India: A land of opportunities for fashion brands

Having clothed the likes of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Queen Mathilde of Belgium on their recent state visit to India, it is not surprising that Dongre was one of the speakers at the Global Entrepreneurship summit in Hyderabad

December 15, 2017

Increasing levels of disposable income and internet penetration is motivating consumers to invest in good brands

Consumer behaviour and preferences is shifting as buyers adapt to “good design”, and relate to strong Indian brands

India is a land of opportunities for international brands owing to huge population with good spending habit and brand awareness

Over the years, several international brands have ventured into the Indian market but not all have cracked the success mantra

She has successfully crafted an indigenous fashion brand that is stirring up a storm all the way in SoHo, New York. Anita Dongre, who runs one of India’s arguably most famous fashion brand houses with over 300 outlets, symbolises the true spirit of entrepreneurship in the country. Having clothed the likes of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and Queen Mathilde of Belgium on their recent state visit to India, it is not surprising that Dongre was one of the speakers at the Global Entrepreneurship summit in Hyderabad. A quick chat with this enterprising business woman stoking Western interest in Indian craftsmanship.

What is driving the recent growth of fashion brands in India?

The rapidly growing Indian economy is turning out to be one of the most promising markets for mid to high-end fashion brands. Currently, it is witnessing a major shift in consumer behaviour and preferences, as buyers have started to understand “good design”, and relate to strong Indian brands. This factor, combined with a growing sense of ‘brand-consciousness’ are recent developments driving the growth of fashion brands in India. Moreover, increasing levels of disposable incomes and internet penetration is motivating consumers to invest in good brands.  

A legion of international fashion brands such as Muji, Innamorata, North Face, Massimo Dutti entered India this year, what is the potential for these brands in the country?

Over the years, a large number of international brands have ventured into the Indian market but not all were able to crack the success mantra. They need to understand the Indian mindset, and tailor their brands according to market conditions. India is a very different market from the rest of the world and we are very diverse. Tastes and colour preferences of consumers in eastern India differ from the south or the west. However, having said that, India is a land of opportunities for international brands primarily due to its huge population with good spending habit and brand awareness.

Angel investors are displaying a lot of interest in fashion focused startups, what are the opportunities in this sector?

Indian fashion retail market is still largely unorganised, and the phenomenon of consumers preferring branded apparel over un-branded one is fast catching on. This, coupled with easier, low cost and personalised access to consumers via digital media, not only lower the barriers to enter the market, but also provide quite lucrative returns to new fashion focused startups. Hence it is only natural that startups, which face lower risks of failure and promise high returns and chance of success, is attracting the attention of seed investors.

Your outlook for investments in the Indian fashion brand sector in 2018 and beyond?

The trend of angel investment in the fashion sector is still at a nascent stage, and these investments have largely been consolidated between the larger players. Once the investors get to the next level of funding, involving smaller players operating in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities as well, we shall see investments in this sector burgeoning.

Your experience at the GES summit?

It was a great experience and I got to meet a lot of like-minded people. It was especially invigorating to interact with students from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).

What were your key challenges in developing a strong indigenous fashion brand and how did you address them?

I have always designed from instinct. My brand, AND, started 20 years ago because I realised, like me, hundreds of women entering the professional world wanted access to clothes they saw on their travels abroad. Whether it was a crisp white shirt or a linen dress, I focussed on designing western silhouettes for myself and the women I knew. It’s important that India has a strong design voice and all my four sub brands truly feature what India really is.
All my research comes from interacting with the women who come into my store. I started small and worked very hard to build four successful brands under House of Anita Dongre by making work my religion. The secret to my success is hard work, dedication and belief in myself.

What is the response to your new store in New York? What is our inherent advantage in a competitive western market? 

I am deeply interested in reviving, sustaining and empowering Indian crafts and textiles. So, I launched Grassroot, a sustainable and eco-conscious label with a presence in New York. I am overwhelmed by the response, it is being appreciated for helping bring jobs back to women in rural India, while celebrating Indian craftsmanship. With all the love we have received in New York this year, evidently there is a clear place for India in the competitive western world. I believe, our advantage is that western women acknowledge our great heritage and love Indian culture and craft.

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