The changing trends in India are real boosters for the innerwear industry like increased disposable income, organised retail, working women, independent income, awareness and life style aspirations. But still the Indian innerwear industry has a long way to go to reach to its zenith.
Once upon a time there were three Indian women innerwear customers… There was Miss Shy who was totally not at ease with either what was being unscrupulously hustled down to her, or disgusted by the way it was being. Shockingly, for years, women’s innerwear stores had a majority of male salespersons. Duh!!
Next there was Miss Unaware, a woman customer who was not sure about what she needed or what perhaps she wanted, and had no one to discretely ask.
And then, there was Miss Bubbly, who in a market of whites, blacks, greys and creams, just didn’t get the stuff that was good enough for her. Oh we forgot red. Red was there too.
The Indian women’s innerwear market was basically either not good, very bad or just plain ugly!!!
And, on the other side, innerwear was no longer regarded as merely an undergarment. It had already become a fashion statement. Indian consumers were willing to come out of their cocoons and experiment with new varieties, styles, colours and brands. It was another classic mismatch where the Indian customer was, but Indian retail was not ready.
And then perhaps like an answer to her dreams, the online innerwear retailers arrived.
The online platform led by its first wave of progressive e-retailers has provided women a better environment to purchase lingerie of their choice.
They came with a clearer retail vision. According to Richa Kar, CEO, Zivame, “Zivame was conceived with the idea of offering an intimate lingerie shopping experience to woman. The category had evolved from whites, blacks and nudes. Women were ready to invest more on themselves and their needs.” Zivame means “a radiant me”.
THE WOMEN’S INNER WEAR MARKET IN INDIA
Indian women have whole heartedly accepted lingerie as part of their lifestyle and are gradually opening up to explore online lingerie portals where they can find privacy and variety. The Indian women’s inner wear is a huge market. Karan Behal, CEO, PrettySecrets, states, “The Indian lingerie market is currently at USD 2.7 billion and is growing at a CAGR rate of 15 percent and is expected to reach USD 4.4 billion by 2019.” Kar also avers closely with Behal’s assessment. She feels, “The Indian lingerie industry is pegged at USD 3 billion currently, and is expected to grow further.” Vijyeta Kharbanda, Marketing Head, Zeppleme, optimistically adds, “Innerwear online shopping has huge potential to grow in the near future. According to our research, we expect the inner wear market to grow at a faster pace in the coming future as we expect individuals to gain more knowledge in this area for purchasing online.” She strongly feels that at present, people are not properly aware about inner wear shopping online.
BUYING ONLINE VS BRICK-&-MORTAR STORES
While talking about the first and instant advantage of buying inner wear online rather than from the brick- and mortar stores, Behal states, “The No.1 advantage is privacy – which is of top most importance when it comes to a category like lingerie. Shopping for lingerie online bypasses any unpleasantness that one would witness in a typical multi brand lingerie retail stores.” Kar backs the genesis thought of Zivame and adds, “The advantage of shopping online is the privacy that one gets while making their purchase.” Elaborates Bhupendra Jagtap, Founder and CEO, PrivyPleasures, “Due to social reasons, one often feels shy to ask for a pair of sexy lingerie or something exotic in an offline store. It is even further difficult to flip through various options, especially when all sales persons are staring at you. An online store makes it all so easy and solves this problem.” Kharbanda feels perhaps even more strongly about the lack of awareness about lingerie shopping. She feels that this is compounded by the fact that the customers, mainly women, are not very friendly in talking about their inner wear issues and problems to the shopkeeper. She adds, “Our research shows that women often buy wrong sizes and are forced to buy whatever product the shopkeeper gives them. Online shopping gives them the advantage to choose their product as per their requirements and needs. If they wish to buy a certain product, they go ahead and commence the sales, else they choose other products.” Additionally, Kar points out, “The online nature removes the barriers of shelf space, giving women access to an unfathomable variety in terms of styles and sizes.”
Behal also points out the convenience of choosing from a large variety of products at the click of a button. Kar adds, “Zivame allows a woman to explore various sizes and styles without any hesitation. We empower her with product and category knowledge so that, she makes the perfect choice-this was not common in the category in the past.
A FRIEND TO TALK TO
And as to how exactly this is being done by e-retailers, Kar shares, “We also offer various forms of consultation—telephonic, chat, website and mobile size calculator, etc., thereby making her shopping experience extremely convenient and effortless.” Behal adds, “Our customer care is available to personally address any questions the customer may have whilst browsing the website or via the chat option. Our website is designed in such a way that a customer would feel extremely content at her privacy being respected while she is browsing through the products. They can easily raise their queries to our customer care representatives, who personally guide each customer regarding fit and size or any other product related doubts.”
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FIT
Elaborating on the criticality of the fit issue, Behal shares that when it comes to online shopping, getting the right size can be a bit confusing for the customer. In order to clear that confusion, there is a ‘Size & Fit Guide’ for every product category on the PrettySecrets website. “We also have a live chat option where the customer can address her query to our customer care representative who will guide her in addressing the issue,” he said. Kharbanda shares, “We have a perfect size bra calculator for the ease of our customers. We have facility of online chat with our fit experts who assist our customers to choose their perfect size. Apart from this we even help our customers to ask their questions to our panel of expert doctors and fit expert members of Zeppleme. The questions can be regarding health or fitting issues.” Kar states, “We have launched several category leading customer service initiatives since we started. Fitting is a big problem when it comes to bras, and we offer a bra size calculator on our website which helps women to determine their right size. Another interesting service that we have come up with is our Fit Lounge in Bengaluru where our fit experts help women identify their right size. Also, each of our products has a detailed description and imagery that helps our customers make an informed purchase.” And now taking this experience offline, Zivame has also launched physical stores that offer a personalised lingerie shopping experience. “Our highly specialised fit experts are available at the stores to help ladies find the right fit.”
DISCRETE PACKAGING TOO
Kar shares that Zivame products come in a pretty pink #BoxofSecrets which is discreetly packaged in a grey nondescript outer packaging to protect the customer’s privacy. Jagtap, says, “In order to maintain privacy of our customers, all our orders are shipped in a discreet packing without mentioning the name our website or any kind of branding on it. Our invoice is also discreet as our company name is different than the brand name.” Kharbanda explicates, “Being an Inner wear product, privacy of the customer is our top priority. To make the customer at ease, we need very simple informational inputs from the customer. We use the information internally to make the working easier. We at Zeppleme do not encourage or disclose any information of the customers at any point of time.” Taking the privacy issue further most brands have zero questions asked on returns policies.
EXCHANGES & RETURNS
On the slightly different return policies in lingerie as compared to other apparel Behal explains, “In the rare case that the ordered products do not fit the customer right, we either send a replacement product based on availability and preference or process a refund or a credit note upon receipt of returned products. Panties, shape wear and accessories are not eligible for returns for hygienic reasons.” Jagtap shares, “We offer easy exchange and no question is asked during return of any product. Due to hygienic reasons we do not offer exchange on panties.” Fair enough! PrivyPleasures do not face this issue of size and fit as their products come in free size. Informs Bhupendra, “Most of our products are free sized with stretchable material and often come with adjustable hooks or ties.”
While discussing about the pricing of their products, Kar shares, “The category has evolved from whites, blacks and nudes. Women today are ready to invest more on themselves and their needs. They are ready to spend approx. `1,200 per piece as opposed to `200-`300 that they used to spend earlier.” Kharbanda closely agrees, the popular price bracket is `500-`1,000. Jagtap feels that the popular price bracket for inner wear range among his customers is `1,000-`2,000. It’s as much as what better than average jeans go at.
InneRweAR OnlIne SHOPPInG HAS HUGe POtentIAl In tHe neAR FUtURe. It IS eXPeCteD tO GROw At A FASteR PACe AS MORe InDIVIDUAlS GAIn knOwleDGe In tHIS AReA.
IS ONLINE INNERWEAR DOMINATED BY WOMEN SHOPPERS?
Inner wear is a highly online friendly category amongst women who like to shop from privacy of their home. Kar strongly feels that the online inner wear shopping is dominated by women. She shares, “Men constitute about 7 percent and women constitute the remaining 93 percent.” Behal agrees, “The innerwear shopping is dominated by women where women’s lingerie holds ~53 percent share while that of men is about 47 percent.” Kharbanda, on the other hand, feels that online inner wear market is not dominated by women. “There is a big percentage of men who buy inner wear online these days,” she says, and meanwhile Jagtap states, “Being an exotic lingerie store, PrivacyPleasures is equally visited and shopped by both men and women.” He proudly adds, “We offer men’s sexy underwear which you will not get anywhere else in India”.
THE TIER -II & -III CITIES ARE CALLING
Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and the big cities have had it good but most online lingerie portals hold the edge in the latent potential of small towns. According to Behal, “The potential of these markets is only growing with the growth of marketing and ways of disseminating information, improved supply chain capabilities, providing easy payment options such as cash-on-delivery and offering coupons and discounts are all factors that are leading to the non-urban dweller increase his/her consumption habits.” States Kharbanda, “There is a big potential of tier -II and -III cities in inner wear but according to our study the tier-II cities are more ahead in online shopping of inner wear these days.” Jagtap agrees that there is a great potential of tier -II and -III cities in innerwear, but it would take time.
USE OR ABUSE?
The rise of online (innerwear) retailing in India has made it a lucrative launch pad for international inner wear brands into India. We asked the online inner wear retailers whether they are used by international brands till only such a time that they launch their own brick and mortar stores or online operations or will this foster good long term partnerships. Kharbanda felt, “This is unpredictable as market is growing and if people get quality product at reasonable prices in India of an Indian brand online or offline then it can be difficult for international brands to setup a place in Indian market”. That was brave of her. Jagtap was clear “They will come on their own, once their brand becomes visible in India.” And Kar was silent. No comments. But, we hope she was thinking that “Like hell!!! I am already going global as they try going Indian”.