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Infant Wear: A tough playground for brands

By Meenakshi Kumar


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As one of the only apparel segments where fabric comfort and durability is far more important than fashion and designing elements, infant wear category holds tremendous potential in India today. With India having one of the largest children’s population in the world with more than 20 per cent of the global population of kids in the age group of 0-3, many brands are eyeing this lucrative market. The infant wear segment follows two main seasons: summer and winter with patterns remaining more or less the same round the year. However, in a rapidly progressive country, spending power and expectations from the brands by consumers is now highly accelerated.

Brands dare to be different

Experts opine that the infant care market in India is expected to grow significantly at a CAGR of around 17 per cent in terms of revenue over the period 2014-2019. In terms of products, this market has been divided into many segments such as the apparels, toys, cosmetics, food, accessories and diapers. The baby care market in India is further driven by per capita increase in disposable income in modern families who are more willing to buy luxury goods, such as baby accessories and cosmetics.

“Kids’ wear is such a category where parents don’t think twice before buying clothes, though they are unlikely to do the same with themselves and this is why this category has been recession proof. Although the segment may become stable, infant wear will keep on growing. Infant wear is difficult than other kids’ wear segments as extra care is required in terms of fabrics and design. That is why we use 100 per cent cotton and mainly cotton for all our products. We use organic cotton also, but demand is not high for this as it is costly and not readily acceptable, even in international markets due to pricing issues,’’ points out Satya Narayan Chandak, MD, Yes Mom, a domestic infant wear brand. “The Indian market has changed a lot as earlier basic products were more in demand but now designing also lay an important role. We also changed ourselves with time and whatever we produce and design is backed by feedback from the market. It’s not easy to grow in this category, as you have to have a good sense of trends and how you present yourself as a brand and whether you are in sync with what your brand is aimed at is important and takes a lot of time to develop,” he adds.

Urbanization has given a boost to the market and these factors make India one of the most attractive retail targets globally. It has a high potential and largely untapped market for baby care products, although not much brand play happens and low margins are a constant constraint. Infant care brands face a lot of competition from Chinese markets as many products are imported from there and customers do not even get to know the difference even though Indian products are much more quality-oriented. Industry experts feel that as of now the situation of the market is static as no brand is growing very rapidly and money rolling is also slow.

Premium, local brands target different segments

To become established in the infant wear category, safety and comfort of the materials and fabrics used is of utmost importance. High quality materials that are soft and breathable and do not cause rashes on baby skin are used in all the garments. Parents don’t want to take a chance with the quality of material with their baby. Child friendly toys with no sharp edges or toxic colours are also part of the product offerings of most bigger brands. Many consumers rely on the mega international giants in the Indian segment such as Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark, Procter & Gamble and Unilever for their infant care requirements and do not easily settle for the smaller domestic manufacturers. There are only a few international brands in the infant wear category, having made an entry into the Indian market after a long success period in their home-markets. These brands give some push to the overall segment, although smaller domestic brands with lower pricing also have a tight grip on the market with their lower pricing and selective portfolio.

Although there is high demand for infant wear in India, there are tight spending budgets among most middle class consumers. Second hand use of products in this category as it is handed down is also high, with the ratio standing at 40 per cent consumers using second hand products while 60 per cent consumers are the original buyers. However in more affluent countries such the US and UK most are first hand buyers although things are changing fast in India also. In next 10 years the demand is bound to grow across all income groups.

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