How this lingerie brand is celebrating the evolving persona of the Indian woman
There was a time when Indian women who wanted to pamper themselves with stylish intimate wear had limited options. Either they had to stock up on colourful and fancy lingerie on the chance foreign vacation, or depend on the generosity of close friends or family members who were NRIs to shop for them.
Now neither of these presented the ideal scenario, due to mismatch in tastes, preferences and, of course, the main issue of size and fit. The Indian women’s body type was different and so opting for lingerie that was not designed keeping these differences in mind meant that she had to suffer discomfort. Or she had to settle for wearing local brands that did not offer much by way of quality or style.
But today, the young Indian woman has ample choices when it comes to choosing lingerie that’s stylish, comfortable and lets her be confident about herself. And, with brands such as Wacoal, which extensively studied the Indian market and consumers in order to come up with products that are just right for them, she no longer needs to compromise.
The Indian intimate wear market is expected to be worth $6.5 billion by 2023. Today, the market has matured and evolved, thanks to a number of factors, not limited to a change in the mindset of the young Indian women and the e-commerce revolution. According to Mr. Nobuhiro Katsumata, CEO of Wacoal India, “The upper middle class is growing rapidly with annual GDP growth of over seven percent, followed by an increase in disposable income. In fact, the latter is growing faster than GDP growth. While actual consumption is price-conscious, purchase tendency for premium and international new added-value items is also increasing. In addition, women’s purchasing power is on an upward trajectory as women continue to advance in society. We believe this change in the market will accelerate in the next 10 years, and we see it as a great opportunity for Wacoal's market expansion.”
Looking beyond just glamour to focus on fit and comfort
The global brand, with a presence in over 70 countries across the world, entered the Indian market in 2015 and since then has established itself as a brand known to marry both comfort and style.
According to Mr. Katsumata, Wacoal’s success stems from the fact that the company took the time to understand the Indian consumer’s specific requirements. “Fits, quality and sizes are extremely varied, and launching products in Asian sizes will not address their concerns. Based on our research and development, we understood the Indian market needs and introduced products to enhance the comfort factor.” The result of this approach? They have a high rate of repeat customers. Since their product is one that every woman uses on a daily basis, they decided to focus on getting the fit and comfort factor right. “Instead of pursuing a glamorous appearance and sexiness, we pursue excellent supportability with unique materials and designs based on our research about the Indian consumer. We are also beginning to develop exclusive merchandise for the Indian market and plan to expand this in the coming years,” says Mr. Katsumata.
Quality consciousness backed by extensive research
Today the Indian lingerie market is seeing intense competition with both global as well as home-grown brands. Commenting on this, Mr. Katsumata says, “Many known international brands carry out their planning and design in-house, but outsource production to external manufacturers and mainstream contractors. Wacoal, on the other hand, has its own manufacturing units all over the world where we produce over 80 percent of our designs. We achieve high quality and high performance with this balanced mix of our own production units and research undertaken by Wacoal’s Human Science Research Centre. This is our biggest strength and differentiates us from other brands.”
Currently, they have 18 exclusive stores across five metros -- Mumbai, Pune, Ghaziabad, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore. In the pipeline are plans to set up 25 exclusive stores in more cities by the end of FY 2019 and 50 exclusive stores by the end of FY 2020. In addition, they also plan to add 30 outlets within departmental stores, bringing the total to 80 stores across India. By the year 2021, they plan to take the total number of stores up to 150, with 70 exclusive stores and 80 outlets in departmental stores.
Enabling women to be their own authentic selves
Apart from this, the company also plans to focus on expanding their range of offerings while continuing their focus on enabling women to be as comfortable and confident in their own skin and experiment with their style. The company’s philosophy is that every woman around the world shares the same thought: “I want to be beautiful”. Beauty has a particular personality as defined by each country or region, and differs from woman to woman, and Wacoal aims to address each woman’s needs with sincerity, says Mr. Katsumata.
Talking about the concept and inspiration behind the company’s autumn-winter collection, he explains, “For the longest time the Indian woman has been seen in a certain stereotyped light as being flawless and perfect at everything. However, now Indian women are slowly displaying their diverse, true colours in front of the world. Everything, from their relationships, desires, expressions, clothes, shoes and career choices, are bolder and more aspirational. As the women evolve, so do the definitions they use as identities. And this is our definition of the Wacoal woman -- being yourself is what brings out the real you.”