Sahil Malik, Managing Director, Da Milano Leathers Pvt. Ltd., with an investment of Rs 12-15 crore has an aggressive roadmap for expansion and plans to extend the brands foot prints. In a conversation with Rosy Ngaihte, he gives an insight into the leather wear industry and more.
Rosy Ngaihte (RN): When did you start Da Milano Leathers Pvt. Ltd (DMLPL)?
Sahil Malik (SM): Da Milano Leathers Pvt. Ltd. was conceptualised in India in 1989 and opened its first flagship store at Connaught Place in New Delhi. The company has its design studio in Italy. Today, Da Milano has a remarkable presence across India as an affordable luxury brand in leather wear and luxury accessories.
RN: When you started the company in late ‘80s what was the scenario of leather wear industry in India?
SM: The market has changed a lot, when we began in 1989, the leather wear industry was booming particularly because of leather garments, which were hugely popular that time and the revenue from exports was also handsome. Now, the leather wear industry is declining, primarily, due to leather substitutes like faux leather and PUs which are nothing but synthetic fabrics that resemble leather. They are much lighter in weight and are available at half the price compared to original leather.
On the contrary, sales and consumption of leather accessories have gone up. Leather is not just ‘black’ or ‘brown’, today it is available in all kinds of colours and styles. It has transformed into a fashionable product and consumers buy leather accessories to create a style statement.
RN: What is Da Milano offering to its fashion conscious consumers and what are the price ranges of its products?
SM: We offer handbags, briefcases, computer bags, portfolios, wallets, belts, card cases, travel pouches, note books, desk top sets etc. for both men and women. The price for our ladies handbags start from Rs 4,500 to Rs 10,000, computer bags are available for Rs 6,000-9,000 and other leather accessories are priced between Rs 600-2000.
RN: Who are your target customers?
SM: We target premium consumers particularly the high networking division in all the major metros including the tier I and II cities.
RN: What is your latest offering?
SM: We recently launched computer bags that are actually laptop bags and could be used both by men and women. The slim, compact and trendy laptop bags have multiple compartments to store documents, mobile phone and other essentials. It is priced between Rs 6000-9000 at our stores and is available in navy blue, orange, pink and other summer-shades.
RN: What is the brand ideology?
SM: We categorise ourselves as premium luxury brand but at the same time affordable to our consumers, unlike Gucci or Versace which are also premium luxury brands but they are affordable to only a minuscule population in India. Also at, DMLPL, quality is of utmost importance and each product goes through stringent quality checks to ensure that the customer receives only the best.
RN: How has your brand performed over the years? How is your product different from other leather products?
SM: The brand has performed fairly well, today we are present in all the major metros and tier I and II cities in the country. The differentiating actor is our quality. We have our design studio in Italy where talented designers introduce new collections keeping the global fashion trends in mind. The collections introduced by the brands exude character, originality, style and flair. So we can proudly say that we are riding high on quality.
RN: There are a number of players in the leather wear segment, how is each surviving?
SM: The leather wear segment is a huge market and there is space for every player. I believe there is hardly any competition among the players as there are consumers for each one of them. At the end of the day it is only survival of the fittest.
RN: What is the worth of Indian leather-wear market and what is your market share?
SM: Although the Indian leather wear market is huge, but the leather wear industry and particularly the accessories segment is still very unorganised, therefore it is very difficult to measure the market size and it is even difficult to tell our market share in this situation.
RN: What percentage of your revenue generation comes from the Indian market?
SM: 30 per cent of my revenue is generated from the Indian market and 40-50 per cent comes from exporting to the global market.
RN: Are you adopting any eco-friendly technology or practice in bringing out your products?
SM: We have two state-of-the-art manufacturing units at Nalagarh in Himachal Pradesh and a tannery in Chennai Tamil Nadu, where the leathers are vegetable tanned and not chemically treated through highly skilled workforce operating under the strict guidance of Italian technicians.
RN: What are your investment plans for retail expansion?
SM: Counting all the new brand stores that we are planning to open in cities like Ahmedabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore and including our airport retail expansion plans, we would be investing around Rs 12-15 crore.
RN: Tell us about your retail presence in terms of number of outlets, their format, store size, location etc.
SM: At present Da Milano has 24 exclusive stores and has plans to open another 35 brand outlets in the next 12-18 months. Ideally, our store size ranges from 800-1200 sq. ft. We recently opened three exclusive stores in Mumbai and one each in Hyderabad, Pune and Jaipur.
As part of our airport retail expansion plans, we have opened an exclusive retail store in terminal 1B at Mumbai domestic airport. We have also bagged the coveted retail space at T3 in the newly built Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi – a 1,000 sq. ft. store area in domestic terminal, and an 850 sq. ft. store area in international terminal. These luxurious destination stores will house Da Milano’s range of premium leather accessories. Besides, the Delhi and Mumbai Airports, we are also planning to open similar stores in domestic and international terminals in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
RN: What are the promotional measures that you have adopted to increase the footfall at your retail stores?
SM: In order to maintain and sustain our position as a premium luxury brand, we do not generally go for discount oriented activities. But occasionally during festival time or when the season is changing, just to increase the sales we promote offers like buy-one-get-one free or a 30 per cent discount once in a year to increase the foot fall at the stores.
RN: Da Milano is a premium brand, but there are also consumers who do not have deep pockets and are always attracted to value retail; do you have anything to offer them?
SM: As mentioned earlier Da Milano is an affordable premium luxury product, but considering the burgeoning middle class consumers, we launched the sub-brand ‘Fiore’ to specially cater to the large format stores. Product under the Fiore brand are priced modestly within Rs 1800-3000 bracket thus targeting consumers across a wider spectrum.
RN: When are your brand expansion plans seeing the light of the day?
SM: Very soon and most probably in October 2010. It is true that we are expanding our brand portfolio with ‘Rosso Brunello’, which is a premium high fashion footwear brand for men and women. The aim is to provide a collection of fascinating foot wears that reflects comprehensive trends in designs, shapes and colours. Initially, the brand would be retailed through exclusive stores in selected metros only. Another brand extension that we have planned is Da Milano Home, which is nothing but a line of leather accessories for home and office. While, the Da Milano Home products will be made available in all the stores of Da Milano, the product range will majorly comprise lamps, photo frames, coffee tables, wall clocks, planter, rugs, cushions, drapes, coasters and desktop sets for office tables all of which would be manufactured through the finest Italian leather.
RN: Lastly, forecast some trends that could hit the leather wear market.
SM: Leather accessories are getting much in demand due to high fashion; I believe a lot of creativity will be displayed in their style and in the attempt to play with colours. I am also expecting a lot of innovation and playing around with chains and zips.