With its products available in more than 300 cities in a time frame of just three years, Turtle has risen to be one of the leading manufacturers and retailers of men’s apparel and accessories in India. In a candid conversation with Vrinda Oberai, Shitanshu Jhunjhunwalla, Director, Turtle Limited, shares his company’s plans and his take on the retail market and its trends.
Vrinda Oberai (VO): When did the first Turtle retail outlet become operational in the country? Do you have any international presence with regard to exclusive stores abroad?
Shitanshu Jhunjhunwalla (SJ): Turtle was launched in 1993 at Kolkata, with the capacity to produce around 7,500 shirts a year. Our first retail store got operational that very year in Park Street. The brand has has come a long way since then and has grown manifold into a national brand present across 550 cities. Apart from exclusive Turtle stores, its products are sold in over 1,500 leading outlets including Central, Globus, Pantaloons and Shopper’s Stop. In terms of international presence, we have a strong foothold in the Middle Eastern countries like Dubai, Bahrain and Kuwait. At the moment, we do not have any EBOs internationally.
VO: What is the USP of your brand? How do you position your brand in the market?
SJ: Quality and value proposition prices are the USPs of the brand. We offer a wide array of products in apparel and accessories suited for every occasion, maintaining the highest standards in quality and in tune with international design and fashion trends. Our positioning as a brand that offers excellent value for money has worked. We work very hard on achieving our vision, which is to offer our consumers their latent needs at the right prices and to become the most respectable brand in the country. Our positioning can be put as an entry-level premium lifestyle brand.
VO: How have you seen the apparel and accessories market grow over the period of time? How, according to you, is the Indian apparel and accessories market different from abroad?
SJ: The apparel and accessories markets have grown manifold in the last 10 years. With exposure to foreign brands and investors in India – the mall culture and retail revolution has taken the country by storm – many new brands have come into the picture and many leading brands continue to innovate. The Indian apparel market has started to emulate the markets abroad with many malls coming up in India and organised retail growing rapidly in the country. But we still have a long way to go in terms of scale and processes that the brands abroad have developed.
VO: How does your target audience differ from that of abroad? How does the consumer connect differ in both markets? SJ: The brand awareness among consumers in India is at a very nascent stage with most people in Tier II and III cities experiencing brands and retail in the past 4-5 years or so. The consumer connect abroad is far more challenging as the consumers are well educated in brands and retail and they have to be engaged with custom-made solutions. In India, the consumers are getting educated fast and many brands and large format retailers have started their own engaging platforms such as loyalty programs, online shopping, etc.
VO: What is your take on FDI in retail? What, in your opinion, will be the expected effect on the apparel and accessories market in India?
SJ: I believe with more and more foreign brands coming into India, the so-called domestic brands would have to quickly evolve into global Indian brands and would have to compete with the foreign brands. This would not only evolve the Indian brands rapidly but further give them a chance to shine on the global platform.
VO: What are the issues and challenges facing the industry? What has been your approach till date and what is in the pipeline?
SJ: Retailing today involves not only just the selling of a product but it also involves engaging and attracting a customer towards your brand. Today, retailing is about much more than mere merchandising. The current year started with uncertainties for the industry. The finance ministry’s decision to impose excise duty on branded garments shook the industry and apparel sales across the country. This led to week long protests. Many companies had even shut down manufacturing on the issue. This resulted in practically no business in the sector in March and April. Skyrocketing prices of cotton and uncertainty ruled the industry. As a result, the textile mills were not prepared to accept long term orders in June owing to the unpredictability in the movement of cotton prices. The retail sector in India is witnessing rejuvenation as traditional markets make way for new formats such as departmental stores, hypermarkets, supermarkets and specialty stores. The retailing configuration in India is fast developing as shopping malls are increasingly becoming familiar in large cities. Apart from this increasing number of young working population, hefty pay packages and emerging opportunities are the main factors contributing to the growth of the retail industry.
VO: What has been your marketing strategy and how has it changed over time?
SJ: Our marketing plans are strategically designed to position Turtle as the most respected apparel brand and are, therefore, in sync with the advertising strategies. Over time, the brand image of Turtle has progressed into the lifestyle space and so have our marketing and advertising. We now look at more tactical advertising on national media as well as new medium such as multiplexes and the digital space. VO: Brand visibility is something that is a priority for any company’s marketing strategy. What is your take on the same? SJ: Brand visibility and salience are the key growth driver of any brand’s marketing strategy. It is very important to understand your customer and target group and then be visible in their places of interest and sight. You should know your ‘meant-for’ and ‘marked-for’ audience, and position your brand communications accordingly.
VO: What are your expansion plans? What has been your learning on the way?
SJ: Our plans for 2011-12 are very optimistic and we are looking at a growth of 60-80 per cent, which we are confident that we will achieve. Apart from our quantitative targets, we have set a lot of qualitative targets and have ushered in new systems and processes. Our per-employee output and profitability is improving and being monitored consistently. The current year will be very crucial for us as we are putting in various building blocks to take us to the next higher level. We dream big and commit ourselves to our dream while retaining the passion and bonding of an enterprising organisation.