India (the largest democracy of the world) is forecasted to overtake China as the most populous country within a decade (by 2027), according to a United Nations report. China and India combined currently account for 38 per cent of the world’s population, with 1.43 billion and 1.37 billion people respectively. India is also the youngest country in the world with the millennial population as large as the population of USA . Though, it is interesting to note that even with the said population and demographic dividend, the nation still depends on fashion forecasts and trend reports that are not largely meant for India! The reports are typically developed in west and mostly either Europe centric or very 'American' unless they are focused on Japan/ Korean youth/pop culture. The question is why this country lacks an indigenous fashion forecast powered with our ethnicity, plurality, cultural richness and global vision. Or is it the market worth of Rs 20,000 crore (was US$ 102.2 Billion in 2018) is not lucrative enough to develop a forecast? The market is further projected to reach US$ 225.7 Billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 14.2% during 2019-2024. There are three key factors that I will explain below:
1) One key factor is how this market in India is segmented. The branded Fashion market's size is nearly one fourth of this or Rs 5,000 crore. Designer wear, in turn, covers only about 0.2 % of the branded apparel market. Hence, three fourth of the market is still unorganized and dominated by family run shops at the bottom of pyramid which depends on age-old Judaad (manage) as ‘cut and paste’ method of developing their products. If we analyse the 0.2% designer wear, most of them designs the same lahenga-cholis (Indian ethnic wear), Salwars/ Kurtis and sarees years after year. Those who are in niche western-wear, are also not visibly experimental in their collection (apart from Manish or few Gen Next designers). This is also because their clients seek ethnic wear from designers and buys western wear whenever they travel abroad (“oh, this one is Chanel ka latest collection… from our last holiday in Paris”). The dominant colonial gene still prevails, among many Indians. Moreover, the resell value of global luxury brands are much higher than the domestic designer-wear. The branded fashion market (largely family owned) is still at nascent stage and hardly allocates any money in consumer research or trend analysis comparative to their global counterpart.
2) Most of the branded market are into menswear (Rs 1,24,423 crore/ US $19 billion) where the scope to forecast ‘shift’ is much lesser than the women’s wear. Hence, the scopes of business for a fashion forecasting agency focusing on domestic market is not lucrative at this moment unless they can addresses the local nuances and attract all market players across the country.
3) Another key challenge for the forecasting agencies is the vastness and plurality of this country. It’s cultural maze, socio-political tectonic-shift and ever-changing consumer mind-set baffles many. My theory of Adopted Differentiation defines the logic behind it. The sheer number of Indians (133.92 crores in 2017 comparing to 32.57 crores in USA) may sound lucrative but the segmentation is opaque and with multiple layers superimposing each other, the very mantle of consumer need remains a curtailed black-box.
The psychophysics of consumer response is key to understand the very essence of this market which very few could crack in past. Right from the automobile, electronics and fashion many brands that arrived in India lured by sheer number had to shut their shops in past few decades. Artificial Intelligence will not work to resolve cultural maze or mind-mapping. Essentially, a ‘human mind’ can only map another ‘human mind’ but the mind has to be from the same swarm. Unfortunately, most of the agencies working in India are depending upon their ‘global intelligence’ and not trying to build their ‘local hive’. Building local hive takes time, energy, patience and selection of right ‘mind’. However, with millennials taking over the consumption power with their voracious ever-evolving need (coupled with mounting ‘unhappiness’, ‘depression’, social stress and ‘rebooting identity’), the job of agencies looking for developing indigenous forecast will be tougher in future unless they hire and nurture the right home-grown team to execute the same.
(Original article published by Dr. Kaustav SenGupta, All copyrights reserved)