As a freak cyclonic depression hit the Kerala coast a week back, Sherree Carlos, chief executive officer of the Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million), Bangalore-based Yamini Interiors Ltd, is concerned about her next shipment.
The unexpected rains could affect the supply of dyed yarn used by the villagers to weave fabric on looms across the country. But she's not worried about any export consignment, but rather about delivery deadlines to Yamini's nine retail stores within the country.
The six-year-old Yamini Interiors (part of textiles export company Synergy Lifestyle), is among several other handcraft-based lifestyle companies, pumping in export earnings into the domestic retail market.
Other homegrown brands, such as Anokhi and Soma from Jaipur, Fab India and Tarini from Delhi, belonging to family-run companies that made a tidy fortune in exports, are taking their retail business seriously.
Until a few years ago, all these brands boasted of one or two stores in India. Today, the companies have or are on the way to create their own chain of retail stores.
Yamini had two company-owned stores three years ago. Today, it has nine and is raring to mark its presence nationally. In a similar time-frame, Fab India stores have grown to 17 in number, pushing the company's turnover up by 35 per cent to touch Rs 75 crore (Rs 750 million). Anokhi is already present in six cities with nine stores. It plans to open three more in two years.
Says Pritam Singh, the managing director of the Rs 10-crore (Rs 100 million) Registhan Ltd that owns the Anokhi brand: "There is a growing demand for these products and we felt it was necessary to enter newer markets."
Likewise, Tarini India Ltd, the Rs 2-crore (Rs 20 million) company, opened a franchisee store in Gurgaon last month. Besides, it is also designing merchandise for domestic malls like Westside. "Other chains have also approached us for home furnishings," says its CEO, Shashi Sehgal.
Increasingly, the homegrown companies are pushing up their product line to woo younger customers. Soma's R K Nair, for instance, opened its attractively designed third store in Delhi's Connaught Place recently with an eye on catching the customers visiting the brand new neighbourhood cineplex, slated to open soon. "I hope people notice us. India is getting increasingly brand -conscious," he says.
To be sure, the expansion drive is not limited to the domestic market. Fab India, which took its first overseas store to Rome in 1999, opened another store in Dubai this week.
Anokhi has franchisee outlets in the UK and the US and is now eyeing Dubai and Mauritius. Tarini's Sehgal is already talking with export buyers to take its brand abroad. "I want to establish my own brand overseas," Sehgal says.
To increase brand loyalty, the companies that were traditionally into furnishings and apparel, are also offering a wide assortment of accessories at their stores. This includes an extensive product range -- from soft toys to shower curtains to picture frames.
This year, Fab India plans to add a range of organic food whereas the Yamini store in Delhi started stocking masks from South Africa. "What we're doing is simply incorporating global trends," adds Ratna Bakshi, the Delhi franchisee for Yamini.
But with a barrage of foreign brands set to invade the country, Fab India's managing director William Bissell is concerned whether the younger shoppers will have the same affection for handcrafted products."It's yet to be seen whether they will have the same reference point as the older generation," he says.