September 11, 2010

Branded Desires: Hosiery & Fashion Apparel industry of Ludhiana

Punjab has several well established hosiery & apparel manufacturing companies that have been struggling to go up the value chain by creating & establishing a clear brand identity for their products. They understand the financial benefits of such a strategy in terms of higher margins & customer loyalty. There have been several discussions organized by various stakeholders in the process to enlighten the entrepreneurs about the value of investing in brand building but nothing noticeable has been achieved till now. On the contrary many established brands have lost their equity to poor management of the brand.

Ludhiana industry has been serving as sourcing base for many global brands for couple of decades now but it has failed to create a brand of the same stature.  I remember one such company brining an international sports brand to India but utterly failed to market it successfully.  Why can’t those companies produce a brand when they can manufacture for the globally recognized brands?  Let’s try find out answers.

Let’s agree that Ludhiana hosiery & apparel manufacturers have the requisite technical knowledge & technology to produce great products for the most demanding buyers globally. But same could not be said about the marketing skills & knowledge.

Foremost challenge is the lack of knowledge about the product & business. You must be wondering why I made such an acerbic remark. Well please approach a hosiery & fashion apparel manufacturer and ask them if they are in FMCG business? The answer would be an emphatic no! Its lack of formal knowledge about the business that is keeping them away from a real success they deserve.  Since they do not understand that they are in FMCG business therefore they do not follow the accepted principles of the business. They continue to run the business on their gut feel without investing in knowledge systems crucial for competing in global markets. An FMCG company requires a certain level of regular investments in marketing to maintain & grow the consumer base.

Most companies in Ludhiana tried using services of leading advertising agencies but could not keep them engaged due to various factors. The national level advertising agencies also failed in delivering convincing marketing plans & demonstrating the value of retaining them at such high costs. They agencies have a view that they were not given freedom and time needed to create strong brands in this segment.  After trying to work out with agencies the industry went into retail mode after a gap of certain time.

Ludhiana hosiery & apparel industry is closely connected socially and otherwise. Therefore if some tactic seems to working for one player others immediately follow onto the bandwagon.  Marketing requires strong differentiation any imitation would sure end up in a medium term loss.  After trying with the advertising industry most players took to retailing in almost undifferentiated manner.  With the exception of one player almost everyone else took to multibrand  tier two towns route with advertising that worked against the very nature of branding.

If an advertisement promises a 65% discount, would you believe that? If another one declares get 4 products on purchase of 2, could it build trust & loyalty in the market. A serious business would never treat their customers with such utter disdain.  So if everything is wrong what could the industry do to create a true brand from the land of hosiery & apparel commodities?

If Colorplus & Hidesign can do it despite global competition, a Monte Carlo or Duke too can also create big brands. Firstly, focus on creating an entirely new brand for a small market segment. Invest in branding as per FMCG lines. Pay attention to packaging as it forms a crucial parameter of success in this industry.  Devise a distribution plan based on the consumer than the supply side. I have always believed that sooner or later we will have a brand from Ludhiana that will conquer the markets again.  Lastly, Hire outside professional help from an outside agency like us to keep checking the feedback required to keep you on the correct course

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