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India’s textile industry is one of the oldest industries in the Indian economic history, dating back many centuries. Indian fashion has been widely accepted by a global audience, and vice-versa, as we clearly see western fashion being harmonized into the subcontinent. Fashion in India is one of the fastest growing industries with many domestic and international events and shows being held every season. According to the National Investment Promotion & Facilitation Agency, 45 million people are directly employed by the textile industry, and another 60 million are indirectly employed by the same. India’s diversity also gives it a very diverse sense of fashion, which is clearly visible if one moves around the country from one state to another. Global market statistics show that India is currently closing in on being the sixth largest fashion market in the world. This is a very attractive scenario for many of the international super brands in the realm of fashion, fabrics and textiles. Based on projections by market experts from Statista Business Data Platform, it is predicted that the Indian textile and apparel industry would reach $190 Billion by 2026.
India, with its large population comprising largely of young adults, is a very attractive area for brands and companies. According to an article by McKinsey & Company, it is expected that the annual income of the addressable population will increase three-fold in the next 4 years. Ergo creating an entirely new bracket of consumers. Given these statistics, it is of no surprise that India will welcome over 300 new stores of international brands within the next few years. However, the Indian market is still very complex, providing challenges to every opportunity. International brands such as Pucci and Etro didn’t last very long in the Indian Market. This is mostly due to the fact that many brands don’t account for the complexity of the Indian wardrobe. Traditional Indian wear still accounts for 75% of women’s apparels sold in India. Although the sale of western clothing is expected to increase, it is projected that 65% of traded women’s apparels would still be of traditional Indian garments.
The fashion houses that do thrive in India, cater to the needs of the population, keeping in mind the diverse nature of the country, and respond to the complexities of the Indian wardrobe. This often leads to partnerships with local designers, to grasp a local perspective, and creating items unique to the market. While luxury brands often tailor their items to match the market, they must be ever so nimble if they wish to have a good rapport with the Indian consumer.
Technology also plays a pivotal role in the growth of the apparel and fabrics industry. According to the IAMAI-Kantar Icube report (Internet and Mobile Association of India); in 2009, India had 45 million internet users. This number increased to 460 million in 2018, and is expected to reach 900 million by 2025. This increase in the number of internet users directly creates a new section of consumers, bringing fashion and brands to a whole new bracket of the population. According to e-commerce leaders, the market will incline towards “personalization and curation based on personal taste”. This is entirely made possible through the use of digital services. The online market is growing at an unprecedented pace, and given the recent state of affairs with regards to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, online markets and e-commerce hubs are currently the new norm. It would appear that Indian retailers can use this to their absolute benefit.
The digitalization of our markets and services can remove many of the logistical problems that have plagued India, given India’s poor quality of infrastructure. Moving to a digital space also helps retailers reach more consumers. The internet is also a great way to learn about new fashion trends and brands. India is home to one of the world’s largest IT sectors, and hence a digital realm for business and markets is not so farfetched. Many fashion houses have already moved towards a virtual experience. Virtual fashion shows and digital clothing hubs are already generating gainful traction in the industry. According to the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), one of the main priorities is to enable designers to participate in digital fashion weeks. Many Indian designers have a significant number of NRI audiences. Having virtual fashion shows helps designers stay connected with this consumer base. Design education itself too has changed over the course of the pandemic and lockdown. Fashion and Design Institutes are moving into the digital realm in larger and larger numbers. The Indian Institute of Art and Design (IIAD) has already started virtual showcases for their students, which not only helps their students, but also helps recruiters in these distressing times. The adopted pedagogy has also proven well equipped for the change to digital markets. Online classes are already preparing young designers for a digital future.
Sustainability is another factor that brands and companies must consider before entering the Indian market. Many big fashion brands are known for not following sustainable models of development and this has proven ill for the ecology and environment. Many brands use animal products and skins, which has come under a lot of backlash. Many brands have lately come to prefer to make their items in India, due to the availability of cheap labor, while eluding stringent environmental regulations. If international brands wish to make their mark on the Indian market, they must make sure to use sustainable methods of production.
India is home to 1.3 billion people, and hence environmental degradation is something not to be taken lightly. Although awareness about environmental degradation is not at a level we hoped for, there is a push, both from government and private sectors, for more sustainable and eco-friendly methods of production and supply. “Fast fashion” has been very successful in delivering consumers with good fashion trends; however, it has come at a great price to the environment. The “fast” aspect of consumption is a leading factor in the fashion industry’s massive carbon footprint. It is of utmost importance that we deal with these prevailing issues. Also, fast fashion has left out many local designers and artisans, who frequently find their business running under due to the availability of cheap alternative fashion trends. Thrift shopping as an alternative to fast fashion has gained some popularity among younger Indians, making for some amount of sustainability in the area of fast fashion.
To summarize, the future of the Indian fashion industry looks bright. However, one must always be aware of the many levels of production and supply. International brands must keep in touch with the Indian mindset if they wish to leave a mark in the great Indian market. Moreover, it is of utmost importance that the companies adopt sustainable methods of production if they wish to cater to such a large market. The Indian market has proven that it is ready for global fashion, given that their needs are catered to. Furthermore, the Indian consumer is ever so diverse, that brands must have an in-depth idea of what it means to be “Indian”.
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