Indians devote roughly the same share of their income to apparel as do Chinese and Brazilians. But the country’s lower per capita income levels mean overall spending on apparel is significantly lower, and the habits of Indian shoppers present intriguing challenges for multinationals eyeing the market.1 For starters, nearly 40 percent of the mass-market Indian shoppers2 we surveyed said that their most important shopping occasions revolved around special events, such as weddings and annual religious festivals—a figure dramatically higher than the one for shoppers in the other emerging markets we studied. Furthermore, to a greater extent than elsewhere, shopping is a family activity in India: nearly 70 percent of its shoppers always go to stores with family, and 74 percent—more than twice the average of Brazil, China, and Russia—view shopping as the best way to spend time with family. The preference for family-oriented shopping is consistent across age groups, income segments, regions, and city sizes.
As in many markets, in India women are the primary decision makers in apparel purchases for the entire family. But India’s men also have an important role: indeed, half of our survey respondents said that their husbands had a major influence on which stores they frequented—a proportion far higher than the one for Brazil (3 percent), China (8 percent), and Russia (18 percent). What’s more, India is unusual in that the market for men’s apparel is larger than the women’s market, where traditional Indian apparel still dominates. Mass-market apparel retailers must therefore find formats and merchandising approaches that will attract shoppers seeking apparel not only for special occasions but also appealing to the entire family.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of information and networking services to the private equity and venture capital ecosystem in India. View free samples of Venture Intelligence newsletters and reports.