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Indian Institute of Business Management & Studies - Case: I Arrow and the Apparel Industry

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CASE: I ARROW AND THE APPAREL INDUSTRY

Ten years ago, Arvind Clothing Ltd., a subsidiary of Arvind Brands Ltd., a member of the Ahmedabad based Lalbhai Group, signed up with the 150- year old Arrow Company, a division of Cluett Peabody & Co. Inc., US, for licensed manufacture of Arrow shirts in India. What this brought to India was not just another premium dress shirt brand but a new manufacturing philosophy to its garment industry which combined high productivity, stringent in-line quality control, and a conducive factory ambience.

Arrow's first plant, with a 55,000 sq. ft. area and capacity to make 3,000 to 4,000 shirts a day, was established at Bangalore in 1993 with an investment of Rs 18 crore. The conditions inside--with good lighting on the workbenches, high ceilings, ample elbow room for each worker, and plenty of ventilation, were a decided contrast to the poky, crowded, and confined sweatshops characterising the usual Indian apparel factory in those days. It employed a computer system for translating the designed shirt's dimensions to automatically mark the master pattern for initial cutting of the fabric layers. This was installed, not to save labour but to ensure cutting accuracy and low wastage of cloth.

The over two-dozen quality checkpoints during the conversion of fabric to finished shirt was unique to the industry. It is among the very few plants in the world that makes shirts with 2 ply 140s and 3 ply 100s cotton fabrics using 16 to 18 stitches per inch. In March 2003, the Bangalore plant could produce stain-repellant shirts based on nanotechnology.

The reputation of this plant has spread far and wide and now it is loaded mostly with export orders from renowned global brands such as GAP, Next, Espiri, and the like. Recently the plant was identified by Tommy Hilfiger to make its brand of shirts for the Indian market. As a result, Arvind Brands has had to take over four other factories in Bangalore on wet lease to make the Arrow brand of garments for the domestic market.

In fact, the demand pressure from global brands which want to outsource form Arvind Brands is so great that the company has had to set up another large factory for export jobs on the outskirts of Bangalore. The new unit of 75,000 sq. ft. has cost Rs 16 crore and can turn out 8,000 to 9,000 shirts per day. The technical collaborators are the renowned C&F Italia of Italy.

Among the cutting edge technologies deployed here are a Gerber make CNC fabric cutting machine, automatic collar and cuff stitching machines, pneumatic holding for tasks like shoulder joining, threat trimming and bottom hemming, a special machine to attach and edge stitch the back yoke, foam finishers which use air and steam to remove creases in the finished garment, and many others. The stitching machines in this plant can deliver up to 25 stitches per inch. A continuous monitoring of the production process in the entire factory is done through a computerised apparel production management system, which is hooked to every machine. Because of the use of such technology, this plant will need only 800 persons for a capacity which is three times that of the first plant which employs 580 persons.

Exports of garments made for global brands fetched Arvind Brands over Rs 60 crore in 2002, and this can double in the next few years, when the new factory goes on full stream. In fact, with the lifting of the country-wise quota regime in 2005, there will be surge in demand for high quality garments from India and Arvind is already considering setting up two more such high tech export-oriented factories.

It is not just in the area of manufacture but also retailing that the Arrow brand brought a wind of change on the Indian scene. Prior to its coming, the usual Indian shirt shop used to be a clutter of racks with little by way of display. What Arvind Brands did was to set up exclusive showrooms for Arrow shirts in which the functional was combined with aesthetic. Stuffed racks and clutter eschewed. The product were displayed in such a manner the customer could spot their qualities from a distance. Of course, today this has become standard practice with many other brands in the country, but Arrow showed the way. Arrow today has the largest network of 64 exclusive outlets across India. It is also present in 30 retail chains. It branched into multi-brand outlets in 2001, and is present in over 200 select outlets.

From just formal dress shirts in the beginning, the product range of Arvind Brands has expanded in the last ten years to include casual shirts, T-shirts, and trousers. In the pipeline are light jackets and jeans engineered for the middle-aged paunch. Arrow also tied up with the renowned Italian designer, Renato Grande, who has worked with names like Versace and Marlboro, to design its Spring / Summer Collection 2003. The company has also announced its intention to license the Arrow brand for other lifestyle accessories like footwear, watches, undergarments, fragrances, and leather goods. According to Darshan Mehta, President, Arvind Brands Ltd., the current turnover at retail prices of the Arrow brand in India is about Rs 85 crore. He expects the turnover to cross Rs 100 crore in the next few years, of which about 15 per cent will be from the licensed non-clothing products.

In 2005, Arvind Brands launched a major retail initiative for all its brands. Arvind Brands licensed brands (Arrow, Lee and Wrangler) had grown at a healthy 35 per cent rate in 2004 and the company planned to sustain the growth by increasing their retail presence. Arvind Brands also widened the geographical presence of its home-grown brands, such as Newport and Ruf-n Tuf, targeting small towns across India. The company planned to increase the number of outlets where its domestic brands would be available, and draw in new customers for readymades. To improve its presence in the high-end market, the firm started negotiating with an international brand and is likely to launch the brand.

The company has plans to expand its retail presence of Newport Jeans, from 1200 outlets across 480 towns to 3000 outlets covering 800 towns.

For a company ranked as one of the world's largest manufactures of denim cloth and owners of world famous brands, the future looks bright and certain for Arvind Brands Ltd.

Company profile

Name of the Company : Arvind Mills

Year of Establishment : 1931

Promoters : Three brothers--Katurbhai, Narottam Bhai, and Chimnabhai

Divisions : Arvind

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