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12 mantras to maintain brand competitiveness in tough times

Dr. Darlie O KoshyA visionary academic leader and persuasive administrator, Professor Dr Darlie O Koshy is well known for transforming several educational institutions like the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad where he served as the Director and Governing Council Member for two terms (2000-2009). The only Indian to have served the Executive Board of World Body of Design (ICSID) for three terms giving leadership to Indian Design and NID in the global arena, Koshy is also credited with the formulation of National Design Policy approved by the government in February, 2007 and the widely known campaign ‘Designed in India, Made for the World’ which powered NID and Indian design to grab centre stage globally. As the director general and CEO of the Apparel Training & Design Centre under the aegis of AEPC since 2009, Koshy has helped set up over 200 directly run ATDC-AVI & ATDC-SMART centres across India in 24 states and trained over 3, 00,000 candidates by “Imparting Skills & Improving Lives”. Here he outlines 12 mantras for brands that would provide them a safety belt for disruptive times.

Creative Destruction: The first mantra as per him is, “adopting ‘Creative Destruction’ as an integral process of management for the organisation.” This according to him “leads brands to constantly innovate on ideas, products, processes and systems. It also helps them to avoid “Kodak Moments” of the current times of ‘disruption’ technologies”

Reorienting mindsets and skillsets: Koshy says, in order to say relevant, brands need to change both their mindsets and skillsets. He advises them to focus on the principles of ‘rethink and reimagine’

Mass customisation: According to Koshy, “the world is moving towards “mass customisation” where each individual customer now needs to be satisfied with a product- service offering through appropriate information gleaned through data mining which is now possible through “Artificial Intelligence.” Products often combine with service to become an “experience” as interpreted by each individual customer.

Intangible Vs Tangible: Koshy points out, “there was a time when brick and mortar stores assured fair return on investment but today brand & design have replaced these and get offer better returns, He advises the Indian apparel exporters and domestic brands to learn more about design thinking and branding to differentiate in the market and gain premium. “Competitiveness is not anymore in ‘labor’ arbitrage but in intangibles like: speed, design, brand and service, etc,” he adds.

Speed to market and speed to cash: Koshy says, “Fashion is all about time. And premium is paid not for designs only but also for being ahead of time.” In the apparel business therefore, one needs to perceive fashion as perishable and all processes need to be set in motion with great speed. “Hence, products lifecycle management, fast-track design development and brand management with a ‘cradle to grave’ approach needs to be in place,” he adds.

Sustainability: Earlier, brands would not take environmental concerns into account while creating products. But today brands need to have a ‘sustainable’ approach to manufacturing for both textile and apparel. “With processes like digital printing, laser cutting and laser finishing etc, finding takers, environment management occupies a prominent position in manufacturing process,” Koshy opines.

Digital Transformation: “For companies to be future-ready a complete digital transformation strategy needs to be adopted,” feels Koshy. “This may begin with basic management of the website’ and Internet’ and social media to e-commerce and beyond depending upon each company’s aspirations,” he adds.

Brands should be a part of the fashion eco-system: Often entrepreneurs fail to define their business appropriately, feels Koshy. They should perceive and work as an integral part of constantly charging and evolving ‘fashion eco-system’and use and leverage talent, technology having ‘tolerance’ to outliers to succeed in the market place.

Uberisation and Ola-OYO approach to apparel sector: Koshy believes “there is a pressing need for vendor/retailer development and ‘aggregation’ for strengthening quality, performance and speed to market” and reach and access to customers.” “Uberisation is yet to hit the fashion business and has much more at stake-no doubt,” he says.

Future Proofing: Koshy believes, “future proofing can only be done through ‘continuous innovation’ and speed to market with such innovations in order to commercialise and monetise.”

Youth driven demand: Around 500 million active Indian consumers are in the average age of 29 years. “This is the time to create value for them through the textile-apparel value chain or fashion eco-system,” notes Koshy. “If existing and new companies miss this opportunity, they will lag behind. Also, there is enough potential to focus on ‘elderly fashion’ in India as the category is expected to cross 20 per cent of total population by 2050,” he points out.

Scope vs scale: Lastly, Koshy feels “there is a need to rediscover the inherent advantages of ‘scope’ with speed i.e. meeting certain niche demand and creating larger adjacent areas to drive company’s growth.”

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