World’s leading cotton brand, Cotton USA, promoted by Cotton Incorporated, was launched recently in India. On the occasion, Retailer Media spoke to Justin Coates, Manager, Market Analysis, Cotton Incorporated and Renu Aggarwal, Principal Consultant, Wazir Advisors- advisory firm to Cotton USA in India.
Why has Cotton USA entered so late in India?
Renu Aggarwal- There are different reasons and different stages. Whenever you launch a brand, you need to do a lot of preparatory work for that, similarly, for Cotton USA to enter India, lot of preparation had to be done.
We had to work at overall industry level. Cotton Council of India (CCI) is there in the Indian market for more than 10 years now and since that time it has been doing a lot of education and promotion around generic cotton. So the message has to reach to the people that cotton is rich, cool and premium fabric. Even all these organised retail activities have started in India over the last 10 years only, before that, there was not much of organised retail and at that time there was not much of consumerism and people were not spending that much amount. The market was more of ethnic wear, people used to wear cotton, but still they didn’t understand the premium cotton.
Similarly, at our side, the overall effort was towards educating the market, educating the consumer, promoting the use of USA cotton at industry level. Once the industry grows, everyone can take a bigger pie from it, that’s where our effort has gone into.
Over the last two to three years, the effort was to reach out mills and manufacturers so that we start developing Cotton USA yarn or fabric. If you directly reach out to brands and retailers, and then there is no backend ready, then the procurement will not happen. There will be no business in the absence of supply chain. So we had work on supply chain part to put in place. Now, we are launching the trademark of Cotton USA.
What kind of opportunities do you see in Indian market?
Renu -We see there is an opportunity to go to retail and educate the consumer. There are some differences over the types of cotton and we can speak to the consumer about the same. We can educate consumer a little bit more about what cotton can do for that.
How do you predict the consumer acceptance for Cotton USA in the years to come?
Justin - We have been doing research here since 2000 and have been continually observing that 9 out of 10 consumers here prefer cotton. Recent increase in manmade fiber particularly in western wear has not been accepted by the consumers, 7 out of 10 recognised changes as they are bothered by it. The consumers pay premium amount for cotton rich merchandise because they recognise that the cotton is the primary need and their expectations are ever rising with comfortability, style, hygiene and skin healthy cotton. Consumer is not really accepting the inferior manmade fibers in the market. India is still 60 per cent to 100 per cent cotton rich nation.
Please tell us about your tie-ups with Indian mills and apparel manufacturers for promoting Cotton USA?
We have tied up with more than 10 mills like Morarji, Raymond, Vardhman, Arvind and many more, now we are looking at tie ups with men, women and kids’ apparel brands in retail and consumer level. Those retail brands will be the premium brands. We will deal with Indian and the international brands both as we want to work with everyone.
What is your observation on the transformation happening in Indian cotton and textile Industry?
Renu -There is transformation happening in Indian cotton industry, but still, India is predominantly a cotton rich nation. Indians love cotton and they understand the thesis and fine aspects of cotton. There are certain silhouettes which probably are well made in manmade fibres which may not go too well with cotton. But certain segments like ethnic wear you see they are cotton rich. And the Indian women’s wear category is more of ethnic wear and less of western wear so cotton still has a very important role to play. Though globally, there is a shift happening from cotton to manmade fiber, in India at least, the shift is not rapid. It might be that the demand for cotton is little stagnant or may be the other segment is growing at a little faster pace, but its share is small. Cotton is a leader of the market.
Please tell us about your association with CCI for promoting Cotton USA?
Justin - In association with CCI, we are running research and promotion programme for cotton where we work with farmers to resist pests and bugs and to do a lot of research on that area around the world. We also work with mills and manufacturers for helping them reduce the cost of processing the cotton and also creating technologies like moisture management and water resistant to make cotton perform in other markets like active wear.
We have a marketing team that works closely with CCI to market cotton to brands and retailers in China, Europe, USA and India. We also have consumer promotion activities mainly focused in China to teach the consumer about the benefits of cotton and encourage them to look for cotton promoted through advertising campaign. So Cotton USA with CCI focuses on research on other markets around the world. Because the lot of research we do on trade and consumer, CCI can use it. We also work with them for some of the marketing activities, share ideas, help each other market Cotton USA.
Renu- The research also gives those findings that help us to devise global branding strategy. Research highlights upon what is missing in various markets, what is that people are looking out for and that’s the kind of global branding strategy.
What are your expansion plans for the coming years?
We have not set the target as such. We have just launched, therefore, our first year we will go into the preparation, testing out and postering of the brand. So, on the basis of market response, our expansion plans will be depended. With Cotton USA, we assure of better functionality, and purity along with smooth supply.
What are your plans of creating singular brand experience?
Singular brand experience wouldn’t be there, but the singular communication strategy will be there. That could come as umbrella branding strategy where we could talk about significance of Cotton USA, enrolled apparel brands.
And for consumer awareness, we will run a campaign through media, social media, in-store promotions, we will reach out to them in various schools and colleges and through various engagement programmes. Our idea is to create a lot of direct touch points with consumers and engage with them through lots of activities.
What are your quality standards for hangtags of Cotton USA?
For following high quality standards, we are working with only limited mills and manufacturers who are developing Cotton USA fabric or yarns so the apparel brands will be allowed to procure from these mills. And then certification, product sampling is there in place. First is licensing process then there we have certain conditions that particular apparel collection should have 93 per cent cotton, and within that, 50 per cent should be the US Cotton.
Any plan of promoting Cotton USA through eCommerce?
Yes, we are in discussion with many marketplaces. While apparel brands are selling their product with our hangtag, online Cotton USA may come in separately and do promotions on those marketplaces. Once we are done with the tie up with apparel brands, then only we will go for online promotions. We may come online by May 2016.
What image Cotton USA will have by 2020?
By 2020, the brand will be well recognised and have good awareness among target consumers.