The pandemic induced by Covid-19 has had a drastic impact on the overall retail industry and the Indian ethnic wear segment was no exception. The lockdown led to drastic changes in consumer buying behavior and there was a considerable decline in buying power of the average consumer with essentials being given more importance.
Fashion became need-based and in this segment, while loungewear, innerwear, kid's clothing, etc., remained in demand, the ethnic wear category which mostly relies on ceremonies and special occasions, was one to get worst hit with marriages, festival gatherings getting canceled.
It was about time for brands in the segment to innovate and work towards what the consumers are demanding and are looking at. Work-from-home has become the new trend besides more focus towards sustainable, eco-friendly products. The quality took precedence over quantity and online became the go-to shopping destination for consumers.
In line with these changes, ethnic wear brands in the likes of Biba, W, Aurelia, Mohey, Neeru’s, Shree, among others, took charge of the situation and started innovating and adapting to the changing times and trends. The ethnic wear brands, today, are communicating with their consumer base, heading for fashion collaborations, and offering comfortable ethnic wear options at competitive price points.
“Over the years, the Indian ethnic wear has evolved from sarees and suits to fusion fashion today. Brands are also heading in this direction and offer options in ethnic wear that can be styled easily with western wear now. Kurtis/ kurtas are worn with jeans and paired with juttis and ethnic jewelry; Sarees are worn with crop tops and shoes; Lehengas or flared ethnic skirts are worn with shirts and styled with heavy jewelry and pumps. Ethnic wear has taken on a wonderful twist and the youth have especially been taken in by fusion fashion. Ethnic sets, ethnic dresses, palazzo sets, dupatta sets, etc. continue to remain the top priority in terms of comfort dressing for a majority of Indian women. Designers are constantly experimenting with silhouettes, colors, designs, prints, styles, and more to stay in line with customer needs and expectations. Another important trend that we are seeing is how the international brands are collaborating with Indian brands and designers and taking the Indian ethnic style to a larger audience,” maintains Sheetal Kapoor, Joint Managing Director, Shree.
Ethnic wear is the most preferred outfit for women aged between 16 to 50 years in India and it is impossible for this segment to not grow, despite few hiccups along the way.
According to Statista, the market size of women's ethnic wear across India in the financial year 2020 was approximately US$ 17 billion and was estimated to reach more than US$ 24 billion by 2025.
Shree is one such brand to have found its way through the pandemic and is planning its next phase of expansion. So, what is the brand by Sandeep Kapoor and Sheetal Kapoor really all about?
What’s on Offer?
Shree by SHR Lifestyles Pvt Ltd is a homegrown brand that offers a wide range of ethnic wear options (ethnic sets to dresses, tunics to kurtas, and bottom wear to dupattas) for women, at a starting price of Rs 599 for kurtas and Rs 1,199 for ethnic sets.
Boasting an expansive retail presence, Sheetal Kapoor says, “Currently, we have 96 stores pan India and are inching towards completing 100 stores in the next couple of months. 95 percent of our revenue is generated through our stores and the remaining 5 percent comes from the online channels. However, the past year has brought with it a lot of changes. The pandemic has pushed us to understand the value of online platforms. Our website at the time helped us sustain the tough times. We are now aggressively focused on constantly improving our website and online platforms to ensure that all our customers have an easy and seamless shopping experience with us, just as they would in our brick-and-mortar stores. We have modified our website as well as all our online platforms to understand customer buying behavior and accordingly showcase outfits that the customer is likely to click on and purchase. Even from a brick-and-mortar store perspective, we are exploring new ways to provide a digital experience to customers. We have also had quite a few collaborations to enable the brand to offer the best of products and experiences to our consumers. We collaborated with LIVA anti-microbial for our face masks, started giving digital receipts during the lockdown, revamped our website, engaged in store-to-door sales through WhatsApp, and are preparing to go omnichannel very soon.”
Shree is a made-in-India brand, inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ vision. The brand sources its raw materials from different parts of the country while manufacturing its collection domestically with the goal of promoting employment of homegrown factories, small job workers, and tailor masters.
“We begin our value chain upstream with textile fiber sourcing and yarn procurement. Our value chain processes involve sourcing of textile, procurement of related processing, designing the apparel, and procuring apparel. All of these steps are rooted within India and each step takes place solely with Indian partners. We are very particular about the quality of our fabrics and outfits; hence we have 3-5 quality checkpoints during the manufacturing process of the garments,” she asserts.
Challenges & Way Ahead
SHR Lifestyles clocked a turnover of Rs 36.6 crore this fiscal and continued to grow despite the pandemic. The brand launched a total of 18 stores in 2020 alone. In 2021, thus far it has further expanded the brand with stores in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, and Elante Mall, Chandigarh, Punjab. Next up, it is looking to open brand stores in Agra and Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh; Bhogpur in Punjab.
While the expansion plans and revenue figures started showing during the later stage of the pandemic, the initial phase was definitely full of challenges, nobody was prepared to tackle.
“We were definitely better prepared for the second wave and were cognizant of what we were in for in a lockdown of this nature. Our challenges were mainly operational as there were delays in deliveries across the supply chain and subsequently there was a delay in delivery to customers as well. We had planned several store launches across cities and they all had to be postponed with no specific future date. However, now that the second wave is behind us and the lockdown has lifted, our store launch plan is back on track. Initially, we faced challenges like a drop in sales across the brand, non-preparedness to go online due to lack of manpower and infrastructure, delay in deliveries, operational challenges, etc.,” tells Sheetal Kapoor.
Shree had last secured funding worth Rs 80 crore in the year 2019 from Mumbai-based private investment firm Alpha Capital.