is this: after the demerger from the manufacturing parent and with product being imported from the Americas, will the brand business be able to maintain gross margins at the current levels of about 40% to 45%? Only time will tell.
The Textile and apparel industry is of particular importance to India. It not only provides employment to a broad base of semi-skilled and unskilled labour but also helps to extend the economic bounty to urban and semi urban areas. Though India has a history of thousands of years in global trading of textile, it contributes only 3% to the global exports of textile and clothing.
While the urge to grow exists, there is a huge difference between the current exports of about Rs. 864 billion (US$ 20 billion) and the target of Rs. 2,500 billion (US$ 55 billion) by 2012. To achieve this vision, exports must grow at around 25-35 per cent a year for the next 4 years, depending on how weak or stable the current year is. This growth rate seems difficult considering the fact India has actually grown its exports of textiles and apparel at an annualized growth of a little over 14 per cent from 2003-04 to 2007-08.
Even if the industry looks at increasing the volume of exports to achieve the vision, the ports do not have the handling capacity considering that they currently operate at 91 to 92 % of available capacity.
Hence, incremental thinking will not help to achieve the vision.
Our key concern is the value “lost” by the industry. Being the low cost supplier does not necessarily translate into greater market share. The Indian Industry must look at enhancing the value delivered rather than competing on the cost platform. Indeed, India compares poorly to other countries on the value captured per employee. (For instance, if the export value captured per employee in India was as much as Turkey, India’s exports would be close to China’s exports of US$ 161 billion.)
One major concern that needs to be addressed is that India’s exports are still weighted in favour of raw materials and intermediate products, rather than finished products. Apparel exports account for only 41% of India’s textile exports in 2007-08. India’s product mix also needs to be aligned to global market needs, rather than only focussing on “traditional strengths” – this includes enhancing the share of non-cotton products in the basket.
Another area that is neglected is the inherent competitive capability of developing new products. The industry needs to develop and nurture these skill sets to create a sustained competitive advantage in the global scenario. India already provides buyers with value in terms of product development and design, which needs focus and further strengthening.
Further, India’s domestic industry, and its skill at understanding market needs, creating and merchandising product, can also play a valuable role in the industry’s growth.
The competitive advantage offered by being able to influence the development of a product is immense. And given that sourcing lead times are shorter in unpredictable times, a supply base that has been involved with the buyer right from the development stage of the product is most likely to get the final order. Third Eyesight proposes a four dimensional model: Define, Design, Develop and Deliver so as to achieve the industry-wide development, of projecting India as a valuable supplier, and sustaining its value needs.
By creating an ecosystem focused on design and product development, India can create and capture the billions of dollars worth of value that is being lost to other countries.
This is an extract from Third Eyesight’s report presented at the FICCI 3rd Annual Textile And Garment conference in Mumbai. The report was released by the Minister of Textiles, Government of India. To download the full report prepared by Third Eyesight, please click here.
To discuss how we can help you with your specific business needs, please get in touch with us via email (please send it to services [at] thirdeyesight [dot] in) or via this form: CONNECT.
India has a rich tradition of textiles which dates back many centuries. The history of the Indian readymade garment industry, however, is very recent and can be traced back to the Second World War.
During the Second World War, as a contribution to the wartime needs of British rulers, clothing units for mass production were set up to manufacture military uniforms. With India’s independence in 1947, the industry stagnated as the policies of the Government were now diverted towards building a new nation. However, the industry began to expand after 1959 with the revision of the textile policy to allow the import of machinery for manufacturing.
The 1960s witnessed social shifts as a whole generation of young people questioned the very basis of their existence, and the hippie movement was born. Tired of their materialistic ‘man-made’ lifestyle, these young people began to seek answers in communing with all things natural, love and peace being the anthem. They began traveling, to explore, to seek the ancient philosophies of the East.
This voyage of discovery not only led to a change of lifestyle, but also the way they dressed. Natural fibres were rediscovered, and principally amongst them “Cotton”. India, with its natural abundance of this fibre, was an automatic choice of a supply source. Simultaneously, the growing settlement of Indian abroad led to a ready outlet for a variety of India merchandise and clothing textiles as an article of trade because of its growing demand.
This sudden demand for cotton garments resulted in the Indian industry growing by leaps and bounds in a very short period. Export of “High Fashion” garments from India started off with the cheap cotton kurtas and hand-block vegetable dye printed wrap-around skirts in cotton sheeting to meet the demands of the western youth.
Cashing in on the boom any and everybody got into the manufacture of clothing. The Government, realizing the potential of earning foreign exchange for the country, announced incentives and tax exemption for exporters. The fallout was an industry that grew in an unorganized manner and developed a reputation for producing low cost, low quality, volume merchandise.
The 1980s established that the industry was here to stay but, in terms of product profile, India still had not been able to move out of the lower end of the world market and continued to have an average unit value of under US$ 5.
The 1990s saw the industry make a conscious effort to shake off the image of being producers of cheap, low-quality merchandise with unreliable delivery schedules. The second generation had begun coming into the business, and contributed to reorganizing their firms for clearer structure and professionalism. Funds were ploughed back into the business with the emergence of large and modern production facilities. Even though most of the export houses were family-owned, trained professionals were inducted into the business for clear-cut departments and areas of functions. Consolidation and retention of business was the focus of the late nineties as the abolition of quotas planned for the new millennium became a reality.
The industry was euphoric but at the same time apprehensive of what the post quota era would bring. Many of the producers looking for a synergy in the business and also to sustain the large production facilities began tentative forays into domestic retail. The face of the Indian consumer was changing. Exposure to the western society via the electronic media helped in creating a ‘borderless’ world for lifestyle products, and contemporary fashion merchandise found a ready market in domestic retail.
The new global consumer over the years has evolved as a demanding and yet discerning individual. The novelty factor along with price and quality has become the watchword of the new millennium consumer. As consumers around the world change, so does the product strategy to keep consumer interests alive and ensure loyalty.
The new millennium has seen the emergence of the ‘Quick Response’ or ‘Real Time’ merchandising in fashion as a strategic solution to nurture, retain and grow the business. ‘Fast Fashion’ was born. Retailers could no longer work on the concept of two major retailing seasons with a couple of promotions thrown in. Product planning and the merchandise on the racks had to be constantly current and trendy.
Fast Fashion is not simply a solution to increase consumption by introducing greater product variety but a strategy to retain, consolidate and sustain the market through proactive product development and efficient product delivery to consumers, and thereby grow the market by increasing market share or developing new markets.
However, fast fashion has been tried and tested in different avatars through the years. In the 1960s and 1970s it was present in the quick reaction time of the unorganized sector to service the demand for block-printed ethnic clothing merchandise. In the 1980s and 1990s it was represented in the proactively researched product development at the source market level by wholesale importer/designer buyers (like Rene Dehry, Giorgio Kauten, Diff and Steilmann). Today it is technology-aided product research and development techniques (practiced by Anthropologie, Rampage, Zara and H&M), coupled with responsive buying processes.
In product design terms, India has moved on from producing and selling ‘fashion basics’ to ‘basic’ merchandise, and now back to ‘fashion basics’ once again. History says that this is where India’s inherent talents and strengths as a source market lie. Rather than reinventing the wheel or try to catch up with other competitors strengths, India should cash in on its strengths to practice and master fast fashion.
This is a brief note to share an impromptu impression (and some anguish) about our apparel exports that came up after reading a magazine article recently. But let me start by sharing quotes from that article:
Quote 1: India is an ideal sourcing base…Company A has a global purchasing process in place, which helps to source from any best “QSTP base” (that’s quality, service, technology and price) across the globe. “Some of the Indian suppliers are providing the best QSTP”, points out the vice-president of corporate affairs for Company A.
Quote 2: Exports today make up 12-15 per cent of Company B’s US $ 200 million (Rs 1,000 crores) turnover, and are expected to contribute 25 per cent of revenues in three years…”We recently won the bid for a specific product. This is a product that we do not make in India, yet our facility won the bid,” explains the director of exports in Company B which made US $ 1 million from the product and will start exporting it to Canada soon.
Quote 3: “The advantages of sourcing from India are assured quality to meet customer requirements, a wide product range, availability and competitive pricing. India is a perfect sourcing base.”
Quote 4: “I believe India should aspire for an export growth of 20 per cent per annum over the next decade – nearly double the current target of 12 per cent in our Tenth Plan.”
Do the above sound like anything you have recently heard from our customers? If so, congratulations! If not, you need to seriously ask yourselves. Why not! Would you believe it if I told you that the four quotes above are from industries where India had virtually no competitive advantage even five years ago (and I am not talking about software), and hardly any presence in the world market?
But that is actually the case. The industries and the companies are automobiles (General Motors), consumer durables (Whirlpool), speciality chemicals (Clariant) and fast-moving consumer goods (Unilever/Hindustan Lever). Cast your mind just 15 years ago to Premier Padmini and Ambassador. I still remember the ad launching the Ambassador Mark IV with its “sleek” looks (that was what the ad said!). And here we are in 2002, when two of the largest car companies in the world, Ford and General Motors are exporting cars and components to other markets. The very same country, the very same industry, and a much more competitive time. And yet, the India supply base is managing to shine! The same is true of the three other industries quoted above. And I haven’t even started talking about the software industry, let alone many other sectors.
So, in that context, let us talk about our traditional (centuries-old) strength, with over 30 lakh people under employment base — the textile and apparel industry. Once upon a time India used to have a market share of 25 per cent in the global trade. People within the industry can readily prepare a long list of problems to share with anyone willing to listen, explaining why we are no longer in that dominant situation. Most people think that the problems the industry is facing are very recent.
In the context of the (correct) view expressed in the government that future growth will be garment-led, let me quote another fact. Indian garment exports missed the target not just in 2001, but also in 1997, 1995, 1993 and 1991. In 1996, we barely scraped past. Does this mean that the apparel export growth target unrealistic? Or is it that the industry is slipping up in terms of taking enough action, and is only reacting to external events? Is there a way to take the industry successfully into the future?
It seems that every time there is some external adverse factor, the Indian industry seems to get badly hit, otherwise it seems to do just fine. Even global trade statistics and Indian export statistics suggest that India is riding piggy back on the growth in global trade. That means when the going is good, it rides the wave, and when the going gets tough, there is very little internal strength for it to sustain itself.
September 11, market recession. Maybe WTO quota-free environment in 2005 will, therefore, do the same thing? As individual companies, some firms (I won’t name them) have invested wisely and may be still around as a growing part of a diminishing base of companies. Others will have to think hard now, if they still want to be around and growing. My suggestion. Don’t think only about “price” or “cost”.
The thought process, and the actions that we take, need to reflect – Product, people, process and technology. Why? Because, if business trends are poor, buyers tend to first dump the worst suppliers. If the business trends are good, buying from the best suppliers increases the most. It’s really a very obvious choice. Only companies that take into account all the above factors, will migrate towards the better end of the scale and therefore survive.
H&M is one of the larger sourcing companies in India. Yet, I remember sharing the stage at a CII conference a few months ago with their global sourcing head, and he said (with some regret, I believe) that India’s share in their sourcing was going down. This is from a company whose own business has been growing rapidly. It is our misfortune that we are not able to capture the growth equally in our exports to this company.
The government also presents a mixed bag of actions and inaction, because there is no clear growth vision that is strongly lobbied by the entire industry (from fibre to apparel as a supply chain), or even from an entire sector (for example, all apparel exporters). A journalist, I was speaking to just about one year ago, quoted a prominent north Indian garment exporter who was extremely pessimistic about his company’s and the entire industry’s business prospects. If there is such “confidence” within the industry, what kind of a picture can we present to external parties? (A short story break: A poor man prayed for years and years to his family’s deity, asking for help in managing his household expenses. Finally he got sick and tired of the whole thing and started to throw the sacred idol out of his house, when the god appeared and asked him why he was so angry. The man vented his frustration about not getting any help from god, despite the years of prayers and meditation. The lord said, “My child, you also need to make some effort to give me the means to help you. The least you could do is to buy a lottery ticket!!”)
Substitute “government” for “god” and “industry” in the place of the man, and we find a similar situation in real life.
People actually sit up when I say that the Indian industry exports about Rs 30,000 crores of garments, and a total of almost Rs 60,000 crores in all textile products. People, even within the industry (surprised?) are not aware of the magnitude of the importance and the impact of the apparel industry. It is one of the best kept open secrets. There is very little hype, and very little interest. Therefore, there is very little support from anyone else that the industry needs support from. The only time the Indian fashion industry hits the news is when a “Fashion Week” comes to town, representing the interests of a segment that does a total of less than Rs 200 crores of business! So will the Indian apparel export industry be around in 2005, or will it be one of the seven missing wonders of the world?
A 6-year old quoted the following in his school assembly a few days ago, “The real difficulty lies within ourselves, not in our surroundings.” I think that is a very good introspection with which to end this note (although I have many more thoughts to share), and a good starting point for the rest of our thought process.