26 December 2019
Despite the ongoing slowdown of the economy, Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo has bet big on the Indian market that is both vast and diverse with a young population that is exceptionally talented, ambitious and diligent. Uniqlo opened its first-ever store in India’s national capital, one of its largest worldwide, becoming the most recent global brand to take a plunge into this huge but a considerably tough market.
Speaking on entering a new market like India at this time, Tadashi Yanai, Founder and Chairman of Uniqlo and President and Chief Executive Officer of Fast Retailing Group says, “I'm not worried. The economic slowdown is cyclical. Fast Retailing has long wished to open stores in India, in view of the tremendous potential of a nation of 1.3 billion people... (with) an average age of 27, that generates annual GDP growth of 7 per cent. Launching ourselves in this market is a step ahead towards globalisation. We aim to enhance lifestyles in India by creating more innovative apparel that draws on the nation's distinct culture and traditions. We wish to contribute to India's economic development in the process.”
India has been home to a number of international as well as successful Indian fashion brands and while each of them is fighting against the other to grab a piece of this ever growing market, Uniqlo feels that the timing for its entry was apt and the brand need not operate in accordance to other brands but rather bring to the people what they have been yearning for – quality product and excellent service.
“For us, this was the perfect time to enter the Indian market because I think there are three components which fall in place right now. Firstly, the consumer taste and evolution for accessibility of our philosophy; we are a very simple brand but offer high quality. Secondly, I think the Government policies have been a great enabler for us, so much so that we applied for entering India in January 2018 and within only 20 months, we are here with our first store. Also, the Government’s move to relax the FDI norms and to liberalise its single-brand retail policy will enable the company to accelerate growth in India. All these components – our readiness, consumers’ readiness and the micro-macro economics – facilitated our entry to India,” informs Shantanu, Head of Marketing, Uniqlo India.
Uniqlo’s product range carries a full line-up of LifeWear for men, women, kids and babies. This includes iconic Uniqlo products such as the innovative and functional Ultra-Light Down (ULD) and Heattech garments, as well as products featuring premium fabric like denim, cashmere, extra fine merino and more.
Many special partnerships are on display, such as The Kurta Collection in collaboration with Delhi-based designer Rina Singh, Global collaboration lines including Ines de la Fressange and Hana Tajima, as well as the Uniqlo U collection created by the UNIQLO R&D Centre under Artistic Director Christophe Lemaire.
One of the special product features is the UT section which offers a range of graphic T-shirts that are drawn by artists and graphic designers from around the world. With the UTme! service, customers can create personalised T-shirts with their own designs or with a range of Uniqlo stamps, including designs featuring tennis legend and Uniqlo Global Brand Ambassador Roger Federer.
The Japanese Life Wear brand, which operates around 2,200 stores across 23 countries, opened its first-ever India store spread over a total retail space of close to 35,000 sq.ft. in Ambience Mall, Delhi. Spread over three floors, the newly opened store’s interior designs vary by floor, moving from soothing elements to natural materials that integrate the Japanese and Indian aesthetics. In addition, the new store presents a large mural that captures the essence of daily life in the capital created by illustrator Dattaraj M. Naik, while local artist Johnson Kshetrimayum has worked with embroidery craftspeople to create an installation using Uniqlo lambswool.
Uniqlo gives special emphasis to consumer experience. The brand hired a number of employees from India last year for its new stores in the country, who underwent extensive training in Philippines for one year.
Uniqlo is in India for a long haul and has long-term plans for expansion in the country. The brand’s immediate plans are to open more stores in Delhi-NCR; underlining its commitment to the Indian market and is a major step forward for its global business expansion.
The company’s plans for the Indian market are an expansive growth in terms of retail presence as well as an array of innovative collection in line with its philosophy of Life Wear. The brand is betting big on Indian Government’s liberalised single-brand retail policy to accelerate its growth plans in the country – both on its own and through partner-led supply chain and local sourcing.
A key component of Uniqlo in India will be ‘Design in India, Make in India, Sell in India and Export from India’. The brand is yet to finalise on its online strategy but will definitely take the e-commerce route in India in the times to come.