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5 Pieces of Advice to Young Professionals Entering the Fashion Industry

(The following is the video and the text of the Commencement Speech by Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, at the Convocation of the batch graduating in 2019 from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Patna, India.)

I would like to just share a few learnings from my own career. I hope some of these learnings will provide you some food for thought, and if they stick, I hope they prove valuable to you in some way in your own career.

I think as a graduate of a professional institute, there are 5 life-skills or attributes or pieces of advice that could be useful to you.

  1. Approach work in an integrative manner, not distributive: As you enter the industry, you will find that there is a tendency to specialize. Entry level roles are functionally specific. As an individual you need to make a special effort to not lose the larger perspective. As you grow in your career you will find that an ability to connect the dots and show others the bigger picture will be a more valuable skill than you can imagine today. So, if you are a designer, as about a hundred of you present here are, please spend time and effort understanding the intricacies of manufacturing, the nuances of marketing and the thrust of business development. If you are a merchandiser or a technologist, please make time to expose yourself to art, music, cinema – what might seem to you as entertainment (or even a waste of time) today will go a long way in preparing you for leadership roles, because you will be able to not only understand your own function but understand what makes the other parts of the organisation tick.
  2. Be available to others: No matter what work you do, it is never in isolation and depends on support of your colleagues and peers, within and outside the organisation. By making yourself available to others – whether to help in a professional situation or personal – you lay the foundations for relationships that will support you through your career and your life in ways that you cannot anticipate or plan. All professional success is built on foundations laid by others. The best way to express thanks for their contributions is by making yourself available to make others succeed.
  3. Learn. Learn. Never stop learning: As you graduate today, I hope you will have no illusion that you have learned everything you need for the rest of your career, and that you are set for life. The world is changing faster than ever, and so is the market and the industry. Make your skill set something that is refreshed all the time. If you don’t cultivate the hunger to learn, it is very likely that there will come a point in your career where you are feeling stuck and will not have the tools available to push yourself into a new trajectory or career orbit.
  4. Have integrity: Be honest to the work that you do, be honest to the organisation that you work for, to your colleagues, to your customers, to your suppliers, to your juniors. The word “integrity” has its roots in “intact” or “whole”. When someone lacks integrity, it is as if they have a split personality – thinking or believing one way, while behaving another way. The greater the difference between the two, the more energy you will waste. If you have integrity in life, if your thoughts, words and actions are aligned, all your energy will work in the same direction. I know this could be possibly the most difficult pieces of advice I’m asking you to follow, but I think it will pay off for you in building your career.
  5. Adopt a responsible approach towards the environment: As graduating students of NIFT you need to realise that you are becoming a part of the 2nd most polluting industry in the world after oil and gas! As India’s economic growth continues, the fashion, consumer products and retail sector are expected to grow as well. It is critical that today’s youth actually start questioning how this industry runs worldwide. Please don’t blindly accept that just because the global industry has worked in a particular way for the last 80-100 years, it is the right way. The fashion sector runs on planned obsolescence – i.e. products are planned to be discarded within a short time, even if physically and functionally there is nothing wrong with them. At a recent industry conference, I called fashion a “zombie industry” – zombies are supposed to be dead but they act as if they are alive, as they run about eating people’s brains. Don’t become another zombie in a zombie industry. Find ways to fight the waste created within and by this industry. If you can make it more sustainable, less wasteful, it is your own world that will be a better place to live in.

Thank you so much for patiently hearing me out. I hope some of the advice would have resonated with you, and will prove useful. I wish you all the very best and offer you my congratulations, on behalf of all the other alumni – welcome to the industry. Thank you!

2012 – Will India Sizzle or Fizzle for International Fashion Brands?

Among consumer sectors, very few can match up to fashion in terms of its global nature. Despite food having led the way in global trade through spices, it is the fashion sector that led the global march of brands. As the economies in Europe and Asia recovered and grew, historical colonial linkages as well as modern culture-vehicles such as movies carried images of what was cool in the benchmark culture. Fashion brands were the most identifiable representation of cool.

India itself has known international fashion and luxury brands for several decades. From the mass footwear brand Bata to the top-notch luxury of LVMH, some of whose most important global customers included the rulers of Indian princely states, international fashion brands have an age-old connection with India.

In spite of these old links, the absolute base of consumers for fashion brands was small, and for them, prior to the 1980s , India was a relatively low potential market with low attractiveness and low probability of success.

India's changing position as a market

A transition began in the 1980s, as India moved emphasis from central planning and a restrictive economy to a more liberal business regime, and brands and modern retailers started growing in presence gradually. During this transition period, other than the notable exception of Bata, it was mainly Indian brands that were at the forefront of modernisation of retail in India, with the first retail chains being set up for textiles, footwear and clothing. Though the seeds were laid earlier – Liberty is credited with the launch of the first ready-to-wear shirt brand in the 1950s, Raymond with the first ready-to-wear trouser brand in the 1960s – the growth started in real earnest only in the 1980s when apparel exporters such as Intercraft (with brands like “FU’s”), Gokaldas Exports (“Wearhouse”), and Gokaldas Images (“Weekender”) also tried their hand at modern retail, as did corporate groups (“Little Kingdom” for kids and “Ms” stores for womenswear).

Yet, even in the early to mid-1990s, when western companies looked at the Asian economies for international growth, West Asia and East Asia (countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and even Thailand) were seen as more attractive due to higher incomes and better infrastructure. In the mid-1990s there was a brief upward bump in international fashion brands entering the Indian market, but by and large it was a slow, steady process of increase.

By the mid-2000s, however, a very distinct shift became visible. By this time India had demonstrated itself to be an economy that showed a very large, long-term potential and, at least for some brands, the short to mid-term prospects had also begun looking good. In a few years, from 2005 onwards, the number of international fashion brands entering the market has increased 4-fold.

Growth of international fashion brands in India

Market Still Evolving, but Brands are Confident

The sheer number of brands that are now present in India and the new ones that are entering every year is a clear sign of strengthening confidence among international brands that India is now one of the most important markets that they cannot ignore for long.

There is a visible acceleration of growth in absolute revenues, too, being achieved by individual brands. Brands such as Levi Strauss, Reebok, Louis Philippe (a British brand formerly owned by Coats Viyella, now by Aditya Birla Group for India and other territories) and its sister brands took perhaps 12-15 years to break through the threshold of Rs. 500 crores (Rs. 5 billion) in sales turnover, but industry opinion is that the “0 to 500” trajectories today are faster and that younger brands are likely to take less time – under a decade – to cross the threshold. While modern apparel retail currently contributes less than 20 per cent of the total apparel market, with growing incomes and increased availability of modern retail environments, consumers are spending more on branded fashion than ever before. In the year closing March 2012, at least 2-3 additional brands (including Indian ones) are expected to cross the Rs. 500 crores threshold.

Clearly, there are few markets globally that can support potential growth from zero to US$100 million in a decade, with the potential to even reach a billion-dollar mark within the next couple of decades. However, some of these markets are already hugely competitive, and also going through painful economic churns. India, on the other hand, is a market that is at the earliest stages of consumer growth – it is, in the words of the managing director of a European brand, a market where “a brand can enter now and live out its whole lifecycle”.

In fact, it is tempting to compare the emerging golden bird of India to the golden dragon of China where western brands seem to have rapidly established as products of choice for the newly affluent Chinese consumer during the last 15 years or so.

In our work with brands and marketers from around the world, we have to constantly remind them that not all emerging markets are the same. The explosion of luxury and premium brands in China during the last decade or so has happened on the back of explosive economic growth that came after a long cultural and economic vacuum. When the new money wanted links with the old and when uniform grey-blue suits needed to give way to something more expressive, well-established western premium and luxury brands provided the most convenient bridge.

On the other hand, in India “discernment” may be a new experience to the newly-rich Indians for whom brands can be a valuable guide and “secure” purchase, but discernment and taste are not new to India as a whole. More importantly, differentiation and self-expression never disappeared even during India’s darkest years of “socialistic” economics. Therefore, the Indian market has a more “layered” approach to the premium fashion market and will continue to grow in a more fragmented, more organic manner than the Chinese market. There would be multiple tiers of growth available for international as well as Indian brands. For international brands customisation and Indianisation will be important. This is already visible in bespoke products by Louis Vuitton and Indian products by brands such as Canali (jackets) on the one hand, and significant re-thinking on product mix and pricing by brands such as Marks & Spencer. That brands are willing to rethink their position in the context of the Indian market demonstrates that they see India as a strategic market, worth investing in for the long term.

Another sign of the growing confidence amongst international brands in the Indian market is the number of companies that are looking at directly investing in joint ventures, or even going further to set up wholly-owned subsidiaries in the country.

It is worth keeping in mind that setting up a subsidiary is a decision that is not taken lightly, regardless of the size of the business and the amount of investment, since it involves a disproportionate amount of management time and effort from the headquarters during the launch and early growth phase where revenues are small and profits non-existent.

Among our clients, brands have taken the decision to step into an ownership structure in India when they feel that India is too strategic a market to be “delegated” entirely to a partner (whether licensee or franchisee), or that an Indian partner alone may not be able to do justice to the brand in terms of management effort and financial capital.

In the last few years we have seen several brands take the plunge into investing in the Indian business, among them S. Oliver (Germany), Marks & Spencer (UK) and Mothercare (UK).

During 2011 specifically, Promod changed its franchise arrangement with Major Brands into a joint-venture that is majority-owned by Promod. From its launch in 2005, the brand has opened 9 stores so far. However with the new JV in place, the venture is reported to be looking at opening 40 stores in the next five years.

Most recently, Canali was one of the brands that moved into a majority-owned joint-venture. The brand entered in India in 2004 through a distribution agreement with Genesis Luxury. This has recently given way to a joint venture between the two companies that is owned 51 per cent by Canali. The brand currently operates five exclusive stores in India has plans to accelerate the brands growth in India by opening 10-15 stores over the next three-four years.

Operating Model for International fashion brands in India

The Impact of FDI Regulations

If a “theme of the year” has to be picked for the Indian retail sector in 2011, it must be ‘Foreign Direct Investment’. The debate during the year was hardly a clean and clear “pro vs. con” exchange of ideas. It was a motley mix of extreme lobbying for and against FDI, some balanced reasoning on why FDI should be allowed, and also moderate voices calling for governing the speed at which and the conditions under which foreign investment could be allowed. In many cases there seemed to be dissenting voices emerging from within the government. One possible impact of this uncertainty through the year was that several brands postponed their decisions regarding the potential entry and the strategy that they would follow in India with regard to partnership or investment.

In November 2011, the Indian government announced that 100 per cent foreign investment in single brand retail and 51 per cent foreign ownership of multi-brand retail operations, but was forced to back-track due to vociferous opposition from several quarters. At the very end of the year, the government finally reopened 100 per cent foreign ownership retail operations, albeit limiting it to single brand retail businesses. However, it allowed this under the condition that the Indian retail operation would source at least 30 per cent of its needs from Indian small and mid-sized suppliers.

The condition of 30 per cent domestic sourcing from SMEs is well-intentioned – aiming to provide a growth platform for India’s manufacturing enterprises – but unachievable for brands that do not currently source any serious volumes from India. In fact, for most international fashion brands India contributes less than 10 per cent of their total sourcing, in many cases well under 5 per cent.

Under these circumstances, we shouldn’t expect any dramatic changes, though we do expect the growth in joint-ventures and subsidiaries to continue in the coming months and years.

If an international brand perceives India to be at the right stage of development, and it wishes to exert significant or complete control over its Indian presence, then a majority or completely owned subsidiary seems the most logical step, and the brand will find a way to structure its involvement in India appropriately.

However, many brands that today have a 51 per cent ownership in India are stopping short of climbing to 100 per cent until they can sort out how to meet the SME sourcing conditions.

Getting Over the Sourcing Hurdle

The problem with the 30 per cent sourcing rider is simple. When a brand launches in India, it would like to present the consumer with the most complete product offering that showcases its capabilities and positioning as relevant to the target consumer in India. In most instances, the brand would not be sourcing the full range of its merchandise from India.

This is not a problem if the brand approaches the market through a wholesale or franchise structure, or even with a retail business that is not owned by it 100 per cent.

But for a retailer that wants to own the Indian business completely, complying with the 30 per cent domestic sourcing restriction means developing a new set of suppliers in India from scratch, pulling in the design and product development staff to work with them, and to develop ranges that suit not only the Indian market, but also other markets around the world. Simply putting together an India-specific sourcing team to replicate the entire range to buy small volumes for the Indian business is neither practical nor feasible for most of these brands. This means that the product development and sourcing team must be willing to see India as a strategic supply base for the future, just as their selling-side colleagues may be seeing it as a strategic market.

In this context it is worth repeating something that I have said before: 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. The presence of other international brands – especially from their own country – helps in creating a familiar context at first sight and encourages further exploration of the market. At least for the executives handling international retail expansion, India presents a more ‘familiar’ and ‘developed’ face today than ten years ago.

However, the explosive growth that we have witnessed in terms of the number of brands present in India is not mirrored by the growth of fashion sourcing out of India. In fact, even when compared to what has happened in the global textile, apparel and footwear sourcing environment since quotas were removed in 2005, the India’s export growth looks dispiritingly low, even stagnant. China still remains the largest source for fashion products, while countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and Viet Nam have grown their share aggressively. India’s share of clothing exports is a lowly one-tenth that of China.

In our work related to global sourcing strategies for western retailers, on an objective measurement matrix of sourcing competitiveness India rates highly. In several cases, sourcing from India as a hub (and, for European retailers, Turkey as a hub) has been seen as a logical counterweight to balance out the high concentration of current sourcing in China.

However, product development and sourcing is not entirely an objective process – in fact, sourcing habits are sometimes the hardest to change. The buyer’s subjective experiences – sometimes buried deeply in the past career – have a significant role to play. A conversation from 2001 with the sourcing head of a European brand sticks in my mind, when he 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.” On probing further, I discovered that his last transaction was in 1992, after which he 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 influenced this gentleman’s buying decisions worth over €300 million in global apparel sourcing, or about €700-800 million worth of sales.

There is clearly much to be done in terms of encouraging modernisation and better organisation amongst apparel suppliers, and making those changes visible to buyers. Even brands that are well-engaged with the Indian supply base have between 40-70% of their people here focussed on in-line and post-production quality issues. We are today at a stage where larger and better-equipped apparel exporters would be best placed to address the needs of international brands within India, but find the volumes too small to bother with setting up entirely different documentation and accounting processes.

Health & Safety and Labour compliances are also areas in which the brands will not forego their corporate standards. Can we imagine a brand saying that its European customers do not want their products made in sweatshops, but for the Indian consumers of the brand this is not (yet) an issue? While this may be a fact, would a high profile brand risk its global reputation to source competitively for its small Indian business?

So a government dictat to international brands’ fully-owned subsidiaries to ensure that they source 30 per cent of their needs is not enough. At best it will encourage some of the brands to start looking at India more seriously, but a more likely scenario for most brands is that they will carry on business as usual until the supply base in India pulls up its socks, or until the business in India becomes large enough to be interesting to their existing Indian suppliers who are currently focussed on exports.

Certainly the government itself needs to do much for more manufacturing-friendly policies, as well as focussed investment in infrastructure that can provide rapid, efficient and cost-effective transportation from the country and within the country.

It is time to bridge the gap between “textile exports” and “fashion retail” in the country. Remember, the explosive growth of brands in China followed the manufacturing explosion, not the other way round. Until the Indian apparel, textile and footwear manufacturing sector grows strongly, the actual volume growth of modern fashion retail will remain hobbled, regardless of the number of brands that enter the market.

To me this statement by a senior professional from one of Hong Kong’s largest apparel companies says it all: “The Indian industry looks like a formidable competitor, the day it decides to wake up.”

Drawing the Full Circle of Confidence

In closing I would like to mention the least acknowledged, but a very important part of the growth of international brands in India: the acquisition of brands overseas by Indian companies. The Aditya Birla group laid an early foundation when it bought out, for India and several other territories, the perpetual rights for Coats Viyella’s brands including Louis Philippe, Van Heusen and Allen Solly. Lerros was a slightly different example – being a brand that was set up by the House of Pearl in Germany – but that also circled back to India. More recently (2010) we have the example of the Swiss company Switcher Holdings, whose with brands including Switcher, Respect and Whale, was bought by PGC Industries.

In markets such as the EU, there are today brands that may be available because they are finding difficult to survive in harsh trading environments and that do not have the financial or management bandwidth to take on initiatives in growing markets like India. These offer a legitimate growth platform for Indian companies that are strong in manufacturing those product categories and want to move higher up the value chain from being a generic commodity “supplier”.

Although exporters may initially approach these brands for franchise or license relationships, to some it soon becomes clear that if they are in a position to make an incremental investment they could well own the perpetual rights and perhaps the whole business, rather than investing in building up someone else’s brand, especially in the business in India is likely to grow very rapidly. Obviously, this new-found confidence needs to be backed with solid management capability, but as other consumer goods companies such as Tata (beverages, automotive), Mahindra (automotive) and Dabur (personal care) have shown, it is entirely feasible to look at growth in India as well as internationally by using an existing international brand as a stepping stone.

It also presents a challenge of classifying such brands as international or Indian. Bata was founded in the Czech Republic and went global from there – however, today it is legitimate to treat it as a Canadian brand since its headquarters moved there in the 1960s. Among other products, Gloria Jean’s Coffee was founded in the USA, but is now completely Australian-owned. In that sense, today would that not make Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Switcher Indian brands?

I think this puzzle is a challenge that many people in the industry in India would look forward to contributing to.

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Additional comment after reading the following blog post on Forbes on Single Brand Retailing (March 12, 2012):

Policies restricting foreign investment are not the biggest barrier to entering the Indian market. Brands and retailers that are clear that India is a strategic market with which they wish to engage will find a way. Even the largest global retailers have created structures that allow them a toehold in the market, awaiting a larger opening, despite the current ban on FDI in multi-brand retail.

The biggest barrier to entering India is actually the comfort zone within which the management team of an international retailer or brand may be operating. For some, the business environment of India needs at least a small step outside that comfort zone, for others it needs a big leap of faith.

There are encouraging signs of this happening already. Research carried out by Third Eyesight shows that the number of foreign brands operating in India in the fashion segment alone have quadrupled since 2005-2006, and a significant chunk of these are operating with direct investment in the Indian operations, whether as 100 per cent owned subsidiaries or as joint-ventures, indicating their growing comfort and confidence in the market.

One last word of advice: assess the opportunity pragmatically; don’t come looking for “a small percentage of the 1.3 billion population” in the short term – it takes time and patience to develop a meaningful share in the market.

Indian Terrain looks at sourcing from the Americas

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.

Delhi – A Growth Hub for India’s Apparel Exports

India’s traditional skills in textiles, intricate craftsmanship, and creativity in producing a range of design-intensive products have enticed buyers from all over the world. India retains a strong and sustainable position among the top five exporters of textiles and clothing in the world.

India’s textile exports are currently weighted in favour of raw materials and intermediate products leading to ‘value-leakage’, which is a major concern from the long-term competitiveness perspective.

Within India, Delhi holds a position of prominence and can play a significant role in capturing additional value within the country. As a sourcing destination and as a gateway to the rest of India’s textile and apparel sector, Delhi provides unique value in product development and design, and a tremendously flexible supply base.

This capability is especially critical in an unpredictable market where retailers and brands are looking to source ever-smaller quantities of product, increasingly closer to the season.

According to the Director (Merchandising) of one of the largest US retailers sourcing from India, “Delhi scores high on responsiveness, and is more enterprising. It has the capability to handle extraordinary fabrics and is strong in interpretations of artwork.”

The apparel cluster in Delhi-National Capital Region (Delhi NCR) includes locations across four states, and accounts for about twenty five percent share in the country’s current apparel exports. If Delhi’s apparel cluster were to be treated as a country, at US$ 2.6 billion (Rs. 12,000 crores) of apparel exports, it would fall within the Top-20 list, ahead of countries such as El Salvador, South Korea, Philippines, Peru and Egypt. Moreover, being a labour intensive industry, apparel cluster offers immense employment opportunities in NCR, already with current direct employment of over 1 million as per Third Eyesight’s estimate.

A study carried out by Third Eyesight has identified an additional growth opportunity of over US$ 5.5 billion (Rs. 25,000 crores) both in its current markets and products, as well as new product opportunities.

For many buyers, sourcing from Delhi NCR cluster is still restricted to beaded, sequined, and tie-dyed blouses, dresses and skirts. While Delhi remains strong in these products, it now also sells funky denim and jersey wear to young fashion brands, men’s tailored suits to American brands, and women’s undergarments to Europe.

Delhi now offers a base both to international buyers looking at buying finished products, and to Asian, European and American manufacturers looking at setting up alternative manufacturing locations that can tap international as well as the Indian market.

Going forward, the key stakeholders of the Delhi NCR apparel export cluster – individual companies, industry associations and the government need to urgently undertake adequate action steps as the competition is gearing up and the perceived strength of Delhi NCR cluster at the moment may not remain a USP of this cluster in the future.

The Delhi NCR apparel export cluster strategy report along with action steps and key implementation areas was presented at an industry seminar ‘Discovering Growth’ in New Delhi. The seminar was hosted by GTZ in partnership with Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC). The seminar was attended by the key stakeholders of the Delhi NCR apparel cluster including leading apparel exporters, buying agencies and retailers.

Can Eco-Fashion be Mainstream

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle sparked off a debate on whether ecologically friendly can be mainstream, whether customers will switch from traditional to eco-friendly fashions and if so, when. There is the view that eco-friendly products are necessarily niche and cannot match up in fashionability and affordability to ‘mainstream’ products.

I don’t think it is an either/or choice between styling and eco-friendly. To sell, eco-friendly merchandise absolutely MUST be comparable to or better than eco-unfriendly merchandise, both in style and quality.

Pricing is another story. The article also quotes Joslin Van Arsdale (founder of Eco Citizen, a San Francisco boutique devoted to Earth-friendly clothing) as saying, “When it comes to buying green or price, the general public will more likely choose the cheaper item on anything, whether it’s fashion or tomatoes.”

While most consumers will not willingly pay higher prices for eco-friendly merchandise, that may change as the cost of being eco-unfriendly goes up through awareness and legislation. There was a time when safety belts in cars were optional at an extra cost. No one would argue against paying the extra price for safety today.

Perhaps many of us would rather trash the planet cheaply because we may not feel the heat within our lifetimes. That is no reason that others, who feel more responsible, will allow that to happen indefinitely.

One way or the other, eco-friendly merchandise will compare in price, too.

Some of the parity will come from reducing the cost of eco-friendly stuff, but the bulk will probably happen because the cost of being eco-unfriendly will go up.

The original article is here – “Green fashion has new cachet“.

Numbers and Stories

Just after noon, on a weekday, I bumped into a family acquaintance at one of the more successful shopping malls in the city.

The question, “What are you doing here?” was underlined by a mildly accusatory look and the subtext, “Why are you spending a week-day shopping?”

My response that I was “working” wasn’t enough; the further explanation that I was doing “research” received a dismissive smirk and ended the conversation. The fact is that I was repeating the time-honoured ritual of RBWA (research by walking around), with its seemingly aimless strolling, sidelong glances, and possibly turning over a hundred items in a dozen shops without reaching for the wallet even once. This is a ritual that is not taught in our temples of management learning. In fact, it is one of the many tens of methodologies that seem to be missed out during the course of our formal education. And very often, what we do get taught is so remote and opaque to most people that they will promptly forget it the moment they walk out of the examination hall.

I was reminded of this walk-about incident during a conversation with two members of the faculty of a professional institute on the subject of research. Most of their students, I had observed, had a narrow interpretation of research – focussed only on consumers being interrogated through a questionnaire. The students were working from the guidance they had received during the previous semesters at the institute.

Unfortunately, the students are not alone – this is also how too many people identify research, including many executives in decision-making positions. I have been frequently puzzled by the confident (brash?) statement I have heard many times: “We don’t need research.” It is only when I probe further do I, and they, discover that while they perhaps don’t need consumer surveys, there are large gaps in their decision making toolkit which can only be filled by inputs from various other kinds of research.

Sometimes the roots of that statement lie in the perception of research as an impenetrable jungle in which it is easy to get lost but difficult to find something immediately useful. Researchers, like all other vocations, have their own professional shorthand (also known as “jargon”) which they sometimes use to identify their own kind, and perhaps sometimes to exclude people who are not from the trade. Very often this jungle is created by “research-as-a-foreign-language”, which many executives are just too apprehensive or too busy to tackle.

But before you pick up the axe and start cutting away at the creepers of bi-variate analysis, quota samples, correlation and projective techniques, let me give you my very simple definition of research which I like to keep in mind when I am asked the question: “Do we need research?”

To me, research is the discovery and collation of diverse pieces of information from various sources, so that it can be analysed using multiple tools, to discover relationships, patterns and directions that can be used to draw conclusions and take decisions.

There is a purpose for which we would discover or collate that information. There may be a set of questions that we need to answer. We need to understand what are the various places where that information may lie, the different forms it might take or the different ways in which we might need to look at the information before anything useful emerges.

And, in the business context (as in many other situations), research is meant to come up with something that is applicable and directly beneficial to the business. So once we’ve got most of the answers we were looking for, it is certainly useful to stop and apply the newly gained knowledge rather than try to refine and perfect it to the infinite degree.

If this definition of research frames the context well enough for you, then you’re on the way to doing and using research well.

Despite the wealth of information available today, far too many bad business decisions are being made in the absence of good information, either because the executives have not bothered to carry out research, or have not had the capability or the time to question the research which is being presented to them.

Worse – perhaps because of the abundant data and the ease of access to it – today many business decisions that turn bad are taken on the basis of information that is presented by someone else (“secondary research” in research language), without questioning the validity of the conclusions, the structure of the study, the context in which the data was analysed. It’s almost as if we couldn’t be bothered to think, because someone has apparently already done the thinking for us – especially if it comes from a “reputable source”. (Ok, that might be smart sometimes. So let me give you a more graphic analogy – could you think of an adult bird regurgitating pre-digested food to feed the chicks? Hmm, not so pleasant an image after all, is it?)

Also, research (especially the number-oriented kind) seems too dry for most people to take in. And I think that is one place market researchers could do themselves a huge benefit if they could tell the story – especially a story with a moral at the end. That is, create the picture for the user as to what all of that information means in simple language, and also show the user how to use the information in the context of his situation or problem. Bedtime stories during childhood and good movies in adulthood work well because there is a coherent narrative, a start, a middle that is interesting and an ending that stays in the mind. You can see the relationships between the characters, and the consequences of those relationships. A good research project report could be seen as something very similar.

Having said that, of course, there are also some researchers go far beyond, who would never let boring facts get in the way of a good story! Apparently a letter to the editor of the National Observer (London) as far back as 1891 complained: “there are three kinds of falsehood: the first is a ‘fib,’ the second is a downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics.” (Mark Twain famously paraphrased this in his autobiography as “lies, damned lies and statistics”.)

How many stores can you think of which are located at sites where their chances of success are exactly the same as that of a snowball in hell? How many products or brand launches come to mind, where you wondered, “what is this company thinking?!” Of course, there would have been pre-launch studies which would have showed just how successful these would be, where the stories were possibly based more on imagination than on facts.

For a decision-maker, the only way to tell the difference between bad statistics (lies) and the true story of the market is to make sure that he or she is equipped with multiple sources of information, and various tools with which to analyse them. Also, if you recall my earlier definition of research, the starting point was the definition of the objectives which a research is supposed to fulfil – if the objectives are vague or undefined, so will the research outputs be.

Numbers (quantitative research) and narrative (qualitative research) can tell us many wonderful stories about the market. Some of those stories are highly imaginative “fairy tales” because of a bad study – that shouldn’t lead us to ignore all the others which can direct us to our objectives.

Itches, Cuts and Fractures

(Based on the special address By Devangshu Dutta, Chief Executive, Third Eyesight opening the second day of Prime Source Forum 2009, Hong Kong)

I’d like to thank the organizing team at Prime Source Forum for this opportunity to address this distinguished group of top management from the global apparel and textile industry.

I’ll take you through a brief presentation that’s slightly different in flavour. it’s a little bit of a step back from what we discussed yesterday and will continue to discuss during the day today. It’s looking at the world as we’re seeing it evolve and unfold – discuss things are possibly being seen, heard but not really understood.

I’ve titled my presentation “Itches, Cuts and Fractures” and I’ll explain that seemingly strange title shortly.

First of all, as all of us were discussing yesterday and you must have felt it – there’s a sense of uncertainty; nobody seems to have the answers. Certainly not the experts; the experts got us here. The experts had all the answers till about six months ago and all the answers turned out to be wrong.

Instead, I’d like to take a step back and look beyond numbers, beyond rationales. All explanations and analysis seem to ignore one of the strongest drivers of humankind – emotion. Underneath all the thinking, reasoning, logical layers, it is emotions that actually drive many of our decisions.

When it comes to uncertainty – when it gets to an extreme – we tend to get into a fearful situation. When we don’t know what’s happening, or what’s going to happen, fear is actually the emotion that drives a lot of the decisions. We’re beginning to see a lot of that in the world, around the world in different countries. You might think that this might happen in the more developed economies, others might think that this is likely to happen in the less developed economies, but it is actually happening around the world.

And when it comes to another step further, fear actually causes friction.

 

Devangshu Dutta, Chief Executive, Third Eyesight at Prime Source Forum - Hong Kong, 2 April 2009

As students of Zoology, we learn about how animals respond when they are threatened. In a shifting environment with many potential threats, fear and survival instincts trigger the “fight or flight response”. The animal can either try to fight the threat or to escape.

It is no wonder, then, that ‘friction’ is the first reaction in a world where there is a lot of uncertainty and lots of fear.

And we’re beginning to see the signs of that…if you caught the news yesterday about what’s happened in London while the G-20 leaders get together for the Summit. There’s clearly a lot of anger, a lot of resentment which is bubbling over. You might remember a small news item from a few weeks ago, about somebody’s expensive car being torched by a group of youngsters in western Europe, some of whom had recently lost their jobs.

In uncertain times, not only do we stand up to fight potential threats, we even see many more things as threats than we did earlier.

Let me ask you this question – how many of you remember how the 1930s Great Depression ended? It didn’t end in a “Great Revival”, it actually ended in a World War. I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but people do stupid things when they are under pressure. We all do. That is something that nobody wants, but sometimes your hand is forced and you end up taking actions that you regret later.

This is one of the issues that I think should concern all of us, and I’d like to talk a little later about how to deal with that.

If you look at some of the actions that have happened in the political domain, it’ll be clear how this is affecting what we have discussed in this area – the global trade in apparel and textile products.

Well, we’ve already seen in the last 2-3 months the push-backs coming from different political parties in various countries, raising barriers, taking actions that are essentially “warlike”.

In fact, not very far from here [Hong Kong] American and Chinese ships actually got into aggressive posturing on the high seas. This may have been a political statement from either side. We don’t know what was going on or who was right, but clearly there is conflict arising out of friction.

This could go on to its logical conclusion, or we have the choice of a step back.

When you look at the textile and apparel business, and I mentioned this yesterday, is one of the most international around the world, this becomes critical whether you are looking at sourcing or exploring new markets. How do I know which countries are safe to go to?

A few weeks ago The Economist very helpfully published a table rating 165 countries. I could say it is surprising but it is not. Of the 165 countries rated in 2007 and 2008, only 2 countries showed an improvement from the previous year’s score, 12 showed no change (of which 7 were anyway in the very high risk or high risk category), and the rest all showed an increased vulnerability to economic, social and political unrest.

There is no surprise in the list of the countries at the top of the table or at the bottom of the table. What is surprising is the change in the rating, or the risk outlook. Countries like New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Mauritius, Norway…look at the change…as a percentage the change is very high. These are countries which you would think are fairly stable. So it is not just the already unstable becoming more so, but the potential of friction and conflict rising in relatively stable countries as well.  The map looks redder – indicating higher risk – than it did last year.

So there is clearly a lot of uncertainty – we don’t know when it’s going to end, we don’t know when this recession will bottom out and we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. The situation looks fairly grim and the question is, what do we do?

We talked about the fight response, let’s talk about the flight response. One of the responses we have available is to not fight but to retreat, to protect ourselves.

That leads me to the other form of dealing with a threat – flight or escape. In individual terms this may literally mean running away from a location, in other cases this can mean deploying protection measures to cocoon oneself: a tortoise retracts within its shell, a squid squirts ink, while a hedgehog deploys its prickly quills.

What you’re trying to do is to protect yourself, your mind and emotions included, from all the uncertainty outside the boundaries you define.

Since countries can’t physically run away, governments build walls and engage in protectionism in the form of tariff barriers as well as non-tariff barriers such as procedural hassles in the way of imports, and get into trade fights which are essentially delaying tactics. You don’t really project too much aggression so as to get into a conflict but enough so as to present a barrier.

But – the good news is that there is hope! I believe that, fortunately for us, as Homo sapiens – “thinking humans” – we are not locked into our biological response systems alone. We have a third choice: to discuss and debate, to open a dialogue.

Partners who have turned opponents seem to be talking – there seems to be willingness to sit down at the table and talk things through. How quickly and what result will emerge remains to be seen. It is encouraging to see in this morning’s South China Morning Post a quote from the White House that the USA and China in their meeting yesterday “also agreed to work together and address the economic crisis, resist protectionism and to resume discussion about human rights as soon as possible.”

So, should we wait to see what emerges from these talks in London, and from the policy measures being announced by governments around the world? What do we do, as businesses, as individuals?

Well, I don’t think that freezing into indecision is an option. I don’t think inaction is an option. We have no way of knowing how the market will shape up, how the supply base will emerge, but we need to take steps to address our business concerns. Proactively or reactively we need to take action.

All the companies represented here in this room clearly need to respond to an economic situation that most of its management has never faced and most may never face again.

I have found as I have talked to people in the US in January, in the UK, in Europe, in India that many, many companies are postponing decisions, and the postponement is not rational.  It is not to say that something will happen, and I know the window of time in which that event will happen, therefore I am postponing my decision to that future. They’re just postponing – it’s just “I’ll look into this later”, it’s procrastination – it’s not even postponement of a decision. And that is not an option. I don’t think we can sit tight and wait for this to blow over.

So what should we do? How should we respond – on the sourcing side and on the market side?

I’ll talk about the sourcing side first.

The first thing we need to do, is to break from what one author called “the Tyranny of Or”. For instance, in discussions with colleagues from the industry I’m struck by how much we think along bipolar lines of growth. We prefer things to settle either one way or the other way, for them to be conveniently predictable for us.

I would suggest that rather than debate between extremes, we need to accept that different markets and supply bases will evolve differently. It is not a choice between consolidation or fragmentation, globalization or localization (“could manufacturing move back to Europe, or to the US?”). Should we be strategic or be reactive? There has been discussion about partnership, long-term relationships, but that partnership was shaped in a world very different, many months or years ago when the world was very different. Shouldn’t we react to that change?

Should we look at getting the lowest cost or should we look at speed? Clearly when you look at speed, you would be looking at supply bases that are more capable and potentially more expensive. Should there be a trade-off?

That leads me to a second issue: eggs. That is, risk. There are two philosophies.

One philosophy says: put all your eggs in one basket and watch it very very carefully. The other more common saying advises that we should spread your risk around a little bit and spread the eggs in different baskets.

That’s the thing about risk – you can try and minimize risk, but you also need to try and mitigate risk , diversify risk.

Well, if there is just one thing we need to learn about risk, it is to “diversify, diversify, diversify”. Minimizing risk is only possible to a certain extent. So I would tend to go along with common wisdom here. And even if you believe in the first philosophy, it only works even partially if you have multiple eggs.

Yesterday we talked about a few other things – consolidating the business, conserving cash flows and being careful with our resources, and so on. But it also leads to conservatism. If you look around the room and see the number of black suits around, including the one on the stage, you’ll get a flavor of what I mean. These things are not divorced from each other. We deal with our business and rational decisions through the lens of our emotions. And when things are looking uncertain, we tend to contract, whether to regroup our energies or to protect ourselves – fight or flight which is a very instinctive, natural response.

The thing that we need to remember is that when you look at the fashion and the retail businesses, both of these businesses are fundamentally entrepreneurial in nature. Of course there are corporate businesses as well, but the successful ones promote entrepreneurship within the corporate.

And the thing about entrepreneurs is that there is a certain quality…you could call them mavericks. The night before last there was a conversation about how the average size of manufacturers and brands in this industry is much smaller than in other sectors.  The reason for that is that the entrepreneurial drive actually takes precedence over any corporate diktat. The industry actually allows and encourages entrepreneurs to break off, and go and do their own thing. And that causes fragmentation.

Standing here today, after all that discussion on the sourcing panel yesterday about supply base consolidation, I have to say this: fragmentation, to my mind, in the current scenario is a good thing.  You might call me crazy, but let me give you my reasoning for saying that.

Think about a beanbag – there is a lot of air in between the small pieces of foam, and the bean bag is a lot softer than one single solid piece of foam. The cushioning effect comes from the fact that there is a lot of air in between.

We need the cushion of diversity in the industry at the moment because there is no way – no way – we can predict who will succeed.

Some of the best known names in the industry have disappeared in the last six months. Twelve months ago nobody could have said, with any certainty, that they will disappear. So how do we decide what’s good, who should consolidate with whom, who will survive? We can’t! Nobody has a crystal ball, nobody can identify certain survivors. I would urge you to allow fragmentation to exist rather than just travelling on the consolidation route.

I think supply base consolidation and market consolidation has gone beyond strategic considerations, and almost become a fad. Consolidation does have some logic, but when it comes to risk, diversification is certainly preferable.

The recent crisis in global financial systems dramatically demonstrated not just how risky it is to depend solely on a few large institutions but also how the risk gets multiplied manifold due to these institutions might be interconnected.

In the textile and apparel business, instances such as SARS and the temporary re-introduction of quotas have demonstrated, again and again, the fallacy of over-depending on consolidated supply chains.

Also, too many people believe that the industry worldwide has no choice but to consolidate, that mergers and acquisitions are inevitable, and that large companies will dominate the business from retail to fibre. We forget that we are talking about the fashion industry, not the automotive or aerospace industry. Entrepreneurship here doesn’t cost billions or even millions of dollars.

We also need to look at balancing our approach – everyone has been looking at efficiency, which is a great driver: you strip out extra cost, extra time etc. but what I said about the risk is also true of innovation. You want different sources of innovation. There is not a single company in this room, or around the world in this sector, has the prerogative of being the only innovative company in the world.

As I said, this sector is entrepreneurial, and there is innovation coming from all kinds of people, from all kinds and sizes of companies. There is the need to allow that to happen and we would miss out tremendous innovation opportunities if we consolidate all our eggs into one or a few baskets.

So when you next look at dropping suppliers, think about what capabilities you might be losing or what risks you might be multiplying.

When you look at what that means for the sourcing approach, obviously you do want to reduce costs, when you are dealing with a predictable product, but the share of unpredictable is growing with every passing month.

In uncertain times such as now, and with unpredictable products, the prime driver is to “Catch the Trend” and the focus must be on “Response”. So you need to look at making the buying decision closer to the season and closer to the market. Development lead times must be shrunk and the lead time heavy decisions (such as fabric commitments, lab-dip approvals etc.) must be taken out of the critical path. This may even drive more sourcing from supply bases that are close to the market.

The panel on sourcing talked about lead-time yesterday. A lot of lead time is spent just going back and forth in the supply chain. The only way to handle this is for suppliers to not only become more capable, but to stand up and say “we are more capable”. They need to be able to say, “We don’t just convert fabric into garments, we can also do a lot of other stuff – we can design and develop new product, we can actually look at your sales trends and tell you what products we should be developing together.” This is an art, or a science, that seems to have disappeared (or is disappearing) over the last 15-20 years, as we’ve gone into this, dare I say, management consulting-led ‘strategic sourcing’ drive. The art of being a merchant is not only a retailer’s prerogative, but also something for a supplier to do. You need to be able to read the market, not just respond to a tech-pack, and I think that’s a skill set that needs to be emphasized and encouraged in the current market.

What should buyers do? Certainly, speed to market strategy is at the top of the agenda. Another response to this is to look at sourcing closer to home.

In this environment suppliers in global hubs should certainly be more concerned about reducing their “sketch-to-shop” lead times.

In fact, today buyers may look to proximity for more than just speed-to-market and the concern for clothing miles (“proximity sourcing is environmentally friendly”). Underlying that is the sense of security – that it is closer to home, more in the known territory than unknown, more “predictable”, it’s familiar – “I can manage it better”.

We’re going to see more of that – I don’t think we have a choice. Buyers are human beings, despite what several suppliers sitting in this room might think. Emotions do drive buyers’ decisions as well, and that is one of the emotions that will be driving some of the decisions.

Just a quick word on the market side: both factories and their buyers need to define the value that they bring to the market,

There is a lot of talk about partnership in this sector but, let’s be honest, there isn’t much partnership in this sector around the world. Companies do need to question what is the value they are bringing to their customers, and whether that value is greater than last year.

You can’t take it for granted that the consumer will trade down, or even trade up  to a better product that will last longer. Why should they buy your product?

One of the kneejerk reactions in this kind of a market is to cut down on marketing. There is a need to sustain investment in branding (as targeted to the consumer or within the trade). In fact, if you are a supplier and have not invested in this area so far, I would suggest that the time to sow the seeds is now. Whether it is developing markets, new segments in a developed market, a country that is new to you, it takes a few years to develop a credible market presence. It’s cheaper right now – marketing costs are lower now, people are available, advertising is cheaper; the time to plant the seed is now.

On a different note, I would like to reiterate a particularly significant concern.

The fashion industry has one driving principle – that everything becomes unfashionable. We have what is called planned obsolescence. Without planned obsolescence how do you make next year’s sales? Any consumer business is built on the same principle, but the fashion industry is particularly important because it is very visible and raises the aspirational level very high.

Imagine the population as a cylinder, and imagine aspirations being pulled upwards like a piston. This upward aspirational pull affects not just those who can afford to indulge their aspirations, but also those who can’t. The stress is felt most at the bottom end.

Consumption, aspiration, stress, inclusive growth, inclusive economics

I have to confess, this slide is about 3-years old, when I used it at a conference organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry. I used it again today because the signs that were just becoming visible at the end of 2006 are now on the news every day. The crime and the conflict arising out of this stress is apparent around the world. [Edit.: Articles referencing the original presentation are in the Business Standard of 30 November 2006, and on Third Eyesight’s website.]

What if the fashion industry’s consumers decided to opt-out? What if they said, we don’t want to buy more, we want to buy less? What would the business look like in that environment?

I think we need to start thinking about that now, because many companies will face that in their market. I think there are certain companies and segments in the US market that are already facing that pressure, and we will find that happening across the world.

Our business models are geared towards outdating merchandise in a matter of weeks or days or hours, and selling more to replace stuff that is still fairly serviceable. What if consumers got into the mode of conservation that many people in this room are already getting into: that “I need to conserve my resources”. Let’s not forget, we’re all consumers. Let’s looking at our spending behaviour; is it the same as last year? I would guarantee you, 80-90% of the people here would say that they have made some cutback since last year.

So how do we get out of this situation? Well, the situation is out there in the market and we can’t just get out of it, so we need to deal with it.

The manufacturing of apparel products has been and remains a great vehicle to spread income and wealth to the financially less well-off people. Also, the textile and apparel industry has such low barriers to entry that I believe it is also one of the greatest vehicles to promote entrepreneurship and self-reliance.

 

 

The reason I shared that video is to explain the strange title of my talk.

I believe that many of us are experiencing the equivalent of an itch or maybe a scratch. Some have a cuts and bruises, and a few have fractures. But the fact is that we’re not dead yet. Most of us have lost much less than David Hoffman, whose presentation you just saw on the Ted.com video.

Let’s not forget: this industry has faced downturns before and has come out of them; it will again. Meanwhile we need to get our heads down and go through with doing whatever we are supposed to be doing.

Someone said: this crisis is too good to waste. There is too much opportunity in this crisis to not use. We can make changes that would be difficult in the best of the times. In the best of the times you’re going strong, everything is going well, there is no motivation to change.

The kind of transitions that look tough at other times, those investments that you can’t make at other times – this is the time to make them.

Mark Twain said, “If you feel like you’re going through hell, just keep going.” And I think that’s what we need to do.

Thank you.

Eternal Hope to Reality

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.

Creating & Managing Lifestyle and Fashion Brands – Third Eyesight Knowledge Series© Workshop – 23 August 2008, New Delhi, India

The Third Eyesight Knowledge Series© comprises of workshops designed and developed to help functional heads, line managers and executives refresh and upgrade functional and product expertise.  

Third Eyesight’s next workshop in this series is focussed on Creating & Managing Lifestyle and Fashion Brands.

 

IS THIS FOR YOU?

This workshop will be useful to you, if you are 

  • a brand owner wanting to look at growing your scale
  • a manufacturer wanting to add value to your products and to gain additional margins
  • a retailer wanting to invest in your own brands / private label
  • a brand manager looking to expand the footprint of your brand over more products
  • an entrepreneur wanting to launch a new brand
  • an investor who wants to understand how brands create value 
  • an exporter or buying office professional wanting to understand your customers and markets better
  • a brand owner and believe that your business is undervalued
  • a designer wanting to scale the business beyond yourself
  • a marketing or sales professional looking to add value to your skill-base
  • a service provider working with the lifestyle and fashion sector
  • a teacher or researcher looking at understanding the process of brand development

THE WORKSHOP CONTENT

This workshop will help participants in understanding:

  • the basics of lifestyle brands and their positioning in the lifestyle consumer goods industry
  • the development of the brand ethos
  • how to translate the brand intangibles into reality,
  • how to attract and retain new customers in the competitive environment, and
  • how to sustain and nurture the brand value over a period of time

REGISTRATIONS

Click Here or Call +91 (124) 4293478 or 4030162

Textile Facts & Fabric Sourcing – Third Eyesight Knowledge Series© Workshop – 4-5 July 2008, New Delhi, India

The Third Eyesight Knowledge Series© comprises of workshops designed and developed to help functional heads, line managers and executives refresh and upgrade functional and product expertise.  

The Soft Goods Series is specially focused at the Clothing, Textile and the Fashion Industry. Within this, the Textile Facts & Fabric Sourcing module is aimed at developing a working knowledge of fabrics commonly used by the apparel industry; identifying the domestic and international source markets for these textiles; understanding the costing of textiles based on the value add and finishing processes;  and familiarizing participants with the common and varied end uses of these fabrics.

                 Dates:                4th & 5th July 2008

                 Duration:           10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

                 Venue:               PHD Chamber of Commerce
                                           August Kranti Marg, New Delhi.

                 Workshop Fee:   Rs. 5,500 per participant (plus service tax)

Other modules in the Series cover topics related to Product Development, Supply Chain Management, Merchandise Buying and Planning, Business Communication and Fashion Brand Management.  The workshops have been designed as an integrated series. However, each module is complete and self contained and participants have the flexibility to select independent modules based on their training requirement.

Participant profile: Production Managers and Coordinators, Merchandisers, Retail buyers and Product Developers, Buying House Merchandisers.

For further information please contact us at +91 (124) 4293478, 4030162.