Japanese apparel retailer forays into India, aims to present Indian wear to global audience

The Japanese global apparel retailer UNIQLO launched its debut store in India on Friday at Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj in New Delhi. With this, the retailer is now present in 24 countries.

The company’s founder and chairman Tadashi Yanai was in Delhi for the launch. The brand is a subsidiary company of the Fast Retailing Group, the world’s third largest apparel retailer with global sales of nearly $19.17 billion for the financial year ending August 31, 2018.

Yanai says that currently UNIQLO will only focus on Delhi. “We first want to do a good job in New Delhi and make sure that customers here are happy and support us; after that we will take the next step of exploring other cities.” The company will launch two more stores in Delhi-NCR this year.

The cautious approach could turn out to be counter-intuitive as most brands today adopt a comprehensive online and offline retail strategy. However, Yanai feels otherwise.

“India is not a country but a large continent. Each state is different from one another. If we go to other states without understanding the market dynamics in the debut state, we might be at a loss. Therefore, we would like to first focus on Delhi and do a good research on the continent of India.”

Being a global apparel brand, Yanai says, he will also look at taking Indian wear to the global audience.

“Some of the Indian wear may have global appeal because it is comfortable and backed by a long history. Indian clothes do well in the Indian market but unfortunately not many are aware of them outside the country. We often take our traditions for granted. Coming from outside, our third party perspective will help in uncovering this treasure,” He adds.

UNIQLO has collaborated with local designer Rina Singh to develop a kurta label that is contemporary and has a global appeal. He informs that they will introduce the kurta line that will consist of tunics, dresses, pants and stoles. The company will take it to other markets where it is present. The company is looking for more such long-term partnerships with Indian designers.

“We have to make sure that we find right designers willing to work together with us for many consecutive years and will have a global appeal.”

For UNIQLO, e-commerce is not on the cards yet, although it does have a website with information on the latest collection. “A lot of e-commerce players are present in the market but not many are successful. We want to take time to educate ourselves with the market trend before we launch an online store. Online business will become part of the infrastructure in near future.”

The company will start manufacturing their apparels in India itself within next three years.

UNIQLO will compete with global single fast fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M in India. “We are not a fast fashion brand but a slow one. We focus on basics that are in line with global trends. We care about people’s everyday life. That is our USP,” says Yanai.

UNIQLO started out as a single store in Hiroshima in 1984. With 2,200 stores across 24 markets, it is Japan’s leading speciality retailer now.


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