With about 200 stores worldwide, Onitsuka Tiger is now ready to own the premium fashion space in India: Rajat Khurana

In conversation with Rajat Khurana, Managing Director, ASICS India Pvt. Ltd, who spoke the brands bold move of making ita presence in India.
Rajat Khurana, Managing Director, ASICS India Pvt. Ltd

In a highly-anticipated move, Onitsuka Tiger launched its first ever mono-brand store in India in the Palladium Mall, Lower Parel, Mumbai. The new Onitsuka Tiger mono-brand store will initiate a gratifying shopping experience for loyal fans as well as the fashion conscious, the sports enthusiast, the sneaker collector or casual shopper, families and tourists. With a retail space of 74.3 square meters, the store will stock the brand’s signature collections as well as the perennial and popular footwear, accessories, apparel for men and women. The artisanship of the Japanese brand extends to the store interior that is accented by sumi mortar, a distinctly unique material that has the texture of wood, amplifying the store’s intricate yet edgy look. While the origin of Onitsuka shoe can be traced back to 1949, the brand was taken over by ASICS in 1977. Rajat Khurana, Managing Director, ASICS India Pvt. Ltd., talks about the brand aesthetics and the way ahead.

Tell us about Onitsuka Tiger, about its inception, philosophy and USP.
Onitsuka Tiger celebrates Japanese craftsmanship and focuses on sophisticated design and luxury details. Appreciated the world over for its heritage and modern flair, Onitsuka Tiger is a sport-inspired fashion brand that has designs ranging from updated classics to refreshing new styles and collaborations with like-minded artists. Constantly branching out and collaborating with a variety of creative souls from visual artists to fashion designers, the spirit of Onitsuka Tiger has uplifted its sports fashion trademark into the fashion and lifestyle scene.

Established in 1949, the company was started by Kihachiro Onitsuka in Kobe Japan, under the Onitsuka Corporation name with a humble idea that sport had the power to transform lives.  Carried on his legacy, heritage and Japanese craftsmanship of the brand, combined with a timeless aesthetic, Onitsuka Tiger is now worn and seen on streets around the world. Constantly branching out with its uniquely designed products or collaborations, the spirit of Onitsuka Tiger has uplifted its sports fashion trademark into the fashion and lifestyle scene and that is what sets it miles apart from any of the performance brands.

ASICS is already selling Onitsuka Tiger range in India through Madura Fashion and Lifestyle’s multi-brand store, named ‘The Collective’. Why did the company decide to come up with an exclusive brand store for Onitsuka Tiger?
ASICS entered India in mid- 2015 encouraged by the economic growth in this emerging market. Taking into consideration the sports fashion market in India at the time, we started with ASICS, a true sport performance brand, followed by ASICS Tiger, an Iconic sports lifestyle brand, in order to test the market potential as well as consumer response, prior to bringing the iconic Onitsuka Tiger into the country. In phase one, we focused on increasing brand awareness, strengthening our reach, the distribution of our products and showcasing our range. Now, we are in our second phase and this is the right time for us to launch Onitsuka Tiger’s first-ever mono-brand store in India.

How have Indian customers responded to ASICS since its entry in the country in 2015? How well do you think will Onitsuka Tiger be accepted by them?
We are delighted with the phenomenal response we have received for ASICS from the Indian customers especially the core performance group, i.e., runners and athletes from all over India. Indian luxury consumers are particularly influenced by what others think of them. They consume brands to achieve societal acceptance, reflecting the hierarchical nature of the society. They use luxury brands to indicate social status, symbolizing achievement, wealth and prestige. But Onitsuka Tiger will turn this around. Across the globe, the brand has a base of style-conscious influencers who believe in setting their own trends. With about 200 stores worldwide, Onitsuka Tiger is now ready to own the premium fashion space in India with its trendsetter products.

Tell us about your manufacturing units? Will Onitsuka Tiger merchandise be produced in India or will it be imported?
Our manufacturing units are spread across the globe with major units in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Japan and China. All Onitsuka Tiger merchandise will be imported from these countries.

What is the product range on offer at the newly opened store? Tell us about your target audience?
With a retail space of 74.3 square meters, the store will stock the brand’s signature collections as well as the perennial and popular footwear, accessories, apparel for men and women. Shoppers, fans and collectors will also be thrilled to find quintessential and exclusive Onitsuka Tiger creations in store, such as the Onitsuka Tiger X Andrea Pompilio 2017 collection.

Onitsuka Tiger’s 2017 Autumn-Winter global campaign kicked off with the debut of Soft Marty, a new shoe collection featuring metal-free leather in a neutral cream shade. Based on the concept “Wonder of Gravity”, the global campaign conveys the airiness and coolness of the new generation eco-concept sneakers. The collection, which will be available in store, includes popular shoe silhouettes like the Mexico 66, GSM and Tiger Corsair that are introduced as part of Onitsuka Tiger’s eco-concept project, with the upper of the shoes adorned with detailed incisions, created with a micro-knifing technique while a brushed look adds additional texture to the shoes without compromising on design and quality.

The center pride of the newly opened store is the premium Nippon Made series, the epitome of Japanese craftsmanship. The basic components of the shoes are first assembled, after which the leather making up the upper is washed and processed. The footwear is then carefully squeezed and dried, leaving the shoes with a wrinkly, vintage look when dry. Every step is skillfully executed by hand and no two pairs of shoes are alike. The product range starts from Rs.5,999 onwards.

Onitsuka Tiger targets consumers who are style and brand conscious. They are stylish world-trotters with an innate love for fashion.

Tell us about your market strategies for India. Are there any Indian market-specific campaigns in the pipeline? Please elaborate.
We have just opened our first store in India and at the moment, we will be using international campaigns. Going forward, we will curate campaigns to connect with the Indian audience in sync with the global brand guidelines.

What are the expansion plans for the brand in India? How will e-commerce play a part in the same?
Onitsuka Tiger mono-brand store at Palladium Mall will initiate a gratifying shopping experience for loyal fans as well as the fashion conscious. The internet has exploded in India, spreading its reach further than ever before. As more and more consumers embrace the virtual world as a safe and convenient place to shop – either on computers or using their smartphones – one thing is for certain, e-commerce is here to stay. Also, the fastest growing e-commerce market in the world, according to Forrester, is undoubtedly India. We will be ramping up distribution of products through e-commerce portals and aim to achieve a significant growth in the coming years.

What are your targeted sales turnover and growth rate in India?
India is one of our most important market, which is why the utmost level of detailing and planning has gone into opening our very first store, from its location at the elegant Palladium mall to the merchandising strategy at the store. The Indian footwear retail market is one of the most rapidly growing and dynamic sectors in the market today. Plus, the government of India too is doing a lot of things on retail policies. We see a great potential for growth in India. We are aiming to triple our sales in coming 2-3 years.

Do you think franchise is a viable model for expansion? What are your plans to expand through this model?
Yes, it is. We will focus on establishing mono-brand stores in the country under a partnership with franchisees. These stores will be one of our key channels to drive up sales.

 

Rajat Khurana
 
 
 
 
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