Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, probably one of the oldest shopping markets in India, is also home to ‘first copies’ of glamorous Bollywood outfits. There is no escape from shopkeepers out to convince passers-by to pick one of the apparently ‘star-endorsed’ and almost certainly bling-spangled clothes on the display.
At Mumbai’s Fashion Street, vendors often narrate stories of legendary sportsmen who played in the cricket grounds around the corner. Which leads to a none-too-subtle pitch for their ‘branded’ sportswear collections.
Such retail tactics have a long history in star-obsessed India. But it’s only of late that the stars themselves have made a play for the action. It seems an obvious move for celebrities to harness their own equity rather than let some entirely unrelated trader use their name or image to make a quick buck. Which perhaps explains why many of India’s biggest names from Bollywood and sports, have turned fashion entrepreneurs. The investments are disproportionately skewed towards the apparel business.
Beyond ‘personality’ marketing
When Puma signed on Virat Kohli early this year, multiple-media reports pegged the deal at Rs. 100 crore, making Kohli the first Indian sportsperson to have a contract of this nature. Puma India D Abhishek Ganguly dismisses this as “pure media speculation.” He explains the collaboration, right from the beginning, was always also focused on creating an interesting product line-up. One8, inspired by the cricketer’s jersey number, is a collection of athleisure, launched in collaboration with Puma. Team Puma claims to have rifled through the cricketer’s closet before cracking the design brief. “Currently, Kohli is the most marketable personality in this county but that doesn’t make our work very easy. Understanding his perspective becomes extremely important for a collaboration of this nature,” adds Ganguly.
Anjana Reddy, the founder of Universal Sportsbiz, who launched Kohli’s Wrogn, Shraddha Kapoor’s Imara and actor Kriti Sanon’s Ms. Taken, is of the opinion that identifying the target audience, and focusing on marketing principles is crucial. “The celebrity appeal helps with both credibility as well as discoverability. Disruptive marketing and their personalities magnify the brand,” she says.
Why go online first…
As per EY Analysis, data gathered from January to March 2017, India’s retail sector is set to continue its double-digit growth on the back of rising disposable incomes, rapid urbanisation and the growth of organised and internet retailing. Fashion (apparel and footwear), the largest segment, is projected to grow at a healthy CAGR of 13% during 2015-2020 from Rs. 4 trillion in 2015. Baqar Naqvi, business director, Wazir Advisors, points out that online retail currently contributes about 5%-6% to the total apparel market, but this is expected to grow to about 30% over the next decade. Online retailers are pushing the category, driven by higher margins and buying frequency, and are also credited with, for better or worse, coming up with a 24/7/365 sale cycle.
Considering the accessibility e-commerce could bring to the table and the expense involved in physical distribution, actors like Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, rolled out brands, HRX and All About You, respectively, on fashion-portal Myntra first. HRX co-founder and CEO Afsar Zaidi, believes “There is a heightened interest in the everyday lives of celebrities because today there is easy access to their fashion choices and lifestyle through proliferating social media presence.”
While Naqvi admits all channels will eventually have to be deployed, he believes, “To start off, online is a great medium to test the market with minimal risk.”
…When you can go offline first?
And yet there’s evidence that an offline first approach can also yield rich pidends: depending on, among other things, the star running the show. Among the first actors to make a dent in the apparel space was Salman Khan with Being Human. Today, casual wear products from the brand can be spotted across 600 points-of-sale globally, with tier II and III markets becoming a core focus area. An e-commerce platform is also on the cards. In February this year, Rheson, launched by Sonam Kapoor and her sister Rhea, also took the traditional route first via
. Their collection was soon part of the store’s e-commerce offering.
After a few months, the duo decided to be present on Amazon as well. Govind Shrikhande, customer care associate and managing director, Shoppers Stop, observes, ever since the 80s and 90s, superstar styles have morphed into fullblown megatrends. So, celebrities’ impact on fashion is undeniable. He also points out, “Our customer insight revealed that while people want to emulate their favourite celebrities’ style, it was often inaccessible or unaffordable.”
Hence, Rheson’s next top priority is to penetrate the brand across the country, especially in the tier II and III markets, establishing the fact that the products are affordable. However, the key challenge is building a retail business rather than just a brand, says Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader, consumer products and retail, EY.
He adds, “The other challenge for the celebrities would be to keep up the creative interest and launch new products/designs that excite consumers in parallel with their other professional obligations.”
Ashish Mishra, managing director Interbrand highlights a fundamental challenge the celeb-driven brands need to address: “They ought to be careful about everything from a mismatch between their personal brand equities and the segment choice drivers, to absence of clarity, focus and operational plans. Understanding a clear market need gap and managing their brand equity is important,” he says.