• What’s a brand ? How important is it to build one ? What does it take to go on to take a brand to an iconic level ? These were some of the issues deliberated upon and debated by CEOs and top functionaries of a host of indigenous and foreign fashion brands at the ‘Conference on Building World Class Fashion Brands - Trends, Challenges & Opportunities’ organised at the CII Northern Region Headquarters on Thursday. The simplest answer to ‘why brand ?’ was provided by Sandeep Jain, Chairman of the conference and Executive Director, Monte Carlo Fashions Limited, who explained “Selling a product is all right, but if you want to consistently make money in the long run from a business you have to create a brand.” The conference was aimed at creating awareness among the members of the fashion retail industry on how brand owners and retailers can go about building their brands and making them competitive in a highly technology driven and digitalised world.

Participating in a session on ‘Value Of Brand Creation - First Steps In Creating Consumer Brands’, the panel, heavily loaded with Jains - Rajesh Jain, Managing Director and CEO, Sports and Leisure Apparel Limited, the licensee of global brand Lacoste in India, Amit Jain,  Managing Director, Shingora Textiles Limited, and Sandeep Jain – and also including Manu Idrayan, Co-founder and CEO of 612 League, and Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi, Business Director, Wazir Advisors, was unanimous that brand building was an expenditure in the short run, but was a wise investment in the long run, when it starts paying rich dividends.

Photo By : Life In Chandigarh

Defining brand as a name which is remembered and respected by the targeted consumers, Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi of Wazir Advisors, while initiating the discussion, said brands which have a tenacity and ability to evolve while at the same time retaining their core strengths are the ones which sustain in time, and some of them go on to become iconic.

Amit Jain of Shingora, which is into business of shawls, scarves and other soft accessories, especially for women, was of the opinion that the product is ultimately the king. “For a product to become a brand it has to create a niche for itself in the mind space of the consumer. What is promised has to be delivered in true spirit. The entire chain of deliverance, from production, to sales to service, has to be aligned with the promise and for this training and sensitisation of employees at all levels has to be a regular and ongoing exercise.

For Sandeep Jain of Monte Carlo the most important consideration for launching any product in the market and making it a brand is thinking differently all the time. Giving example of his own company right from the time of its founding chairman Jawahar Lal Oswal, Sandeep Jain said when the rest of the market was concentrating on shirts, trousers and formal suits, his company decided to promote itself as a sweater brand, which paid off handsomely. “Till 2003, when I joined the company, it was a purely winter wear brand. Nobody was thinking  of t-shirt business (Lacoste then was not focussing much on the Indian market). We jumped into the t-shirt business and did well again. Since then jackets, as opposed to formal suits, and track suits businesses have also been a runaway success for us,” he added.

He felt that a strong customer-connect had kept them relevant in the market for so long. “We continue to rely on a 360 degree customer and market feedback system to remain ahead of the competition. We also have a deep focus on our sales teams, which are an excellent means of relaying our perceptions and convictions to the market and the customers.”

Rajesh Jain of Lacoste India felt that in this digital age, when the customers have a plethora of choices and brand loyalty is diminishing, the first and foremost prerequisite for success of any brand is quality of the product. “Quality has to be maintained at all cost even if the pricing has to be kept competitive. It will hurt at times in the short run but then it pays off in the long run.”

He said, “Since we are in business of fashion, and it changes rapidly, innovation becomes even more important and challenging. Also, the entire shopping experience of the customer has to be seamless and exhilarating, right from the window display to the point of sale. “

Manu Indrayan of 612 League was of the opinion that for a brand to succeed there has to be a clear purpose behind it. Giving his own example he said “when we came into the market in 2009-10 the kids wear brands were targeting children in the age group 3-14 as one category. We felt that till a child doesn’t start going to school he is depending completely on his parents for choice of clothes, but once he is in school he starts having a say. As he grows, his   choices keep changing. Hence we designed our products to suit different age brackets within the children category. It has worked well.”

He was also convinced that the customers in tier two and three cities and towns now wanted standardised fashion wear. “They have also started differentiating between products and brands, hence the scope for more brands to step in.”