Fashion 2024 & Beyond: Adapting to Changing Innovation Dynamics (VIDEO)

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February 21, 2024

The ability of fashion businesses to endure and thrive in the face of stiff competition and changing market dynamics is all about adapting to innovation, customer-centricity, and strategic planning. The correlation between high performing fashion business and product innovation is undeniable.

This panel discussion brings Design and Business Heads together to brainstorm on how fashion companies can devise strategies to drive innovation to remain competitive, meet evolving consumer expectations, and stay ahead of the race.

Moderator: Devangshu Dutta, Founder & Chief Executive, Third Eyesight

Panelists:

  • Anshu Grover Bhogra, CBO, Forever New
  • Diksha Bhatia, Founder, Gioia Co
  • Mansi Lohia, CEO, Black Watermelon
  • Rohit Aneja, Director- Grapevine Designs, CEO be-blu! Lake Como
  • Sean Ashby, Founder & CEO, Aussiebum
  • Swikruti Pradhan, Founder, Rustic Hue
  • Yogesh Kakar, Chief Product Officer – Tommy Hilfiger & Calvin Klein, PVH Arvind Fashion

Package Deal

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February 21, 2024

Sharleen D’Souza, Business Standard

Mumbai, 20 February 2024

Over the past year, Amul has undergone a transformative journey, evolving from a dairy-centric entity to a comprehensive foods company.

Since 2022, PepsiCo India, too, has embarked on extensive launches in the food category.

Not to be left behind, ITC, which has been introducing an average of 100 fastmoving consumer goods (FMCG) products across categories every year, has also launched a number of packaged food items.

The shelves in stores are packed. The options on e-commerce platforms are dizzyingly aplenty. The consumer is spoilt for choice. Which flavour of oats to go for? What packet of chips to pick? Should one reach out for those mouthwatering frozen snacks or think healthy and opt for atta (wheat flour) cookies?

Companies are pulling out all possible goodies in the form of packed food.

It is a strategic shift initiated during the pandemic and which has proven to be a lasting trend. During the pandemic, when other businesses were curtailing expenses, food companies started launching new products as consumers turned to packaged food.

Amul identified a growing preference for purity during the pandemic, and realised that this preference was here to stay. The company aggressively expanded its product range, venturing beyond dairy into items such as organic dal, atta, and basmati rice.

“We noticed that consumers were moving from unbranded to branded products, and were increasingly seeking out those that would boost their immunity,” says Jayen Mehta, managing director, Gujarat
Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation. Even later, as the world moved out of the pandemic, the preference for packaged foods continued.

Convenience foods, which had gained prominence during the pandemic, sustained their popularity. The widespread adoption of modern retail formats, including brick-and-mortar, e-commerce and quick commerce, proved to be further growth enablers for packaged foods. These formats facilitate the display of entire product ranges to a larger consumer base, says brand expert Devangshu Dutta, founder at Third Eyesight, and that helps.

Growing platter

Today, while Amul’s flagship product, packaged milk, is recording double-digit growth, Mehta says the company is also focusing on premiumisation by introducing artisanal cheese and products such as
Amul High Protein Buttermilk, high protein lassi and shakes, and whey protein.

ITC’s diverse launches, meanwhile, include lump-free Aashirvaad Besan, frozen breads, Dark Fantasy centre-fill cookies, and a variety of Master Chef frozen snacks such as paneer pakoda and onion rings, B
Natural fruit juices, Aashirvaad Svasti ghee, and so on.

Last year, as the focus turned to millets, and 2023 was declared International Year of Millets, the Kolkata-headquartered conglomerate saw a healthy business opportunity. It launched ITC Mission Millet with
an array of millet-based products: Sunfeast millet cookies, Aashirvaad millet mixes, YiPPee! millet-based noodles, Candyman Fantastik chocsticks with millets, and more.

“The company will continue with its focus on consumer-centric innovation and product launches across its portfolio,” says Hemant Malik, executive director, ITC. A finger on the consumer’s pulse, product research and development through ITC’s Life Sciences and Technology Centre, and an extensive omnichannel distribution infrastructure are helping the game.

PepsiCo India, too, is in the race to capture a growing share of the packaged food market. How serious the company is about this can be gauged from the fact that since 2022, its launches in the packaged food category have been the highest since it entered the food space in 1995.

It is not even two months into 2024 and PepsiCo has already launched three flavours in oats: masala magic, herby cheese, and mixed berries.

Last year, it had four launches and introduced seven new flavours in Doritos and Kurkure. And in 2022, it launched five new products and eight new flavours in Doritos, Quaker Oats and Lay’s.

In Lay’s, it went premium and launched Lay’s Gourmet.

Sravani Babu, associate director and category lead at Quaker Oats, says while the category is nascent compared to other FMCG segments, it is growing in double digits. So, the three new flavours were a
considered call.

While “basic oats continue to be the leading segment in the category,” she says, with these new flavours, the company is looking at oats as not just something one eats for breakfast. With PepsiCo keen on broadening the oats portfolio, the bowl is expected to see even more variety in the time to come.

Food in a jiffy

Quick commerce, which promises deliveries within 10 minutes, has also accelerated in-home consumption trends, said Saumya Rathor, category lead of potato chips at PepsiCo India, in an interview.

Consumer habits, she said, take decades to evolve, but the pandemic hastened that shift. So, the convenience-driven traction for packaged foods has persisted. E-commerce and quick commerce have only expanded packaged snack penetration across the country.

In response to the growing demand, PepsiCo India has announced its first food manufacturing plant in Nalbari, Assam, with an investment of Rs. 778 crore ($95 million). Scheduled to be operational in 2025,
this expansive facility spans 44.2 acres and underscores the company’s desire to make the most of the rising consumption trends in the foods sector.

Other food companies, including ITC and Amul, have also embraced an assertive stance, launching products strategically.

The trajectory indicates a promising future for India’s packaged food sector. The shelves are set to overflow.

Size of the packaged foods market: In 2022, India’s packaged food market size was $2.7 billion and it is projected to reach $3.4 billion by 2027

(According to Statista)

(Published in Business Standard)

The Classic pivot: Charting ITC’s FMCG growth story

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October 13, 2023

Anand JC, Economic Times
13 October 2023

Once the butt of jokes in Dalal Street circles, 113-year-old ITC has turned a new leaf in recent years, as its strategy to derive higher revenue from its consumer business is bearing fruit, bit by bit.

Registered in Calcutta as the Imperial Tobacco Company, the FMCG major has always relied on its cigarettes and leaf tobacco business for a major chunk of its revenues. ITC’s true diversification move might have begun with the launch of its hotel in Chennai in 1975, including a failed attempt at the financial services business, but it wasn’t until August 2001 that the tale of the FMCG behemoth came to be.

Having relied on its cigarette business since 1910, ITC has increasingly sought to earn more from its ‘cleaner’ consumer goods products. In a 2018 interview, CEO Sanjiv Puri admitted that while the journey to diversify the company started a long time ago, it only got traction around 2008. Under Puri’s first term as the ITC chairman, the company embarked on the ‘ITC Next’ strategy. The first decade was focused on preparing the company for the transition, he said. ITC now can innovate products, create brands and allow “pro-neurs” or professional entrepreneurs to build businesses in FMCG.

The plan has worked

ITC, a darling of dividend-led investing lovers, has always been a long-term growth story in the making. Nearly two decades after entering the food business, the company holds a leadership position across categories.

As per the company’s latest annual report, it holds the leadership spot in the branded Atta market through Aashirvaad, cream biscuits segment via Sunfeast, bridges segment of snack foods via Bingo!, notebooks via Classmate and dhoop segment via Mangaldeep. Its Yippee noodles trails Nestle’s Maggi, as the latter continues to lead in a highly consolidated market. However, Yippee has managed to gobble up Maggi’s share at an enviable pace. Capturing these positions, this quickly is no easy feat either.

One of the things that worked for ITC is their understanding of the distribution of products, stemming from their strength in the tobacco business. ITC started exploring aggressively diversifying away from the tobacco business around the 90s, says Devangshu Dutta, head of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.

ITC’s foray into the food business was supported by its presence in the hotel business. “Some of the marquee products that used to be served in their hotel restaurants, packaged dal and so on, they packaged and sold but it was not a humungous success. It was marginal at best.”

“But they started understanding the distribution aspect because those were sold through traditional distribution channels,” Dutta says.

ITC also put in a lot of financial muscle behind the brand building, given no dearth of resources, Dutta says. This helped them grow rapidly in product categories in which they didn’t have a presence earlier on.

“Starting from scratch, particularly on the foods side, ITC has been one of the most successful companies in the last 15-20 years. Their overall revenue this year has been roughly Rs 19,000 crore, out of which Rs 15,000-16,000 is purely from foods segment,” Amnish Aggarwal, Head of Research, Prabhudas Lilladher told ET Online.

“For a company which started this business, maybe, say, two decades back, this is a very big achievement,” he says.

Unlike its commanding position in its cigarette business, ITC’s ‘other-FMCG’ ambitions faced stiff competition from local and national companies in categories including soaps, shampoos, atta, snacks, biscuits, noodles and confectioneries.

Supporting ITC’s ‘other-FMCG’ ambitions is its core competency, the cigarette business. ITC’s consumer business’ growth has weathered storms, in part, thanks to the cash flows generated by its cigarette business which has helped it create stronger brands, an essential part of any consumer-centric business. Through its cigarette business, ITC also gets unparalleled access to a network of brick-and-mortar stores that have a diverse presence across India.

Also complimenting its growth is ITC’s agri-business, a segment which has also grown in strength over the years. From 10 per cent in FY14, the agri-business in FY23 contributed around 24 per cent to the company’s revenue from operations, as per ET Online’s calculations. ITC over the years has invested in building a competitive agri-commodity sourcing expertise. Some of these structural advantages have facilitated the company’s sourcing of agri raw materials for ITC’s branded packaged foods businesses, be it towards its atta, dairy or spices.

Like its peers, ITC too has given a fair deal of importance to its digital push, with more and more companies launching their D2C platforms. These platforms help customers buy products directly from the company website without the hassle of dealing with channel partners, and at the same time, the companies get their hands on first-party data. Such access can help the company market its offerings better. ITC, like some of its other peers, has also been investing in start-ups to diversify its product portfolio. It recently invested in Yoga Bar and Mother Sparsh.

The numbers behind ITC’s consumer business behemoth

Built to engage in the tobacco business, ITC got into cigarette packaging nearly 100 years ago. Another intent in recent decades has been to focus more on the non-cigarette business.

Puri saw it coming.

Upon being asked about the FMCG business overtaking cigarettes, Puri had said “We do not give guidance. But it will certainly happen because the other businesses are growing faster.”

After contributing nearly 62 per cent to the overall revenue in FY14, the cigarettes business in FY23 contributed only around 37 per cent.

ET Online calculations show that the other-FMCG business contributed 17 per cent to the overall revenue in FY14, which grew to 25 per cent in FY23.

Data confirms the claims made in the above segment. ITC’s non-cigarettes businesses have grown over 31-fold and currently form over two-thirds of its net segmental revenues. The company’s other-FMCG business didn’t start turning consistent profits up until FY14. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength.

ITC’s Other FMCG segment (the second largest contributor to sales) is also witnessing strong earnings and growth momentum, unlike most consumer staples peers.

The segment clocked a revenue of 19 per cent YoY while Nestle and Britannia saw 21 and 11 per cent growth each. FMCG EBITDA performance was even better, with the margin expanding by 430 bps YoY to 13.3 per cent & EBITDA growing 2.1x YoY.

Laughing stock no more

For years, the cigarette business has funded the growth of ITC’s other businesses like non-cigarette FMCG products, sometimes to the ire of shareholders who weren’t happy with the slow growth in financials and scrip value.

A slower growth in scrip value meant that for years ITC was also the laughing stock among social media circles. The stock often remained elusive during market rallies in the previous decade, offering poor returns in comparison to FMCG peers. Between 2014 and July 2022, ITC rose with dividends rose 53 per cent while Nifty50 rose 200 per cent, as per moneydhan.com, a SEBI RIA. ITC’s shares trailed the Sensex for five out of eight years through 2020.

“In the last ten years, HUL has done far, far better than ITC. And if you look at other companies in the same universe, say Dabur, it has also given superior performance. ITC has actually underperformed many of the large consumer names,” Aggarwal said.

But fast forward to 2023, not only is it among the best performers within the benchmark index, ITC has even trumped it. While Nifty50 has gained around 17 per cent in the last year, ITC has grown nearly 40 per cent. The ITC scrip in July crossed a market capitalization of Rs 6 lakh crore, beating HUL to become the largest FMCG company.

Sin stock

Prompting a move away to other segments is the nature of the cigarettes business. Tobacco is toxic, and investors are increasingly recognising it as such. Sin stocks are shares of companies engaged in a business or industry that is considered unethical or immoral.

While Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing may be at a nascent stage in India, it is a serious parameter for global investors. Asia’s largest cigarette maker ITC cannot ignore it.

“The company sustained its ‘AA’ rating by MSCI-ESG –the highest amongst global tobacco companies– and was also included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Emerging Markets Index,” Puri noted in the company’s 2022 sustainability report.

Cigarettes, a bitter but essential overhang

For all the accolades for its gains in its other-FMCG business, ITC is nowhere close to ending its love for cigarettes, not that we are claiming it wants to. The Gold Flake-maker currently controls nearly 80% of the cigarette market.

The numbers in recent years suggest that the segment is flourishing more than ever before.

On an annualized basis, the return on depreciated cigarette assets is approaching a staggering 240%, three times the level two decades ago, as per a Bloomberg report. The entire legal cigarette industry was bleeding in the recent past due to punitive and discriminatory taxation on cigarettes. Taxes on cigarettes in India are multiple times higher than in developed countries viz. 17x of USA, 10x of Japan, 7x of Germany and so on, data shows.

But, companies are now recovering due to stable taxation. ITC’s three four-year cigarette sales CAGR are at their best levels since FY15 despite the company not taking material price increases over the last 13-14 months, as per a Motilal Oswal report.

ITC, which accounts for three out of every four cigarettes sold in the white market in the country, is currently seeing its best growth levels in over a decade, and is far superior to the flattish volumes of the past ten and twenty years.

(Published in Economic Times)

Zara’s revenues jump even without adding new stores

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June 29, 2023

Raghavendra Kamath, Financial Express

June 29, 2023

Zara, touted as “Fast Fashion Queen”, has achieved a unique feat in India. The Spanish brand has been growing its revenues without opening any new stores.

The fashion brand, run by a joint venture between Tata-owned Trent and Spain’s retail group Inditex, posted a 40.7% growth in its revenues to Rs 2553.8 crore in FY23. The catch is that while many retailers/brands garner sales from opening new stores, Zara did not open any store but closed one during FY23.

In FY21 and FY22, its store count remained constant at 21 but its revenue grew 61.2% in FY22. Zara’s revenues grew at a 15.5 % CAGR in the last five years.

“Zara did not foray into any new city and closed one store. That said, it saw an exceptional performance on store productivity (83% higher than FY19). The increase in revenues lead to highest ever Ebitda margins at 16.3%,” said Nuvama Institutional Equities in a recent report.

The contribution in productivity includes contribution from online and also increase in store sizes, the brokerage said.

A mail sent to Inditex did not elicit any response. Trent executives could not be contacted.

Experts attribute Zara’s success to increase in customer spends and improved offerings by the brand.

“The customer base they are targeting has grown and their merchandise mix has become sharper,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer at Third Eyesight, a retail consultant.

Dutta said when a retailer opens stores, it would immediately boost sales, but to maintain sales momentum, one has to have “right merchandise at right price and have stores at right locations”.

Zara is known to churn its designs and styles very fast, and target young customers. In its Indian venture also, its parent Inditex controls merchandise mix and so on.

“The said entities (Zara and Massimo Dutti) are obliged to source merchandise only from the Inditex Group. Also, the choice of product & related specifications are at the latter’s discretion. Further, the entities are dependent on Inditex for permissions to use the said brands in India subject to its terms & specifications,” Trent said in its FY23 annual report.

Zara is also focusing on opening in select locations, a reason it could not open more stores in the country, experts said.

“The incremental store openings for Zara continue to be calibrated with focus on presence only in very high-quality retail spaces,” Trent said.

Susil Dungarwal, founder at Beyond Squarefeet, a mall management firm, said that propensity to spend has gone up among Indian shoppers after the pandemic and Zara being a renowned global brand with its stylish merchandise seems to be have been the beneficiary of the trend.

“They understand customers very well and brought products which are liked by Indian shoppers in terms of looks, styles and so on,” Dungarwal said.

Zara is a case study for Indian brands as to how to run a retail business successfully, he said.

(Published in Financial Express)

What Is Behind Reliance Retail’s Expansion Spree

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July 8, 2022

Akash Podishetty & Krishna Veera Vanamali, Business Standard

New Delhi, 8 July 2022

India’s $900 billion retail market has emerged as one of the most dynamic industries and is expected to reach anywhere between $1.3-$1.5 trillion by 2025. The organized retail is seen gaining 15% market share in the overall retail space, while food & grocery and apparel and lifestyle may account for 80% of India’s retail market by 2025.

Large market offers big opportunities. And it looks like Reliance Retail has seized it, with its massive omni-channel retail play of physical stores, B2B with kiranas and e-commerce.

The company went on an acquisition spree and partnerships in the last three years, adding to its portfolio some of the biggest names, including Hamleys, Dunzo, Zivame etc.

It has also partnered with famous global retail chain 7-Eleven. Catering to India’s affluent consumers, Reliance, meanwhile, houses some of the most iconic brands such as Versace, Armani Exchange, GAP, GAS, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors among others. The premium segment has become one of the fastest growing categories.

Also firming up its inorganic play, the company is planning to acquire dozens of niche local consumer brands to build a formidable consumer goods business.

Arvind Singhal, Chairman and Managing Director, Technopak Advisors says, there’s focus on physical retail expansion. Reliance is looking to cater to both price conscious and brand conscious customers, while trying to capture as much of the private consumption market as possible, he says.

Reliance Retail’s competitors are nowhere close to even put up a fight. The company has over 15,000 offline stores across categories, compared with DMart’s 294 stores or Aditya Birla Fashion’s 3,468 outlets.

Reliance retail’s revenue has grown five times in the last five years and the core retail revenue of $18 billion is greater than competitors combined, according to a Bernstein report.

Speaking to Business Standard, Devangshu Dutta, CEO, Third Eyesight, says, Reliance wants a decent share of Indian consumers’ wallet. From that perspective, Reliance still has a long way to go, he says. As consumer preferences evolve, Reliance too should adapt.

An undisputed leader in the domestic market, the aim of Reliance, according to Mukesh Ambani, is to become one of the top 10 retailers globally. Part of this bet is based on the premise that incomes and consumption power of Indians will increase across the board in coming years. However, could the uneven recovery that different segments of the population have seen stop the pie from growing larger and prove to be a dampener for Ambani’s ambitions?

(Published in Business Standard)