Tell us about the VIP Clothing including the inception and journey so far?
The brands’ foundation was built on the vision of two friends, both electrical engineers then at the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, Jaykumar Pathare and L Jaipal Reddy. Friends that later on became business partners; they started out Maxwell Industries from small government contracts and went on to revolutionise the Indian hosiery business and clothing industry with VIP men’s underwear brand.
In the midst of an unorganised India and economic chaos, both Jaykumar Pathare and L Jaipal Reddy, identified one key differentiating aspect – BRANDING! “ he other big brands were using underwear as a commodity. Our emphasis was on advertising and marketing and creating a brand," revealed Late Mr. Jaykumar Pathare, Former Chairman, Maxwell Industries Ltd.
In 1971, when it was unheard of, Maxwell industries undertook a serious market research to understand consumer purchase behaviour, which revealed that men's underwear was a new upcoming product that required design innovation. Since then the brand has gone from strength to strength with a proactive approach in marketing and branding and innovation in design.
Today, the VIP world is driven by both sons Sunil Pathare and Kapil Pathare, Directors at VIP Clothing Ltd ( formally known as Maxwell Industries Ltd) handling VIP underwear, Feelings and Frenchie portfolios.
How would you assess the impact of Corona Virus on the fashion industry and particularly on your business? According to you, when the market can see pre covid type of demand?
While we are already in the start of July 2020, we are still reeling under the effects of the pandemic.
The textile industry employs close to 45 lakh people across the value chain. During the lockdown; all production, procurement, retail, logistics and support had been completely cut off; irrespective of online or offline businesses. And these are some serious challenges forcing smaller businesses to shut and distressing the larger players in the industry.
Several reports have shared that global cotton consumption has declined by 12%. In India, the pandemic effects are showing us reduced procurements, shut ginning facilities, lesser spinning units in operation, reduced cotton pressing activity and lesser farmers working on the supply.
Let us accept that pre-covid demand is still a long way off. At VIP, our factories have already begun production of masks and the regular product range. Of course, we have serious hygiene protocols implemented at all our units.
The road seems tough and long, and it should take around 6 months at least to revive the business to 60%. Once the festive season kicks in during October, the shopping sentiment is expected to return; so, we are optimistic about improved demand by the last quarter.
Kindly tell us about your current distribution in the online as well as offline space? Going forward, what are the plans to scaleup the distribution?
We have 2 branded retail outlets, but operate through a network of 13000 retail outlets across India. Going forward, we plan to invest more on e-commerce distribution. While inner garment market has been predominantly an offline sale, we are now actively looking at building ecommerce as a current channel of sale. We’ve also been working on enabling our distributors and retailers with managing and planning their requirements through mobile apps and software’s to ensure smooth transactions and better process flow.
Kindly shed light on your omnichannel strategy?
Our marketing strategies are focusing on building consumer trust on quality and hygiene of our products as well as adoption of buying online. Like mentioned earlier, we are trying to develop a shopping experience for our customers; where the experience becomes seamless. Whether online from a desktop or mobile device, or in a brick-and-mortar store, we are working on creating a holistic experience.
Our omnichannel strategies revolve around content marketing. Digitally, a lot of content is being consumed during the lockdown across all age groups. Our teams are working on delivering brand content via customised emails, looking at retargeted ads, social media marketing as well as the retail touchpoints to deliver the offers, brand communications and products.
Kindly tell us about your product category and the best performing range?
We are expecting the inner garments product category to see a slightly different market response than regular lines of businesses in apparels and textile. Innerwear’s are practically essentials and a commodity and being an iconic brand in this segment, we are preparing to cater to consumer needs in the best possible way.
VIP has always been driving value for money across all our product categories. Premium or basic, we offer consumers quality directly comparable for product cost. Post the lockdown, we are expecting innerwear industry to hold its strength as it is finally a basic need.
Key brands of VIP such as Frenchie, a front-line underwear brand for men and Feelings, an economy brand of intimate wear for women continue to enjoy a strong brand recall today. Design innovation has always been at the pinnacle for VIP to such extent that the name Frenchie has now become synonymous with the Y cut style of brief, almost becoming a generic name for this style.
At last, kindly highlight your growth plans?
Covid-19 has made relooking at all functions in every industry mandatory. Evaluating current operations and ensuring a functioning future business has taken priority in the apparel industry.
For our businesses, we are internally re-thinking our plans and strategies, assets, resources, sales and distributor channels and seeking areas of improvement. Our plans have to be more dynamic to adapt to the changing market scenarios and consumer behaviour. We’ve already been observing restricted spends by consumers as well as fall in demand in the apparel industry, so our business strategies will have to account for these new circumstances.
Going forward, growth will be determined on how effectively businesses focus on reducing expenses, innovate with operations and optimise resources to generate revenues and sustain the cash flow cycle.