Innerwear market in India has been sustainably growing for years, the reason being the unorganised sector moving towards being organised to a great extent. The focus of Indian consumers is rapidly shifting towards buying right, and inclination towards healthy lifestyle is also contributing to the growth of innerwear segment. Millennials and GenZ consider fashion underwear a status symbol today as they tend to change their innerwear every 6 months on an average, as per various reports.
Taking advantage of these demand drivers, Kolkata and Tirupur – the two established hubs of innerwear manufacturing – are on the growth track but in different ways. Mainly known for men’s innerwear, Kolkata’s giant companies and mass brands Dollar, Lux, Rupa etc., are continuously adding new product categories in the knitted segment, while Tirupur is focusing on innovative raw material, newer prints, design oriented innerwear. Especially, Tirupur is witnessing new players in innerwear manufacturing like Faso, Carnation Creations, Cruso, Tailor and Circus and more.
As far as Kolkata’s companies (mass brands) are concerned, they are mainly known for underwear and have natural growth in the same. Over the years, they started covering a wide range of knitted garments which is continuing even now. The main reason for these companies to add newer product categories is that by doing so, they can earn more with less effort as from manufacturing to retail, they have an entire system in place. And in this exercise of expanding product portfolio, their core strength and major focus on underwear is not impacted any way.
A few of such products which are new additions are women’s innerwear, athleisure, loungewear, gymwear, sleepwear, warmers, leggings and vests. Dollar Industries is now also focusing on womenswear like brassiere.
“Our latest offering in brassiere product range has opened a new gate for the women’s product segment and has received good feedback from the market. We are sure that it will help us capture a reasonable share of the market in the coming years,” says Vinod Gupta, MD of the company.
Another underwear giant Lux Industries Ltd., is witnessing growth in the underwear segment as it is hopeful of making Lux Cozi a Rs. 1,000 crore brand in the next three years. The company clocked a turnover of Rs. 2,300 crore in 2021-22 and is expecting around 12 per cent growth and may touch Rs. 2,600 crore in the current financial.
At the same time, it also has plans to enter the kids’ segment in a big way. Saket Todi, ED of the company believes that there is no national brand catering to the kids’ innerwear market and so there is a huge potential to grow the segment. Last year, the company had crossed US $ 1 billion market capitalisation in the fast-growing innerwear market.
Tirupur’s companies go for innovative material and designs
Like Kolkata, Tirupur also used to do a lot of basic innerwear but in recent years it has evolved. Along with natural reasons like overall growing demand and cluster-specific benefits, the credit also goes to the companies’ focus on innovative designs and materials.
Relatively new players in this segment have done remarkable progress! Not only budding manufacturer Carnation Creations, but a dedicated organic cotton-based innerwear brand Faso (by vertically integrated textile company KPR Mills), Tailor and Circus, a startup having its own manufacturing etc., are seeing tremendous success.
Carnation Creations, Coimbatore – a manufacturer of premium brands for apparel and home textiles – has also expertise in fashion innerwear and is strongly planning to grow in this category. Akhilesh Anand, MD of the 4-year-old company says, “Understanding the customer psychology, we found that underwear is more a fashion garment now and also requires additional infrastructure. So along with focusing on designs, we have added anti-microbial finishes or whatever is required for comfort, at the same time, we have invested in all the state-of-the-art machines required for innerwear technology, so we can offer the best in innerwear.”
Working with many top international and national brands in India, Akhilesh also highlights that it is not easy for any mid-sized manufacturer to make the fashion innerwear range due to different styles and large SKUs. The process gets complex owing to fashion elements and changes made by the client. Different channels have different styles of packaging as well, and things are slightly different when it is MBO, EBO, e-commerce for the same brand etc.
“We provide design inputs to brands and solve their complexities, be it packaging and delivery management,” says Akhilesh.
Faso, a brand launched in 2019, has recently expanded in Western India through a dealer network, and is adding almost one state every month. Its target is to cover India very soon. Further, it has massive plans for direct retailing by opening 100 EBOs.
T. Gokulakrishnan, VP, Faso says, “Due to complete vertical operations, we can ensure true organic products compared to any other company as we have a strong hold right from ginning to despatch of the final product. It also makes us very cost-competitive and increases trust in customers for our products.” The company has advanced infrastructure across the value chain and the brand started with the vision to offer pure organic innerwear to Indian consumers.
“With the growing market, our focus is to have a strong loyal consumer base across India so that we can have longterm sustained growth,” he adds. Start-ups and D2C brands have disrupted the innerwear segment and Bengaluru is a major hub for start-ups. It has also created a growth opportunity for Tirupur as nearly all major start-ups and D2C brands of this hub are sourcing undergarments from Tirupur which is just 320 km away from Bengaluru while Kolkata is almost 1600 km away.
“Apart from proximity, Tirupur has strengths of strong design sense, catering to low volume orders and supporting required R&D for startups or D2C brands. If a brand or start-up wants to take inspiration or study the market, Tirupur is the market where things can be studied easily,” says Akhilesh.
Bengaluru-based Tailor and Circus, a leading D2C and profitable innerwear start-up, started in 2017 with a factory in Tirupur. The brand is also happy with its growth and it is soon expected to get seed funding. It also has plans to launch its EBOs.
Vasanth Sampath, Co-founder of the brand who also takes care of manufacturing says, “By giving the experience of super-premium brands at affordable prices, we have successfully filled the vacuum in the market. Year-on-year, we have achieved 3x growth, so we have a plan to increase our capacity and the overall team as well.”
The company, having 45 per cent customer retention rate, uses micro-modal and sustainable materials in packaging also. It also follows the concept of body positivity which is not common in India. Newer prints are also its focused area. “Own manufacturing gives us the strength to incorporate every small or big feedback of customers completely and quickly. It also allows us to keep a lean inventory and have better control of quality. Similarly, 95 per cent of the total sales comes from the company’s website, 40 per cent of its sales is organic (without marketing efforts) which makes it more profitable,” he adds.