Following the tradition

Traditional regional apparel brands are now following the modern retail trends.
Their ancestors were pioneers in creating retail trends and they have carried forward the legacy with panache. Indian traditional retail is on an upsurge. Most regional/traditional retailers have chosen to expand and venture other territories in the country only now, though they were established almost half a century back. So what was it that held them back then and what is it that has motivated them now?

A trendy tradition

From Kanchipuram to California, Nalli, the Rs 475-crore silk saree brand, has carved a niche for itself. Starting out from a small room in Kanchi with a single loom to running a chain of 22 branches, the journey for Nalli is almost as smooth as the silk it has been retailing since past eight decades. However, Nalli got into organised retailing only with the advent of third generation. Third generation entrepreneur Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar, took Nalli to new heights.


“I thought of expansion and organised retailing because I was excited about the challenge of getting handloom fabrics into the world market. When I began, nobody was coming to India to buy. Also, as our life depends on the total satisfaction of the customers, so we work towards it. While serving the customers, the aspect of competition does peep in, of course to better our services! We cannot remain unperturbed by the current trend. Not to mention the popularity and demand of our products in other regions. So, expansion was but natural. However, we don’t just believe in blindly following others rather we expand by courtesy, true statement about the product and pleasant treatment to the customers,” says Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar, owner of Nalli.


When John Bissell established Fabindia he had a two-fold vision for his company – while on one hand he perceived it as a vehicle to market the vast and diverse handloom traditions of India, he also firmly believed that this marketing enterprise would result in sustained rural employment. His beliefs had their roots in the writings of stalwarts like M. K Gandhi, E.F. Schumacher and Romesh Thapar who advocated the cause of rural employment, which could be achieved with minimum capital and the least environmental impact.

“We don’t believe in resting on our laurels. We have to think differently, that is the main focus of our plans. Initial days went in building the brand. Next step obviously was to leverage the brand equity. Hence, venturing other sectors, expansions were the obvious choice and a part of progression. I want us to be in a place where Fabindia is woven into your life. If you want a lamp, you think of us; if it is breakfast jam you want, you reach out to us; if you want to buy something nice to gift, you should head out to the nearest Fabindia store,” says William Bissell, Managing Director, Fabindia Overseas Private Limited.


Going steady!

Nalli operates three formats. First is Nalli, which stocks silk sarees, dress materials and stitched garments for women, men and kids. Second is Nalli Next, which has slightly higher-end furnishings, apparel & accessories for women. And the last format is Lavanya Nalli. Nalli has 22 branches, including two overseas (California in the US and Singapore). Nalli is now gearing up to enter Ahmedabad with a 30,000 sq ft showroom. It also expects to cross Rs 500 crore in revenues this fiscal. Nalli has added a ready-to wear line and a furnishings division to its repertoire.


Fabindia has 111 outlets across 41 cities in India, with six stores abroad. The company also provides online B2C shopping facilities to customers across 33 countries, including India, while continuing to export the distinctive, hand crafted products.


Over the years, these traditional brands retained their original ethos and purpose. Even with the advent of mall culture they have succeeded in walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the modern retail and in creating an identity that is based on the intrinsic value of goods developed and sourced from thousands of artisans located across the country. They can aptly be called modernly traditional brands! 

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