Now it is almost clear that Indian apparel exporters will have at least 25 to 30 per cent fewer orders in the rest of the months of 2020. So, their marketing efforts need to enhance which require more investments. But at the same time, owing to a huge pressure on business, it is not possible or even viable to fill extra fuel for marketing initiatives. This scenario is critical for small exporters who earlier used to take part in some sourcing fairs as their main marketing strategy. So now, what are the efforts they are making to market themselves, especially to add new buyers, as existing buyers always remain in touch? Apparel Resources tried to explore this in discussion with many small and medium exporters and other stakeholders of the Indian apparel industry.
To discover new buyers, exporters are buying data of buyers, doing extensive online research and approaching various trade bodies in India as well as abroad. Approaching buyers with whom business could not take place earlier is also a major task for many exporters.
Zoom meetings and other similar tools are also very common among various exporters, but as far as exploring new clients is concerned, exporters are hardly getting any success. However, the Federation of Buying Agents (FBA) has used such online meeting platforms very well, connecting with many buyers, buying houses and apparel exporters on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, virtual fairs have proved to be one of the strongest pillars of support for many small exporters along with giving them hopes to add new buyers. The fact that the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) has conducted three virtual fairs in the last one and half month proves the significance of such fairs. Jaipur-based apparel exporter, Pradeep Nahata, MD of Karni Exports, participated in two of these fairs and is currently sampling for two new buyers he met during those virtual events. While many such virtual fairs are cost-effective as they charge a nominal fee, some (being organised by western companies) charge a hefty amount which is not affordable for small Indian exporters.
“I receive many emails regarding such online events, but paying US $ 2,500 or € 3,000 doesn’t make any logic,” says Pradeep. At the same time, many exporters are not much happy with the overall experience of virtual fairs.
It is pertinent to mention here that the India International Garment Fair (IIGF) by Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) is one of the biggest platforms for hundreds of small Indian apparel exporters to meet their regular buyers under one roof and build connections with new buyers at the same time. When asked about the trade show’s plans to go virtual and its marketing support to its members (exporters), Dr. A Sakthivel, Chairman, AEPC, said, “We are still working on it.”
Apparel Resources got to know from sources that IIGF can take place virtually in September.
It must be highlighted here that now even the National Garment Fair by The Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI) will go online and has been scheduled from 2 to 11 September this year. Aggressive marketing for the event is going on currently.
Also Read: Order booking is seeing gradual improvement
Some exporters are even changing their strategies, as those who were not working through buying agents and buying houses earlier are now personally approaching them. Now exporters are not working with buyers who have cancelled shipments in recent months or have delayed payments, and in case they are working with them, they are ensuring payment terms are clear in the beginning itself, for example, 30 per cent in advance and rest on completing the orders.
Exporters are also taking help from various private agencies and professionals who claim to connect exporters with buyers, but it too has some challenges. “We have explored the option of marketing though collaborating with agencies that have good reach in terms of wholesalers, importers and boutique buyers, but there are issues like high charges of these agencies and less probability of order conversion with new buyers, so things seem difficult to work out,” shared a Tirupur-based apparel exporter on the request of anonymity.
On the other hand, a big chunk of small exporters is of the view that this is not the right time to do much marketing or promotion, as buyer sentiments are down and connecting with a new buyer will have fewer chances of order finalisation. It will also increase the cost of sampling. Trust level from each side is also something which needs a long time to develop.
“I don’t think this is the right time to explore a new buyer or to invest in overall marketing activities. Without visiting the factory, how will a buyer trust an exporter, and due to high uncertainty, there are various risk factors also, so it is better to have patience and focus mainly on the existing buyers,” said Aseem Singla, General Secretary, Garment Exporters Association of Rajasthan (GEAR), and Director, Fashion Images Overseas. Few other exporters also added that they are approaching only those buyers they have met or worked with before.
It is a strong perception that apparel export business is a relationship-based business. In the new normal, investments and strategies are completely different and depend on individual strength. Having said that, one should not forget that lean period is the best to bring out the best.