Saumya Tewari

"We're still wondering if TV is the right medium for a fashion brand": Siddharth Bindra, MD, Biba

Biba, the synonym for pretty woman in Punjabi, is a home-grown ethnic wear brand started by Meena Bindra from her house in Mumbai, with a sum of eight thousand rupees, in 1988. Over two decades later, the brand has grown and, today, has a pan-India presence offering products in all three categories of SKD (Salwar Kameez Dupatta), M&M (Mix & Match) and Unstitched Fabric. Apart from women's range, it also has Biba Girls, a dedicated range for kids between 2 to 12 years.

Biba has 180 exclusive brand outlets (EBOs) and over 200 multi-brand outlets (MBOs) across 65 cities. Among MBOs, the brand is distributed through over 200 stores of Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Pantaloons and Central. The company closed this financial year with Rs. 500 crore and has a target of Rs. 700 crore for the next fiscal year.

"We're still wondering if TV is the right medium for a fashion brand": Siddharth Bindra, MD, Biba

In a bid to speak to its younger consumer segment, the brand recently unveiled a new identity and added a peacock feather in its revamped brand logo.

Siddharth Bindra, MD, Biba, says that, over the years, the company and its consumers have evolved; therefore, a new identity was required to represent the Biba of today. We spoke to him about the brand's journey and his vision for the company Biba Apparels.

Edited Excerpts.

Edited Excerpts

We notice that though you have revamped the logo, you have avoided a complete overhaul...Is it intentional?

There has been an overhaul, it's not incremental. People related to the old identity of Biba, hence it is not vastly different. We retained the colour red in the logo as it represents 'festivity and ethnicity' - something the brand and clothing line essentially represents.

With increasing number of women choosing comfort over tradition, how has your brand incorporated changes in its designs and cuts?

Fashion, not comfort, is the top priority for women, especially when they are buying ethnic wear. Attend a wedding in Delhi during winters and you will notice people not wearing the most comfortable clothes. Having said that, fundamentally, salwar kameez is a comfortable outfit. It maintains modesty and allows body movement. Women are looking out for new fashion designs. The outfit she chooses should make her feel good about herself.

Biba's target group is between 20 and 40 years. How has it changed over the years?

There has been a shift in our TG. Ten years back, brand Biba was more inclined towards catering to women in the 32-45 years age group, because the visibility of the brand was less and the product range suited this bracket. Biba was manufacturing only salwar kameez then. Today, our product has evolved. We have a wide range - mix and match, Indo-fusion, salwar kameez (asymmetrical, A Line cuts). This range has been created keeping our focus group in mind.

What kind of research goes into deciding the designs and cuts of the Biba range?

We sell through 180 EBOs (exclusive brand outlets) and 200 retail points, and I believe the best research and feedback comes from our customers. We have a set process which allows us to share feedback. We also follow traditional research projections like The Colour and Fashion Forecasts. But when it comes to fashion, one has to also take intuitive calls. I think it's the mix of all three that works for our brand.

Any change in the cuts, designs or fabric preference of the consumer?

I think long kurtas are back in fashion. Gheras were in, but now the kurtas are straighter and longer. This summer, pastels are in, in a big way.

How crucial are e-commerce sites in your overall business?

E-commerce is an important new channel for us. It is a growing medium and accounts for 7-10 per cent of our overall business. It will go up to 15 per cent in the next two to three years.

What are the factors that influence your decision to open an exclusive brand store (EBO) in a market?

The size of the market of that city is the first factor; then the need for brands and the latent demand in the market space. We also do competition mapping – how associated categories like jewellery are selling.

Marketers are enthusiastic about unmetros, as these cities are driving growth for many brands. How crucial is Tier II and III cities for Biba?

The tier II and III cities are large markets for Biba. We are currently operating in 65 cities in India and hoping to take this number to 100. We are clearly going deeper in the market. The consumer in small cities are price and product sensitive, but with a huge aspiration for a brand. The aspirations are growing and with exposure they will adapt to brands.

Are you working on an economical range then?

Biba, as a company, will stay focussed on the women's ethnic wear market. We have segmented this market in three parts – luxury, premium and value fashion. Within the luxury segment (designer wear), the company has forged joint ventures and invested in brand labels of designers like Anju Modi and Manish Arora. The premium segment is well served by the brand Biba and the value segment is being addressed by our newly launched brand Rangriti.

This brand was launched last year, and we are hoping for it to become a 100-crore brand in 2015.

How good is the reach of brand Rangriti?

We are currently in 400 stores, selling through shops, Reliance Trend and Hypercity outlets, as well as e-commerce platforms like Jabong and Myntra.

Rohit Bal has been associated with Biba. Does having a glamorous name associated with the brand help fulfill a specific need?

We found out in our consumer research that, as a brand, we were not addressing the entire wardrobe need of our consumers. While they could buy casual, semi-casual and formal wear from us, there was no wedding wear collection. We decided to tie-up with ace designer Rohit Bal to come out with an 'occasion wear' line three years back. The collection has received a good response from Mumbai and Delhi markets.

Biba also sells unstitched cloth. Is the kind of taker for this product totally different from the taker for your ready-mades?

Before 2000, ethnic wear was entirely an unstitched market; although the segment hasn't grown much, it continues to exist. We want Biba to be one-stop-shop for the entire ethnic product range and, hence, unstitched continues to be a part of our range. Surprisingly, for us, Mumbai is a big market in the unstitched category.

In a highly unorganised ethnic wear, women's apparel market like India, Biba faces fierce competition from not just Fab India and W, but also traditional ethnic wear brands across cities. How do you tackle competition from them?

We operate in the fiercest markets and in every city there are five businesses which have been doing business for many years. I believe our strength is our product, brand and customer loyalty. On a personal level, I'm surprised everyday with the depth of market, consumer reaction, products and change in fashion. Retail is a nitty-gritty business. Every store is a separate business in itself. Biba has always been 'persistent' to deliver high quality aesthetic designs to its consumers and that sets us apart from everyone.

For many brands, a brand revamp exercise is usually accompanied by the appointment of a celeb endorser. How come we didn't hear that from you?

Biba as a brand has strong consumer connect. It does not require celebrity endorsement. We are looking at a brand ambassador for our newly launched Rangriti.

We noticed you haven't taken to TV advertising. When it comes to communication, what media channels work best for Biba?

We are flirting with the idea of television. Today, we have built the distribution that will compliment television advertising. We might advertise on TV within a year. However, we are still wondering if television is the right medium for fashion. Print and OOH show a fashion brand much better than television.

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