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IFF 2023: There is greater respect for sustainability post Covid, says CEO Madura Fashion, Vishak Kumar

Vishak Kumar, CEO, Madura Fashion and Lifestyle (ABFRL), in an interaction with Rajat Wahi, Partner & Head, Consumer and Retail Sectors, Deloitte Consulting said that retail has bounced back to pre-Covid levels in a very strong fashion. “Indian weddings are back in all their opulence, consumption is back, he said.

The ‘fireside chat’ was an extremely engaging session held on the second day of India Fashion Forum 2023 held at Conrad, Bengaluru.

“People are consciously celebrating life post the pandemic. And that is not all. There is greater respect and awareness of sustainability,” he said, adding that trends had changed from Covid times. “Athleisure, which was the main theme of the Covid period, has now scaled down and formal wear is back big time. People are dressing up again.”

He said that the industry was taking Environmental, Social, and Governance trends seriously. “At ABFRL, we firmly believe that if you want to save the planet, and prevent global warming, eliminate the use of fossil fuel. This is also a collective responsibility of the fashion retail industry, where fossil fuel is primarily used in mills. Our brands believe that the answer lies in producing clothes that last longer and encouraging consumers to buy these clothes. For instance, if an average brand lasts 10 washes, and if Louis Philippe can last 60 washes, a Louis Philippe shirt will be much more eco-friendly, especially since the energy required in making a ‘good’ shirt and ‘bad’ shirt is the same.”

He also said that the industry was adapting to another big change – data analytics and AI.

Managing Multiple Brands

Kumar explained that ABFRL gives freedom to all its power brands while setting basic ground rules on how overall operations must be managed.

“We are in the business of brands, and we have a strong portfolio, we have always been. All our brands are profitable, have strong plans and ambitions, and generate their own cash. The best thing we can do for them is get out of their way. There are only two common functions for all brands – sourcing products and real estate. Aside from these, all our CEOs run their business independently,” he said.

He added that in ABFRL, certain brands are not prioritized over others. “Each brand has its own consumer base and positioning and they do what they have to do in the market,” he explained.

India’s Consumption Story

Kumar was of the view that there is really a huge consumption story that is yet to play out in the country.

As per him, the average Indian’s per capita apparel consumption is one-twelfth of the average American’s, one-sixth of a Chinese’s consumption and one-third of the global average.

“Even though we have come to the global average, we have 3x to catch up,” he said. But he is confident we will get there fast.

“There is an opportunity for all of us here. Growth is happening across all cities, including Tier 4 and 5. The modern consumer is updated, social media savvy and internet penetration is high. Putting aside the momentary fluctuation caused by Covid, there is a huge story which is going to be played out and it’s going to be India’s story,” he concluded.

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