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Global retail brands jostle for foothold in India

International brands are flocking to India in droves, eager to capitalize on its booming economy and extensive consumer market

Global retail brands jostle for foothold in India
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

A slew of international brands is flocking to India as the nation emerges as one of the biggest destinations for retail.

With a burgeoning middle class and a largely untapped retail market, India is fast becoming an irresistible magnet for foreign retail giants who are eager to establish their footprint.

One of the driving forces behind the current influx is the increasing spending power of urban Indian consumers, analysts said. 

In April, India overtook China as the most populous country in the world.

There is a growing affinity for branded products across categories including apparel, cosmetics, footwear, watches, food, and beverages (F&B), and jewelry, as Indian consumers look to enrich both their business and leisure experiences, analysts said.

Pankaj Renjhen, chief operating officer and joint managing director of ANAROCK Retail, said, “We have seen a constant stream of international brands entering India across categories. For instance, in the F&B (food and beverages) sector, the casual dining and cafe space has recently welcomed giants like Tim Hortons through Apparel Group, and Pret-a-Manger via Reliance. Moreover, Popeyes made its entry into Bangalore nearly two years ago through Jubilant Foods.”

Not just food and beverages, the cosmetics landscape is also seeing a makeover with the entry of Japanese Shiseido Group’s NARS Cosmetics, which recently allied with Shoppers Stop to open exclusive stores.

Shiseido offers a range of skincare, makeup, and fragrance products under several brands, including Nars, Drunk Elephant, Clé de Peau Beauté, Narciso Rodriguez, Issey Miyake, and Serge Lutens.

The fashion sector is not far behind, with periodic launches of new labels, especially in tie-up with major Indian conglomerates such as Reliance and Aditya Birla Group.

In the home interiors segment, global behemoths West Elm and Pottery Barn recently ventured into the Indian market, both in partnership with Reliance. 

“Over the next few years, we anticipate a steady inflow of 1-2 brands opening stores, primarily in the F&B, beauty, and fashion spaces, mostly through alliances with larger existing players,” Renjhen said.

Some of the major foreign brands that have entered India in the past few years include IKEA, Ted Baker, Hamleys, Miniso, Armani Exchange, and Daniel Wellington.

Swedish furniture and home products retailer IKEA entered India and opened its first store in Hyderabad in 2018. Though Hamleys had been in India for a while, it was acquired by Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Ltd, in 2019.

Miniso, a Chinese low-cost retailer and variety store chain that sells goods with a ‘Japanese’ branding, has been aggressively expanding in India through partnerships, while Ted Baker, a British luxury clothing retail company, had entered the Indian market in 2018 through a partnership with Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail.

H&M, known for its chic clothing, entered India in 2015 and has made significant strides in the Indian market since it opened its first store. It has diversified its offering by unveiling a home line in select flagship stores across India.

Moreover, it is not just the big names that are making their way to India.

Several mid-tier brands such as affordable French apparel chain Kiabi; Turkish denim and jeans-wear firm Mavi; clothing and retail brand Avva; casual clothing, accessories, and footwear brand Colin’s; men’s fashion brand Damat; and Tudba Deri are also expanding into India.

Industry experts forecast a significant influx of international brands in the coming two years, cementing India’s position as a hotbed for retail expansion and innovation.

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