What the consumers expected from the Indian Intimate Apparel industry in the previous decade is in complete contrast with the current demand.

With technology taking a centre stage in our lives in the previous decade, there has been an exponential rise in the exchange of data and information. This exchange has led to an increased consumer awareness about what is required viz-a-viz what is available in the market. This is especially true in the intimate apparel industry, which has emerged from a slumber in the last decade, shaking off the stigma and shyness surrounding the discussion of inner wear, particularly for women. Indian women have understood their needs and no longer see intimate apparel as merely a piece of essential clothing, but as an avenue to channel their freedom, confidence, and sense of choice

What the consumers expected from the Indian Intimate Apparel industry in the previous decade is in complete contrast with the current demand. The preferences of consumers are changing and it is dire need of Indian intimate apparel players to step up their game and cater to these changing preferences.

How big is the Indian Intimate Apparel Market?

The Indian intimate apparel market currently amounts to Rs. 55,000 crores and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11% to reach Rs 75,500 crores by 2025 and Rs. 1,18,000 crores by 2030.

Out of this total share, the women’s segment makes up about 60%. Overall, the unorganized sector dominates the Indian market, with around 54% of the market catered to by unbranded apparel. The branded segment is dominated by Indian brands such as Lux, Dollar, Rupa, Amul, Zivame, Bodycare, Enamor, VIP, Sweet Dreams etc. and international brands like Jockey, Triumph, Marks & Spencer, Fruit of the Loom, Uniqlo etc.

There is a higher penetration of brands in men’s innerwear than women’s wear. The Indian men’s innerwear brands are more focused towards economy and mid-price range products with basic functionalities. The women wear categories that see highest brand penetration are shapewear, thermals, camisoles and shorts.

How Does India Fare with Respect to the Global Intimate Apparel Market?

Zooming out and understanding the global context of the intimate apparel industry, we see that the global market is estimated to be worth US$ 81 bn and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3% to reach US$ 103 bn by 2030. The global exports of intimate apparel were US$ 57 bn in 2021 growing at a CAGR of 3.6% since 2016. Further growth is expected to take place at 4%, making the exports reach at US$ 81 bn by 2030. China exports about half of the total requirements of the world which is followed by Vietnam, Germany, Turkey, etc. each of whose share is way below China’s share, falling somewhere between 4-6%.

Out of this huge global market, the Indian has a meagre share of just about 3%. This highlights a humongous opportunity available to the Indian players provided they focus on developing manufacturing capabilities in terms of export competitiveness. With countries looking to diversify from China, amping up manufacturing quality to meet global standards will help tap this opportunity.

The Changing Dynamics of the Indian Intimate Apparel Industry

The trends of the Indian intimate apparel industry are changing. From what was considered a commodity of basic functionality, intimate apparel now has enhanced functionalities with greater aspirational value. Consumers are looking forward for the options of choosing from a larger pool of styles, colours and functionalities in their everyday life. Gone are the days of basics, it is now the time for experimentation, be it with better fabrics, unique styles or sustainable approach towards intimate apparel fashion. This trend is not just limited to big cities, but extensively mirrored in the Tier II and Tier III cities as well. Increased awareness coupled with internet penetration and rising disposable incomes are accelerating the growth of the Indian Intimate Apparel Industry. The organized sector is taking over with increased market reach and enhanced distribution channels. The digital era is adding its own flavour to this expansion.

The rise of social media has paved the way for influencer marketing, giveaways and social commerce. Engaging and gaining feedback from the right target audience has never been easier. Further, social commerce has enabled content creators and small D2C brands to give a tough competition to large heritage brands. E-Commerce is another feather in the cap to the digitisation shift. Start-ups like Zivame and Clovia are a testimony to the huge potential of e-commerce in the Indian intimate apparel space. The pandemic has catalysed the role of e-commerce as the shopping behaviour has undergone a shift from offline to online. E-commerce has enhanced the shopping experience by offering a wide variety of products, filters, price range, brands and most importantly privacy. At the comfort of their home, customers can explore options, read about product details and even avail fit consultation services. While offline stores are still a pivotal part of the try and buy retail experience, e-commerce platforms are also emerging as an indispensable part of the intimate apparel shopping journey.

However, the world is not all rosy with the digitization blessing. Consumer touch points have increased manifold and it is crucial to make sure that in order to top consumer brand recall, a brand is present and communicating at all of these touchpoints. That’s not all, the manufacturing side of this industry sees a constant challenge of labour consistency and training. The intricacies of manufacturing intimate apparel require skilled labour who need to be trained well in order to deliver a high-quality product. India sees a lack of consistent supply of such labour and hence, the struggle for expansion continues while dealing with “Price Erosion”, wherein the manufacturers are earning meagre margins due to the high price sensitivity of the industry.

Way Forward

The dynamics of the global and domestic intimate apparel industry clubbed with the recent consumer trends present a huge opportunity to the Indian players in order to expand and cater to a larger audience. The whitespaces in the spectrum of price and product offering is expansive and there is space for everybody to create a niche for themselves and capture the market. However, the spine of this expansion remains understanding the consumer needs and delivering an immersive shopping experience. As long as this is incorporated, the Indian intimate apparel industry will continue to grow and flourish and dominate the global intimate apparel market.