A steady growth in retailing business coupled with a rising demand for designer wear is leading the boom in the Rs. 40 billion branded-apparel Indian market. In the 1990s, the entry of premium international labels in the domestic mart led to a new brand awakening among the discerning and emerging consumers. The initial hoopla of the country's huge purchasing power gave way to more realistic projections of a market that had a tremendous potential but was extremely sensitive to pricing. Traditionally, the readymade sector thrives on seasons. While India is a country typified by a climate ranging from hot to hottest, its northern region experiences autumn, spring and a mild-to-cold winter for nearly one half of the year.
Manufacturers of knitwear and woollens try and capitalise on each limited season by extending their range and offerings to suit every pocket and taste. Over the past few years, some of the big players in the garment industry have gradually moved out of their niches and diversified into broad categories. For instance, Oswal Woollen Mills, a leader in the woollen knitwear market with about 50% share, has stretched its premium brand Monte Carlo to cover a range of all-season apparel for adults and kids. The Monte Carlo collection now also comprises summer (shirts, light casuals and trousers) and sports wear.
Since 2000, Monte Carlo has succeeded in pushing high fashion beyond the confines of the premium audience into the mass market. Not surprisingly, 'the common man's designer wear' has found ready acceptance among those who want to make a fashion statement without having to pay a huge bill for it. Among the recognition received by Monte Carlo for its thrust on quality is the prestigious award for 'The Best Exhibited Product' from the International Wool Secretariat. It has been ranked the number one woollen brand in the country by a survey conducted by Images-ORG-MARG.
In 2000, Monte Carlo launched Wonderhugs, a high fashion range of whole garments. The whole garment technology allows the garment to be knitted in one piece, without the problems of joints, rough edges or bulging
seams. It endows the product with a better finish and silhouette besides excellent draping properties and unmatched elegance. Oswal Woollen Mills (OWM) is one of the few companies in the world to have this technology. OWM also enjoys the distinction of knitting the best fabrics and finished garments. OWM is
one the few companies in India to have woolmark licenseship and is authorised to act as a quality checking centre for other manufacturers. The company exports these products to Europe, the US and to the countries in South East Asia. OWM was certified an ISO: 9002 company for quality systems management.
Oswal Woollen Mills, a flagship company of the Rs. 21.40 billion Nahar Group, began operations in 1949 as a small hosiery factory in Ludhiana. The Nahar Group is an industrial conglomerate with a diversified portfolio that includes spinning, knitting, fabric processing, hosiery garments and knitwear, apart from steel, infrastructure development and IT.
In the initial years, it focussed on hosiery and textile fabric.
In 1972, sensing a huge business opportunity in the domestic market for readymade knitwear, it set up its wool combing unit. In 1984, OWM launched its signature brand Monte Carlo in a market which was dominated by lesser known or unbranded products. Its turnover touched Rs. 25 million in the launch year and has since continued to lead the company on a steady growth spiral. Monte Carlo symbolises OWM's transition from a small
company with 800 spindles that used to manufacture simple hosiery items to a garment major with 17,200 spindles that today makes designer wear for all seasons and all audience segments.
Since its inception, Monte Carlo has been synonymous with high quality, fashionable winter wear made from the best pure wool such as Australian merino wool and Scottish lambs wool certified with the woolmark logo. In the past two decades, though sweaters have been the mainstay of its product range, the brand has entrenched itself in the consumer mind space by producing apparel that has constantly evolved along with changing lifestyles and trends.
Towards the late 1990s and in the current decade, Monte Carlo has metamorphosed into a complete fashion brand. In 1999, Monte Carlo forayed into the summer casual segment with the addition of T-shirts to its portfolio. Monte Carlo Summerz T-shirts are available in two types of fabric, mercerised and Egyptian cotton. In the mercerised cotton style, the T-shirts are mercerised at the yarning stage and after the cotton fabric has been knitted. The high quality Egyptian cotton fabric is treated at the state-of-the-art Oswal plant to protect against fading and shrinkage.
Pursuing its innovative line, in 2001 Monte Carlo launched Wonderhugs, a designer wear made by using whole garment technology. In the same year, it introduced Trouserz (dope-dyed trousers and a denim range) for men, and entered the ladies segment in 2003 with a spring-summer range of knit tops and T-shirts. The rationale for launching these new product lines was to expand the consumer base by
targeting boys and girls in the teenage category. While the women's range of knit tops and T-shirts are priced in the range of Rs. 195-Rs. 400, men's T-shirts (Rs. 330-Rs. 550) and casuals (Rs. 500 plus) too have been priced competitively.