Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Fantastic Fabindia

I always wanted to write about Fabindia but never got the time or the right frame of mind. Yesterday, my aunty took me to the Fabindia store in GK2. By the way, I am in Delhi at the moment working on zoom and pixels. She bought me a lovely khadi kurta in a greenish aquamarine shade.

The Fabindia story is really fabulous. It started in the year 1960 with a strong belief that there is a need for marketing the vast and diverse craft traditions of India. Thereby provide rural employment. Their endeavor has been to provide hand crafted products which help support and encourage good craftsmanship. With 57 stores in the country and one each in Rome, Dubai and Guangzhou, Fabindia has managed to create a sustainable employment by providing jobs to close to 15000 artisans today.

Fabindia’s success story is now a HBS case study. Without any advertising this one time small retail store has managed to create such a huge equity in the marketplace that it has become a household name today. You want to buy some authentic Indian clothes, just walk inside any Fabindia store and you have it. The store design is also very unique, bright colours, local motifs, spacious displays and lots of free space for consumers to touch and feel. A business model, which many has tried to copy without much success.

Goes on to show it’s not necessary to do advertising or hire an agency to create a brand. Fabindia also shows us how a build a sustainable business model by bringing people together. But then Mr. John Bissell was a visionary. He had the conviction to turn that vision into a reality. "Our constant endeavour is to resist the temptation of going `mainstream' which is more of a commodities game, and develop and widen the niche markets in which we are the dominant player," says Mr. William Bissell, Managing Director, Fabindia.

Four things that Fabindia did right, right from the very beginning:
1. Create an exquisite and exclusive product
2. A price point that defines that exclusiveness yet not out of reach of common man
3. Operate at a niche market with limited accessibility that builds an aura
4. Never advertise but make people talk about the product and shopping experience

Their strategy paid off. A lesson on branding that I learnt as a planner. The solution does not always lie in advertising or the communication. Innovation can be at any level, you need an eye to identify what that innovation would be and how easily that can be en-cashed upon in the most interesting yet engaging manner.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Hello Roop,

Thanks for this little story about Fabindia - I lived in John Bissell's US home in Canton, Connecticut which I took care of for a few years, and strangely, we had a store there too, but it was little known and never flourished as it obviously has in India and now in other countries. Fabindia had some success with wholesaling in the US. I have many Fabindia products still and love the simplicity and quality.

As a humanist, I also appreciate the late John Bissell's work and always find it hard to believe he is the nephew of Richard Bissell who was director of the US CIA up to about 1962 and was involved in some of the darkest days of the CIA's exploits including drug experiments on human subjects and other such things. John Bissell came from a wealthy background, but was a humble man. Thanks again for your story of his impact on your life.
A. Francis