Uniqlo, a Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer, operates more than 2,200 outlets in 23 countries, including China, the US, Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia. It has now made its debut in India and already clocked Rs 1.2 crore on its debut day, which is indeed an impressive figure given the current economic downturn in the country. Talking about the brand’s philosophy and their roadmap for Indian expansions S Shantanu, Head of Marketing, Uniqlo India, said, “Being a Japanese brand, perfection is in our DNA, be it manufacturing, selecting local partners or product assortment. We do not go ahead if everything is not on the same page.”
“We strive for perfection whenever entering a new market, so we don’t see our entering the Indian market at this point in time as a delay; rather we see it as the right time because we think that Indian consumers are ready to embrace our brand,” he added. “Consumers’ readiness is yet another crucial parameter that we consider before foraying into any unexplored territory. Based on the research that we have done in order to learn about Indian consumers, manufacturing, opting for right collaborations, point-of-sale locations and right designs for exclusive kurta category, now we feel confident that Indian consumers are evolved to consume our brand,” he further said.
“The third component is the environment which includes government policy for FDI, and government receptivity, amongst other environmental factors, that is crucial to us. As of now all the three factors are working in our favour, making it the right time for our India debut,” he said. Highlighting the expansion strategy, he added, “Typically, Uniqlo does not open manufacturing plants; we manufacture through our partners. But there is very close hand-holding that goes into the entire process. Uniqlo hand-holds its partners across the globe and India will be no exception.”
The store, sprawling over 35,000 sq. feet over three floors at Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, Delhi opened for the public on October 4. Talking about their strategy in terms of selecting this location, Shantanu said, “We open at prime locations only, regardless how much time it takes. We are starting with Delhi but given the opportunity that India offers, Delhi is just a starting point for us. We plan to make Uniqlo accessible across India. Even in Delhi, three stores cannot cater to the entire region and so expanding within Delhi and beyond is on the cards. Side by side, we are also working on building our online store which will be operational soon.”
“We are working on all the three components simultaneously. For the next six months our focus would be on understanding the Indian market better, including taste, colour, pricing and sizes. Thereafter, we will roll out the next phase of expansion,” he revealed. Discussing about taking their presence online and the target market in India, Shantanu said: “Our e-commerce is not operational yet, although everything is ready except the ‘buy now’ option which will be ready soon. Our endeavour will be to reach all pin codes, which is a gradual process, but we would like to reach all of them in one shot.”
“Having said that I would also like to highlight that we do not intend to go marketplaces as far as our online expansion is concerned. We are made for all brands. There are brands which play in different niches; for example, some may have expertise in denim or innerwear or so on and so forth. Irrespective of gender and generation, we cater to everybody. We work actively across the product segments. In fact, in many cases we create or improvise categories, as for example, winter thermal wear,” he said.
“The category does exist but many people do not wear winter thermals because they are too uncomfortable and so we created a category of thin-layered thermal wear, which is big hit worldwide. With India roll-out we have introduced a special kurta category which will soon be part of our global portfolio,” Shantanu added. Uniqlo opened its third store on February 29, 2020 following its second store in Gurugram’s DLF Cyber Hub. The latest store in Delhi’s Saket area is spread over 21,500 sq. feet over two floors.
“We are delighted with the positive feedback our products have garnered in the winter season and are now looking forward for the onset of the new spring-summer season,” said Tomohiko Sei, CEO, Uniqlo India. Commenting on in-store technology integration, Shantanu said, “Technology is not the starting point for us. We resort to technology when we find some customer barrier or problem. We do not add technology just for the sake of implementing it. Our focus is on streamlining the shopping experience, whether online or offline.”