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Sep 29, 2020
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Optimistic about the future, the focus is heavily on digital: Yash Dongre

Sep 29, 2020

The fashion industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, forcing designers to go digital or find new ways to nurture the business to meet restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic.

However, amid the pandemic, global fashion designers like Anita Dongre are looking to disrupt the fashion world with young guns like Yash Dongre leading the way to bring about a digital revolution in the fashion world.

With high-end luxury brands being the worst-hit segment in the fashion industry, Anita Dongre brands have managed to survive the onslaught due to its affordability in the Covid-19 environment.

Yash Dongre, the son of Anita Dongre and the business head of her eponymous label talks to FashionNetwork.com on the impact of Covid-19 on the fashion industry, digital disruptions, Middle East expansion and revival of the fashion industry.

Optimistic about the future, the focus is heavily on digital: Yash Dongre - Yash Dongre

Fashionetwork.com: What has been the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Anita Dongre brands, and what do you foresee for the brand and industry in the near future?

Yash Dongre: The apparel and retail sector has been one of the worst-hit sectors, so the impact has been harsh. Given that, for a period of two months, we were in a complete shutdown, which has never happened before, and even once we opened business has been slow. We are optimistic that consumption will increase during the festive season and go back to at least 50 to 70 percent of last year’s numbers. Even though it has been quite challenging, we are confident that the festive season will improve the situation and we expect normalcy to return by summer 2021. Overall, we are quite optimistic about the future and the next few months.

FNW: Amid the pandemic, the company was very active and rolled out a host of initiatives for vendors and artisans. Tell us a little more about these initiatives and how has it helped the brand be it stock clearance, and how will that help you going forward as the country begins unlocking?

YD: We set up a Covid-19 fund to support our vendors and artisans to give them the much-needed support in these times of crisis. We’ve also ramped up our digital platforms by bringing in new technology and that’s culminated into higher online traffic on our website. In terms of stock clearance, we did a lot of flash sales, weekend events for our brands, And and Global Desi, and we also did a virtual trunk show for the Anita Dongre brand, which was very well received in the U.S.

FNW: The fashion industry has embraced the digital world due to the Covid-19 disruptions and we saw many brands and designers go online during this period. How have you reinvented during this phase and what digital disruptions will we see from the brand?

YD: Fortunately for us, we had a digital infrastructure in place pre-Covid, so that has been a blessing for us. We’ve tried to improve our digital capabilities by trying to mirror the offline experience online. We incorporated an omnichannel function wherein the inventory of the store and warehouse is all synced together to help customers shop the store inventory on the website. We have also started virtual appointments wherein the customers get the experience of a physical store. The focus is very heavily on digital, and because we had an existing infrastructure it was easy for us to scale up and we are trying to take it to the next level in the coming months.

Anita Dongre store in New York

FNW: The brand recently partnered with an e-commerce firm to enter the Middle East market. How has the response been so far and is this the way forward? Will there be more such collaborations with e-commerce firms in India and abroad?

YD: We have partnered with Ounass, a leading luxury e-commerce platform in the Middle East. The Middle East has always been on our radar and we have taken part in several exhibitions there. We have received a phenomenal response from a range of clients be in South Asian or local Emirati, the designs have been received very well in this territory and we really hope to scale up our partnership with Ounass and collaborate with more e-commerce companies and hopefully even open a store in Dubai, so the Middle East market is a very important one for us and will be on our priority list for the expansion in the coming years.

FNW: With the economy in the doldrums, many designers are now looking to launch affordable lines for survival. Anita Dongre already has lower-priced brands in its portfolio with a strong market presence, will the increased competition have an impact and how do you plan to revive/boost sales during this tough phase?

YD: We have been a pioneer in the affordable fashion segment. The company started off its journey with brands like And and Global Desi, which have been in the affordable space. We do not really fear the increased competition and it is just healthy for the market to grow. We have been leaders and we will continue to be leaders when it comes to innovative products, value pricing and high-quality clothing.

Having a ready-to-wear affordable and accessible line is a huge boost for us, especially for the online business. Almost 75 percent to 80 percent of online business is from the ready-to-wear lines, so it is a huge advantage having a robust ready-to-wear line. So in the next few months, we will be pushing our ready-to-wear lines online and hope that it will help compensate for the loss in sales from our offline stores.

FNW: By when do you expect normalcy to return in the fashion industry?

YD: It will take a while for things to be back to normal. The fashion industry will have to adapt to this new normal. The whole fashion calendar has been turned upside down because Covid-19 hit us when the summer season was just starting, so because summer was a washout, a lot of the summer styles and designs have been pushed to the fall/winter season. In India, most of our business is mall-centric and until people don’t have the confidence to go back to the malls it will always be a challenge in achieving those pre-Covid numbers. However, I feel it will take another year for us to be back to the pre-Covid levels and it should happen during the next festive season.

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