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Shweta T Nanda
Shweta T Nanda


This is best time to be in India

Karl-Johan Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M

Delhi is not new to store launches. That is why, last week when famous Swedish fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) opened its flagship outlet in the national capital, the international retailer made sure that it enters the market in style.

So, with reward gift cards of Rs15,000, Rs10,000 and Rs7,500, respectively, for first three customers and limited edition H&M India tote bag for first 1,000 customers, it wooed nearly 2,500 customers to queue up overnight outside the store at Select Citywalk mall.

“This is the best time to be in India, it is H&M’s 60th and highly anticipated market with so much potential in retail. We hope to exceed customer expectations with our varied range of inspiring fashion that lets them explore their personal style,” said Janne Einola, Country Manager, H&M.

Reportedly, the brand clocked sales worth 01.75 crore on the opening day itself.

What makes the company so bullish about India is its huge population and growing economy, says Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M. “There are so many people living here. Besides, the fashion interest is huge. India is all about diversity and we offer a great diversity in style. So, it makes perfect sense.”

It is Persson’s fourth visit to India and he is already in love with the country. “With so much warmth, it is such a wonderful country. It is bustling and there is something going on all the time. And I am not saying so because I am here. But at the same time you can’t deny that the interest grew with the knowledge of us coming here.”

So, why did it take H&M so long to come to India? “To enter a new market takes a lot of time and resources because we want to do it well. So we can’t do all the markets at once and take it step by step. And India is such a big market and there have been FDI restriction also. But now everything is in place. We are super excited and happy about the changes in the FDI regulations. Hopefully, we can give Indian consumers a lot and Indian economy, too,” says Persson.

By this year end, Delhi will get another H&M outlet at Ambience mall, followed by a store in Bengaluru in 2016, followed by one in Mumbai.

“As India grows in importance, the opportunities will increase be it collaborations with music festivals or art. We do many such things in other countries, especially music festivals. We constantly want to surprise our customers and do exciting things,” says Persson.

And what will be the brand’s strategy to outwit competitors like Zara, Mango and Marks & Spencer, who have a better understanding of the Indian market?

“On the one hand we are very humble when we enter the market. You never know what’s going to happen. On the other hand, we mark our presence in 59 markets and we are meeting a lot of competitors in all those markets and we have a strong offer. What we are doing is working in all those markets so far. So we are confident that when you combine, fashion, quality and sustainability, and competitive price, you have something really strong. That’s also the case in India—we have a super strong offering and we really believe that in itself will attract a lot of customers. Hopefully, word of mouth will augment our growth further,” he says.

As Indians’ fashion choices are not solely guided by global fashion trends but several socio-cultural factors, has the brand customised its collection to suit Indian taste? “It’s an international collection and after we learn Indian consumers’ demand we will make the changes. We may enter some kind of collaboration with Indian designers, established or upcoming ones. We may also use Indian models in the campaign in future,” says Persson.

“Out of 129 designers that work in our Stockholm office we have some Indian designers, too. I would be surprised if the design team hasn’t consulted them before the launch because we do a lot of homework before entering a market to get to know it more,” says Persson.

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