Question to Baba Ramdev and Patanjali: What exactly are desi jeans?

All the biggest and successful brands that make jeans, be it global names and some Indian brands, are manufactured in India. So what exactly does Baba Ramdev mean by Swadeshi Jeans?

Sulekha Nair September 16, 2016 07:36:28 IST
Question to Baba Ramdev and Patanjali: What exactly are desi jeans?

That Patanjali, the brand that stands for everything indigenous, is now planning to come out with its label of Swadeshi jeans has raised curiosity as to what exactly is this product going to be. To start with, jeans as such is not a swadeshi wear.

The brand actually deserves credit for having been able to garner a large clientele in the FMCG sector, mostly hard-core MNC loyalists who have now swerved in their loyalty towards him. So it is only natural that the company is looking to enter a sector where multinationals have a dominance.

Question to Baba Ramdev and Patanjali What exactly are desi jeans

Acharya Balkrishna, CEO, Patanjali Ayurved and Baba Ramdev. Getty Images

Though most people Firstpost spoke with were eager to know what would come out as jeans from the Patanjali stable, none were excited about the announcement. The question that is uppermost in people’s minds is what is the differentiator that the Patanjali brand will be offering?

The denim jeans market has a huge growth potential in India. It is expected to grow at CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) of 15 percent over the next five years, according to Teknopak Advisors.

The denim market in India was estimated to be worth Rs 17,661 crores in 2015. The local jeans brands contribute to approximately 25 percent of the overall brand landscape, according to Teknopak Advisors. However, a lot of denim jeans business is taken care of in an unorganised manner through various selling and distribution channels.

The most preferred brands, according to Teknopak Advisors, are international brands such as Diesel, Clevin Klein, GAP, Levis, Pepe, Lee, Wrangler, Flying Machine.

The price for denim ranges from less than Rs 500 for unbranded jeans to over Rs 5,000 for high-end brands. The price point preference depends upon the demographics and economic background of the customer. The average selling price of jeans for masses is approximately in the Rs 800-1,000 range.

According to The Times of India, half the population in the country is in the 20-59 age group while 9 percent is above the age of 60. So which category is Patanjali brand of jeans catering to? Not much has been revealed about the new category under the Patanjali umbrella except that it will be made `entirely with cotton, according to an interview in The Economic Times.

Isn’t denim jeans 100 percent cotton fabric? That is the question that perplexes everyone about the new announcement from Patanjali. A jeans is usually a basic 5 pocket denim apparel. There are various versions of this base model. All the biggest and successful brands that make jeans, be it global names and some Indian brands too, are manufactured in India, says Sanjay Vakharia, director and COO, Spykar Lifestyles Pvt ltd, makers of Skpkar jeans, an Indian brand. The company has been operational for the past 23 years. He is intrigued by the word `Swadeshi’ jeans – as mentioned by Acharya Balkrishna, CEO, Patanjali. He asks if the term swadeshi can be lent to everything that is made in India. By that yardstick, Spykar is also swadeshi, he contends, as it is made in India and a large client base of the brand is Indians.

If Patanjali had drawn a distinction between making organic fabric versus cotton jeans, it would have been understandable. But that is not the case. Leading fashion designer Narendra Kumar Ahmed says every pair of jeans in the world is made in India and the cloth is sourced from the country. “India exports denim fabric to the world. Benetton, the world’s largest casual wear apparel firm, has a design studio in India. Making jeans in India is not a new concept,” Ahmed points out.

Vakharia hazards a guess whether the word swadeshi refers to possibly differentiating between handloom cloth versus mill-made fabric. “That certainly would be a differentiator,” he says.

Baba Ramdev and Patanjali are trying to extend their success quotient from food and consumer products to clothing, which is the second largest consumer spend in the country. If his ambition to expand the product portfolio to 10x succeeds, then he is on the right path, say analysts. If he were to make yoga mats, clothing for yoga practitioners, for instance, that would still sync in with the image of Baba Ramdev and the brand, analysts point out.

However, there is a catch to Patanjali's  ambition of making jeans. “The dynamics of fashion and clothing is far different than FMCG. The latter largely remains the same while clothing as a category faces changes periodically and season after season," points out Arvind Singhal, Teknopak Advisors.

“You will have to make jeans, even in the case of Patanjali, from the point of view of contemporary fashion. That fashion changes at a far quicker rate than a FMCG product, for instance,” Singhal points out.

Another question that is uppermost in people’s minds is about what is not suited to Indian culture about jeans that Patanjali is setting forth to alter with their brand of jeans. A large section of the populace that wears denim is the Young India. Puritanical thought and virtues are not qualities that this section wants to hear when they wear their favourite clothing or go out to buy one. “I am not sure what differentiation the company has in mind. You could it make it baggier for modesty for women. But when you decide on fashion product, a young woman in India would go for the latest in fashion,” says Singhal.

Patanjali products are sold on the premise it is healthy, natural, ayurvedic, etc. Also, it is priced low compared to other products in the same category. The in-the-face advertising in the form of small outlets across India has also helped the brand’s success.

“The customer perception is that if you buy Patanjali products, they are pure,” says Singhal. But, how does this attribute translate to clothing? He says, “Fashion is external and it does not sell on the premise of purity and trust and what-have-you. Patanjali products, be it food or any other FMCG category, does well because purity of formulation and quality at the right price which are the narratives but that cannot be extended to fashion. Fashion does not need a purity or an effectiveness promise. This is, to my mind, a brand stretch."

The fact that Patanjali has achieved brand recall in even smaller towns and cities in India works in its favour though. That could be a good reason why jeans from Patanjali may work in the firm's favour. “Baba Ramdev has created a large base for himself with his various other initiatives and he can use this base to drive consumers with his latest product, jeans, at a mass level. Swadeshi jeans is a great idea. The term also exudes self-confidence and there is a great essence of nationalism because of the government of the day. And this new initiative can be driven around it. There is a revival of textiles in India and it is used for high fashion, too,” says Ahmed.

Even Vakharia of Spykar believes that the Patanjali brand may work in the country. Though it is a very ambitious thought, it is achievable, he says. “I also believe the traction that Patanjali has created in the market with regard to its other product offerings and consumer loyalty could work in its favour with its new plans of swadeshi jeans.”

The challenge, says Vakharia would be the styling itself. “The product has to have new designs. Research and development has to focus on washing, processing and stitching,” he suggests.

Swadeshi as a quality or attribute to sell is good, but prices will have to match with that concept too. That is what the market is looking at. What price points would the jeans sell at. “The plank of swadeshi is very good and ripe at the moment with all that is happening around the country. Given the current environment and focus on everything Indian, the product could do well provided it makes clear what is its focus and importantly, the price would be. Peter England as a brand sells shirts at a low price but it is doing well. It is a volume business. If that is the target for Patanjali, it could do well, too,” says Ahmed.

Would it be possible to sell jeans from small outlets like Patanjali does with its other products? That would be possible but would that attract customers is the question. Singhal points out that the dynamics of distribution and supply of FMCG products and fashion is different. He confesses he cannot see the `extension’ of the brand in this new category.

When Patanjali says it will manufacture jeans, what do they have in mind? “Denim dhotis, dhoti jeans? I am curious,” says Ahmed. He offers a name for the brand. “It could be called Patan jeans. There might be a lot of customers for it. Who knows?”

The country will get to know more about the jeans that Patanjali wants to make once it reveals the details on the style, manufacturing, design, age groups that are its target,  or when the jeans are out in the market, whichever is sooner.

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