Swedish fashion retailer, H&M, is close to completing five years of operations in India and is already a Rs 1,500-crore business with 47 stores, across 24 cities. Speaking to Business Today, on the sidelines of Retailers Association of India's Retail Leadership Summit 2020 in Mumbai, Janne Einola, CEO and Country Head, H&M, said the fashion retailer's vision is to become the sought-after fashion choice of the average Indian. "We didn't choose only to be present in the metros, we always wanted to be pan-Indian," says Einola. Unlike most global retailers who prefer being present only in the metro markets, almost 50 per cent of H&M stores are in smaller cities such as Ludhiana, Dehradun, Coimbatore, Mysore and Raipur, and it is this strategy that has led to high growth numbers, claims the H&M India head honcho.
At a time when most fashion retailers reported slow growth and less footfalls at their stores, Einola says that H&M India grew by 43 per cent in 2019. He believes that the fashion retailer's strategy of offering great quality products at affordable price points is a perfect fit for the Indian market. "We offer fashion, quality and best prices in a sustainable way. We have not been increasing prices even if there is an inflation. We have also been putting the customer at the centre. We tell our staff to make sure the customer leaves the store with a smile. It is not important for them to transact, but the experience should be so good that they return to our store. This combination has been giving us the position where customers trust us, they know what to expect from the store," he explains.
The Swedish retailer has always believed in democratising fashion. So to celebrate its fifth anniversary in India, it is partnering with designer Sabhyasachi Mukherjee for a limited edition collection. "If you walk into a Sabhyasachi store, a dress will cost you lakhs. The Sabhyasachi collection at H&M will be priced much lower. The idea is to surprise Indian consumers and give them access to top fashion labels," says Einola.
Penetrating into the heartlands and reaching out to more and more Indians is certainly a great recipe for growth, but H&M India is not the only one doing it. Retail giants such as Reliance Retail, FBB, Amazon and Myntra are also aggressive in the smaller markets, with some of them getting over 70 per cent of their sale from Tier-2, Tier-3 markets. How does H&M plan to stand out? Einola quickly reverts by saying that retail is all about offering multiple choices to consumers and hence one needs to be omnichannel. "Apart from H&M.com and the H&M stores, we are also available on platforms such as Myntra. The customers should be given the ability to choose where to shop."
Apart from offering good quality fashion at competitive prices, the next phase of H&M's strategy would also see a reasonable amount of technology intervention, which will enable the retailer to personalise for its customers. "However, we will offer personalised solutions only to those customers who ask for personalisation and for that we will need to know them better. We also need to keep in mind that everybody may not want us to know them."