India is increasingly a focal point for the fashion industry, reflecting a rapidly growing middle class and an increasingly powerful manufacturing sector. These forces, together with strong economic fundamentals and growing tech savvy, make India too important for international brands to ignore. Indeed, India’s ascent is one of ten trends the fashion industry should watch in 2019, highlighted in our latest State of Fashion report, written in partnership with the Business of Fashion (BoF).
Economic expansion is happening across Asia, but we expect that 2019 will be the year when India takes center stage. The country is being propelled by strong macroeconomic tailwinds, and its GDP is predicted to grow 8 percent a year between 2018 and 2022 (exhibit). India’s middle class is forecast to expand by 1.4 percent a year over the same period, outpacing China, Mexico, and Brazil. As a result, India is set to evolve from an increasingly important sourcing hub into one of the most attractive consumer markets outside the Western world.
Still, players looking to enter the Indian market should recognize several inherent challenges. First, India is a mosaic of climates and tastes. “If you break [India] up into four parts—north, east, south, and west—north India is the only region which is going to have winter, where you have mild-to-severe winter for eight weeks,” says Kapoor.
“Brands that are successful in India have understood that how [Indians] consume, what color they consume, what kind of designs work, what touchpoints and personalization work may be very different from [what works for] a consumer living in New York or Hong Kong,” Kapoor adds. “Indian women have kept a lot of their traditional sensibilities alive, and you see a beautiful mix of both Indian and Western sensibilities across the spectrum.”
In short, the Indian market offers great promise. Despite structural challenges that include inequality, infrastructure, and market fragmentation, we expect that strong economic growth, scale, and rising tech savviness will combine to make the country the next big global opportunity in fashion and apparel.