Sohini Sen

"We'll redefine India's relationship with the outdoors": Simeran Bhasin, Wildcraft

Wildcraft, outdoor and adventure gear brand, is breaking what it calls its "first comprehensive, strategically-driven ad campaign," across media platforms, including television, today. It also has a revamped logo and a new product range to flaunt.

The team spent the last seven months articulating what Wildcraft stands for and what its new communication strategy ought to be. Recall that around nine months back Wildcraft roped in Simeran Bhasin as chief marketing officer. So when Gaurav Dublish and Siddharth Sood, co-founders of Wildcraft, refer to the brand's "renewed marketing muscle" we know they're referring, in part, to Bhasin's appointment.

Bhasin, 'youth marketing specialist', as her LinkedIn profile describes her, and former marketing head of Fastrack - a brand she has spent around 10 years nurturing - spoke to us about Wildcraft, in an exclusive interview.

Launched in 1998, today Wildcraft is a Rs. 250 crore+ brand, available in over 120 exclusive, and over 2,500 multi-brand stores, across 400+ cities in India.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

Traditionally, Wildcraft has relied a lot more on word-of-mouth marketing than on mass media advertising. What prompted this TV campaign?
"We'll redefine India's relationship with the outdoors": Simeran Bhasin, Wildcraft
We have never done any marketing or communication before, at least not in the formal sense of the term. Whatever we have done has been sporadic, through small associations, collaterals and product sponsorships.

After being in Bengaluru for over a decade, Wildcraft forayed into the rest of the Southern cities around seven years ago. Eventually, distribution moved to the West and North, and very recently (around 12-18 months ago) to the East. In the absence of any formal and visible communication, the consumer's perception of the brand has been led by the product itself. Those who live in Bengaluru know Wildcraft as an outdoor-gear brand, but as we move to other regions, we notice that the campus line has picked up. This has led to the perception that Wildcraft is a lifestyle brand.

But we are a performance-gear brand. Through this campaign, we are clarifying that. Going forward, we will ensure we have a sharply positioned brand.

"We'll redefine India's relationship with the outdoors": Simeran Bhasin, Wildcraft
"We'll redefine India's relationship with the outdoors": Simeran Bhasin, Wildcraft
You cater to a very niche market, don't you? After all, how many Indians are enthusiastic about the outdoors? Is this changing?

India does not have an outdoor culture. Perhaps the only sense of 'outdoors' we have is the religious/spiritual pilgrimage journeys of our parents and grandparents.

But we are seeing more and more people venturing out these days. Statistics show that almost 70 per cent of the people are either updating their online status or 'liking' photographs that are linked to the outdoors.

So, we are on the cusp of something, and we, as a brand, have taken it upon ourselves to redefine India's relationship with the outdoors. To do so, our marketing activities need to inspire people to go out, and also inform them about the relevant gear. The average Indian does not even know that you cannot wear a pair of jeans or running shoes when you are out trekking. Sport shoes are meant for urban surfaces. So these are the kind of things we have to work on.

As far as your sales go, how big a role does the online medium play?

We are quite aggressive online. Around 15-16 per cent of our sales come from online, about 25 per cent from exclusive brand outlets, and the rest from a combination of multi-brand outlets, across traditional and modern trade.

You target outdoor enthusiasts, clearly. Tell us more about this consumer... What's he/she like?

In terms of psychographics, our TG comprises people who are explorers at heart, people who are liberated. In terms of demographics, our target consumer is between 25 and 27 years of age, from urban India, SEC A and B. More broadly speaking, our TG lies between 18 and 35 years of age.

Our top three cities are Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai, with Pune coming up at No.4. Bengaluru has always been the single largest market for us.

We haven't reached a stable level of distribution yet. On this front, Bengaluru and select South markets have a relatively higher level of saturation than other regions.

What is your most popular product segment?

Our daypacks; typically this is what one would use for a day hike. We noticed that this item started getting picked up by campus-goers and early-jobbers as laptops began entering the market. That's when we started introducing laptop compartments in our daypacks.

Most of our adventure and crossover gear - for example a laptop daypack that can be used for both, urban leisure and the outdoors - has done well too. People are increasingly carrying their gadgets with them when they travel, and our products are letting them do that.

Which brands do you consider as competition?

In terms of an affordable performance brand that is a head-to-toe outfitter, we don't see anyone else in our space. Perhaps what comes closest would be Quechua from Decathlon but they're a very mass player, whereas, we cater to the mid-market segment.

As far as consumer insight-mining goes, how different is Wildcraft, as compared to Titan, your previous employer?

Titan is very focused on the consumer and has a keen ear to the ground. I have been trained to pick up insights. Sure, beyond a point you can't really use research to understand the consumer; you have to be the consumer yourself... that's when the decisions you make as a marketer become a lot more instinctive.

At Wildcraft, our research is done a bit differently because we don't really believe too much in getting our products moderated by a third party. We have a panel of outdoor professionals whom we are in touch with directly.

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