NEW DELHI – With a queue starting outside the store at 8.30 Saturday morning, the crowds at Select Citywalk Mall continued to swell until the doors opened on Gap’s first store in India.
Part of the reason was an enthusiasm for the brand, which is well-known in India. But the crowds also were there to try to catch a glimpse of Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was inaugurating the store.
Bollywood is an important trendsetter — part of the brand’s popularity in India is also credited to actor Shah Rukh Khan wearing Gap in a popular movie released in 1998, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.”
“It was not sponsored; it was incidental at that time,” J. Suresh, managing director and chief executive officer of Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd., said. Arvind Brands, which is a subsidiary of textile giant Arvind Ltd., has an exclusive franchise agreement with Gap in India.
Suresh described the growth of Gap as a 10-billion-rupee, or $157 million at current exchange, opportunity over the next five years in the Indian market. “It is going to be an exciting growth trajectory,” he said. “It is all about the product mix we bring to the Indian market, and then it is about the footprint expansion.”
“You have to understand, this is a megabrand. It will shape a new kind of consumption,” said Kulin Lalbhai, executive director of Arvind Ltd.
He is confident that the retail business itself will continue to grow for the group. “It has been growing at more than 30 percent a year, while textile grows at 10 to 12 percent,” he observed.
Arvind Brands has agreements with Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica and others and had a turnover of 22 billion rupees, or $345 million, this year. It contributes about 35 percent of the group’s entire turnover.
The hype for the store began earlier in the week, with a huge Gap sign on top of the mall, lit in blue, the colors of the brand, said Stefan Laban, senior vice president of Gap International.
The store is made up of four sections: GapKids, babyGap, women’s wear and men’s wear. “The kids section takes up 40 percent of the store to cater to the fact that there is a larger market for kids in India,” said Laban.
“It will take its time – every new brand will have to adapt itself to local needs. We are confident, looking at the brand platform, that it’s going to be very powerful. If you look at the retail apparel landscape, it is dominated by global brands,” he added.
Price points have been carefully thought through, said Oliver Kaye, chief executive officer of Gap Business, India. Ranging from 799 rupees, or $12.60 at current exchange, to 5,500 rupees, or $86.78, Kaye said that prices would be in line with Gap in the U.S.
“The most important question that consumers want to hear is whether this is the same product,” said David Hayer, managing director of Gap International sourcing, India. “The design, the quality, the sourcing, it’s all the same. We’re not going to change our supply chain at all for the India markets. So the product that you see in other markets is what you will see in India.”
“Gap is in 45 markets, and the average size of the store is 7,000 square feet. So the store today is more in line with a flagship store in terms of our international presence. The challenge in India is to find the stores of the right size,” Laban pointed out.
He stressed the importance of emerging markets in the overall portfolio, with China and Latin America being fast-growth areas.
Gap has a subsidiary in China, while Brazil, like India, is operated under franchise.
However, anticipation about growth in India is strong. “India would be the most important country opening we have in this year,” said Ismail Seyis, vice president of Gap Franchise. “So it is a very exciting moment, it’s a great day for us.”