– What about the situation en India from the point of view of one of our most loyal customers on site? –
Edith Keller – CEO of Carlin Creative Trend Bureau: Hi Olivier, 9 years ago, you’ve been joining the TATA group in BOMBAY, to manage the women’s sector of the Westside Trent brand, after a long experience as collection manager in Europe. I would like you to tell me about the most notable developments during these 9 years?
Olivier Chaland – Head of Women & Kids Wear – TATA Group: Hi Edith! I joined Westside because their strategy is ambitious, particularly regarding their vision of women. Today, 85% of the company’s turnover is devoted to women’s sector. We have anticipated the emancipation of women in India. Today 40% of women have had the opportunity to pursue education, and many of them are working. This is of course particularly true in the metropolitan cities such as New Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore… Indeed, we still have a huge cultural gap between these very liberated women on the one hand, and on the other hand women who live in the countryside or small towns and who have not had access to education.
When I arrived at Tata Group, European women’s fashion represented only 14% of the sector, today it is almost 25%. They adopt this European style to assert their independence but also for practical reasons (nothing is more difficult to wear than a Sari).
E.K: How did you manage to identify the expectations of Indian women?
O.C: First of all, I listened very carefully, especially to the teams, who assured me that black color, sexy style and synthetic fabrics would never be sold. Then I tested, dared! Today black color represents 25% of our sales, the “sexy” tops are the best-sellers with our Nuon brand. Of course, I have also segmented the offer, and put in place all the management tools necessary for our brands’ successes.
E.K: What is the most popular segment?
O.C: Except one “business” brand, overall it is the “casual easy fashion” style that dominates.
Westside – TATA Group
E.K: Are there still some taboos not to cross?
O.C: Few in fact! Women in big cities show their legs, their belly. The only part of the body not to show is the chest, therefore, no vertiginous necklines … besides we sell them very well “minimizer” …
E.K: You had started to implement a CSR policy before Covid, where are you now?
O.C: For now, the majority of Indian consumers are not yet concerned, but this remains very important to the TATA Group! We are going to make a very big effort on the fibers’ selection. We are going to give preference to viscous fibres and cotton with the companies that are developing the “better cotton initiative” project, with notably a very large reduction in water consumption (thus allowing the farmers to have better incomes), as well as denim, and we are going to favour recycled polyester. In addition, we are doing a lot of work to develop the loyalty of our local suppliers.
E.K: What changes in attitude since the COVID situation?
O.C: Indian women were very much in demand for new products, of fashion to be able to assert their personality and independence. Today, many of them are going to suffer a sharp drop in purchasing power, so it’s not the desire that disappears but the financial means because few Indian groups have maintained the salaries of all of them like Tata did. But India still consumes for pleasure and the resumption of fashion consumption will follow the economic recovery, because personal appearance is very essential here. Otherwise, a notorious phenomenon is the rise of knitwear to the detriment of woven , for two major reasons: it is easier to buy without trying knitwear products, and we note a search for comfort, especially for teleworking for the tops and bottoms.
E.K: What are the projects for the next few years?
O.C: Westside is going to accelerate the development of its online shopping site and we are moving towards dematerialisation and simplification of processes.
Westside – TATA Group
E.K: Thank you very much for this insight into this fascinating multifaceted country, where women are starting to make their place! I know how happy this challenge makes you, good luck with it…and we look forward to seeing you in Paris.