The Salman Khan Foundation brand’s CEO underlines the importance of tier 2 and 3 towns, contribution from women’s wear, ongoing R&D for boyswear and the international agenda. He also opens up about opening all-women-staff stores, hiring war-hit soldiers and the market’s response to the company’s recently launched unisex label, Blur.
We haven’t heard much from the brand in the last few years. What explains the silence? Was the lockdown a factor?
The family bought out the business in early 2020 when Covid hit (from licensee Mandhana Retail Ventures). At that point of time we were getting the house in order.
A lot of effort has been put into the quality of the products, the right pricing and ensuring that what we are doing is right. We always kept in mind that the brand Being Human stays very responsible.
We have two kinds of circles – a conscious circle and a business circle. The former encompasses sustainability, giving back to earth, using fabrics which helps farmers. We are working with a couple of companies which source directly from the farmers and give to the mills. This is done to ensure that the farmers get the right price. We also re-aligned the approach and strategies about the markets we need to enter. Today Being Human as a brand is ready to fly.
What is the contribution from men’s collection, women’s collection and accessories to sales. And how each is growing?
We launched the women’s collections two seasons back. The first season was more to test and understand the segment. The women’s category consists of more casual wear, athleisure, denim wear etc. because we don’t want to be everything to everybody. We want to focus on certain fixed segments and work on it and be the best at them.
Men’s category typically contributes 75 pc of our overall sales, women’s is about 12 to 15 pc and the rest comes from accessories.
When it comes to the children’s category, we don’t want to get into it right now, but we are working on the R&D of boys wear and will probably launch it in the next financial year.
Talk us through the latest launch, Blur. Is there a mainstream market for unisex fashion? How much do you expect Blur to contribute to sales?
We have realised that women come in and try men’s T-shirts. Hence, it was important for us to do a gender neutral collection, which can be worn by both men and women, because there is a lot of layering which happens in fashion.
We launched Blur in the last season and the contribution right now is 4 to 5pc, but it’s growing.
There is indeed a mainstream market for unisex fashion. We have many fashion brands across India who are launching gender neutral clothing and internationally a lot of them exist.
Being Human Clothing launched e-commerce operations in 2018. How much of the overall sales (as a percentage) comes from online today?
In 2018, we were very exclusive to one or two portals, right now we are open with all the marketplaces and are doing extremely well. e-commerce contributes 18 to 19 pc of the overall sales and is growing.
Within online sales, you are present on your own platform and marketplaces. How is the sales split between them?
The marketplaces contribute the highest. Our own online platform is also performing well.
Within retail, you have opened the latest all-women-staff store in Indira Nagar, Bengaluru now. How many exclusive outlets are there today? What is the expansion plan w.r.t. brand stores?
We would exit with 80 to 85 stores this financial year with another 50 added in the next financial year. We have three stores in neighbouring countries and soon will be adding to the global footprint.
When it comes to expansion plans, for us India works of course, but Bharat works better. The story is all about Bharat where all the business action is. They are the Tier 2, 3, 4 towns where people are so exposed to the discovery of brands on mobile phones. Because of the internet penetration, people know what is happening across the world and they have the money to spend and that’s where we wish to be. Most of our expansions are in Bharat, but not that we ignore India. We are present in all the top malls. We focus a large part on Bharat because that’s the emerging India.
What explains the all-women store concept? Will we see more of these?
Being Human as a brand stands for a lot of things. We stand for women empowerment and also make sure that specially abled people are employed in our stores.
We decided that when we open the Indiranagar, Bengaluru store, it should be a fully women employee store. We are planning to open many such stores giving employment to women. We are also tying up with certain organisations which train women who are just out of college, possibly from lesser income strata. On a parallel, we are working with certain agencies, to recruit soldiers who are war hit. We are trying to give them the dignity that they deserve by employing them not only across our stores but also in offices. We have started the process and hopefully they will join us in the second or third quarter of this year.
In terms of women empowered stores, we will be opening more in India to begin with and later expand the concept internationally.
Being Human Clothing also sold at over 350 large-format stores (2018 report). How has it grown over the last five years? What are the numbers currently?
The large format stores are departmental stores and they don’t grow at the pace at which our Exclusive Brand Outlets ( EBOs) grow. Today we are spread across Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Central, Fashion Factory etc, and whatever the growth of large format stores, we grow with them.
Which is the biggest international market for the brand? How much of the sales is from outside India?
Currently, we present in Nepal and Bangladesh. We are opening in Canada and Dubai in the first quarter (next financial year).
We have active enquiries from franchises from Singapore, Indonesia, the USA and Australia.
Bangladesh is a country which people thought won’t work out. The store in Bangladesh is probably beating the best stores of ours in India by miles. The reason for that is earlier Bangladesh had the top strata and at the absolute bottom was the working or labour class. When Covid hit, the country saw the emergence of the middle class. When the whole world was locked up, in Bangladesh every single factory worker never stopped working. That’s why Bangladesh became the largest supplier of PPE kits, gloves, masks to the whole world. That’s where the middle class suddenly bloomed and that’s our customer base there.
Right now the contribution of the international market is very small to our turnover, but it is growing steadily.
Salman Khan’s popularity spans urban and rural India. Is there a sales skew across urban and Tier 2, 3 markets for Being Human Clothing? How is it split?
If I open a 100 stores about 60 would be in Tier 2, 3 and the rest would be in Tier 1 (metros and mini metros).
How much does South India contribute to the brand’s sales?
Previously, we weren’t concentrating in South India and now we are strategically moving into that geography.
We have opened three stores in Hyderabad which are performing well. Bengaluru has two stores currently and we are looking to open another three to four stores. We have one store in Chennai and are planning to expand to areas like Anna Nagar.
Who is the brand’s core TG? How do you keep this TG engaged?
It is 16 to 35 years. We reach out to them through various digital activations because in today’s world the discovery happens on phones.
We are typically a GenZ to Millennial brand. India today is mostly Millenial and GenZ. Post Covid, people have shifted massively towards casual wear that has propelled ours as well other casual wear brands’ growth. Around 70pc of our spend goes into digital.
You have said that the industry has to invest in creating an environment for the future like Metaverse…
I always believe that one must plan for the future because it is developing so fast that India has skipped many levels in technology and moved up the tier. Today we are a digitally enabled society.
For me digital first has always been the cue. As we evolve over a period of time, digital is going to take a large part of our transactions. Stores are now being developed as experience centres and also as the last mile delivery point.
Metaverse stores are important to invest in. There is not going to be ROI right now, but it will start kicking in. We are actively discussing with a couple of companies across the world to set up our store and hopefully we will be able to do something by 2024.
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