In the era of COVID pandemic, technology is revolutionising every sector, even fashion tech. With festival season around the corner, startups to small retailers in the sector are moving towards online platforms with the latest technology including Artificial Intelligence, 3D technology, virtual try-on and so many others to revive the consumer demand and experience.
Brands across the fashion-tech platform have received good response during Akshay Thithi. “Despite the subdued demand, people in our country are still willing to buy especially during the auspicious occasions,” said Meghna Saraogi, co-founder & CEO of StyleDotMe, a Saas-based startup working with jewellers to give provide Augmented Reality (AR) based technology. Especially video-calling and AR has become major channels to enhance and give customers personalisation.
The online fashion market is projected to grow 3.5X from $4 billion to reach $14 billion in 2020.
While demand curve has changed during the pandemic, Indian Angel Network's, Padmaja Ruparel, co-founder & President, said, “As the consumer behaviour is tweaking, there has been a lot of change in offline-to-online businesses. While digitisation is the new norm, as per current demand, new models and sectors have gained more focus.”
"The demand from newer markets, especially tier 2 and 3, has grown significantly, allowing us to resume to pre-COVID numbers and regain business normalcy. Around Raksha Bandhan, we witnessed a strong uptick in demand for women's ethnic wear, men’s occasion wear, kids wear, and accessories such as watches and handbags," said Ayyappan Rajagopal, Head of Business, Myntra.
While e-tailing is gaining traction in the upcoming festival season, Isha Chhabra, a social media influencer and an online retailer said, “People have started ordering for the upcoming festival season ranging from 20-30 per cent pre-booking.” With an increase in market size, the rat race around omnichannel and quick delivery is taking place. "Startups which have a robust ecosystem both in terms of technology and inventory will likely benefit from the current scenario,” said Shivani Poddar, co-founder of online women shopping sites FabAlley & Indya.
Most of these startups expect to regain their sales during the festival season. “Our ethnic wear brands are the focus during the festival and 70 per cent of our business happens during this season annually,” said Poddar. While brands and retailers look forward to festival season, experts confirm that people aren’t able to go out but they will still shop, especially online.
Samiksha Bajaj, the founder of a customised fashion-tech startup Samshek, is hopeful to reach 50 per cent of its pre-COVID sales in the upcoming festive season. Started in 2019, Samshek during the pandemic had to shift its model precisely to online leading to an exponential increase in the sales. “During the pandemic, the focus has moved towards mass customisation and online orders. We have seen some growth in June and May and from July the sales have picked up. Scalability is too high on online platforms and the sector is booming,” said Bajaj. While Samshek has introduced its customers to 3D technology its is also looking forward to virtual-try-on as well.
The ongoing situation with social distancing norms has elevated the consumer preference for digital and has given impetus to brands to consider scaling up their digital capabilities. "The fashion ecosystem has responded to the evolving customer need and this has also given rise to the concept of omnichannel integration. We added about 35 brands in just 10 days before the previous edition of the ‘End of Reason Sale’, held in June this year and continue to be approached by brands to add more at an accelerated pace," said Rajagopal
While startups are receiving a lot of inquiries from the international market as well, Poddar added that it all depends on how recession-proof your business is, will define your survival during this time. How are founders working to get their business back is the key to everything. Ruparel said, “Companies are thrifty in expenditure and are maximising on the credit-line. While startups are reluctant to lock-up capital and are looking for ways to reduce their inventory cost, but still there are a plethora of opportunities in the tech-enabled fashion market waiting to explode in the country.
As per McKinsey’s FashionScope report, India’s apparel market will be clocked at $59.3 billion by 2022, making it the sixth-largest in the world.