Weaving The Indian Linen Story

After tasting success in Bangalore and Calcutta, Linen Club enters the fashion capital of India with an exclusive company-managed store at Bandra's Linking Road. While speaking about the company's future plans, Mr. Thomas Varghese, Business Head - Textiles, Aditya Birla Group, shares why the company is so passionate about India's linen story...

Can you reflect on the journey of Linen Club over the decades?
As originator of the 'Linen' trend in India, Linen Club's journey began almost half a century ago, and today we take great pride in being the largest linen retailers in the world. Over the last ten years, Jay Shree Textile has made herculean efforts to popularise linen as an exclusive textile category in India.And its efforts have borne rich dividend; today Linen Club is the most popular brand in this category and has the largest market share.

What's so fascinating about the linen story that has motivated you to invest heavily into it?
Actuallylinen is one of the oldest fibres known to man - the Egyptians princesses and pharaohs used it. We also know of linen being used to wrap mummies, because it is probably the only fabric that doesn't degenerate with time. Owing to its unique qualities - it keeps one cool during the summers and gives warmth during the cold winters. And we feel it is best suited fabric for a country like India which has a tropical and hot weather. Also, the fabric has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities unlike any other fabric in the world. It is these natural qualities that make it one of the most expensive fibres currently in vogue, and designers across the world love to work with it.

Why is your company sourcing all its linen from the European countries?
The linen fabric is made from the fibres of the flax plant. While these are grown in the cold and humid climates of a small part of Europe and Russia, the finest linen is made in France and the adjoining parts of Belgium. It is precisely the reason why we believe in sourcing all linen fibres from these two countries.

In the linen textile segment, how is your company doing vis--vis competition in India?
We are India's largest producers of linen yarn and fabric and we have ambitious plans to further consolidate our position in the market.Till recently we were holding about 60% of the market share in the Linen yarn segment, and we have lapped up almost 50% market share in linen fabric. We see the market grow at a faster pace over the next decade or so owing to a lot of competing brand entering the linen fabric domain. But despite this, we continue to remain upbeat about the enduring values of 'Linen Club' brandto live in the memories of people for decades to come.

What are your future plans to consolidate on the market standing of the Linen Club brand?
Two year ago, we launched an exclusive line of linen readymade garments and it goes under the brand name of 'Linen Club Studio'. We have started with exclusive men's wear and it is well received by the market. Hopefully in the next couple of years we would extend to women's wear. We have already launched a new ethnic range through a designer-led collection and weare hopefulin the near future to expand the same under our brand. Gradually, we hope to provide a wide range of choices to our customers in all the three segments - men's wear, women's wear and home textiles.

Why has linen not found the desired acceptance amongst Indian masses?
One of the reasons why many people in Indiadon't like wearing linen is because it gives a crushed look, as if the person has worn it for long. But in the west, the 'crushed' look is a style statement, a reason persuasive enough for them to buy linen. India is waking up to the international fashion trends and more and more youngsters are now asking for linen, and are making style statement. It is our belief that once people get accustomed to wearing linen chances are that they wouldn't want to wear anything else. What makes you so confident of the Indian market, which is highly price sensitive and demands value for money?
Ten years ago, if you would have asked me about the future of linen retailing in India, I wouldn't have been optimistic. Back then, it was very difficult to find linen on the shelves of even the elite stores of metro cities. Linen was occupying not more than 1% of the retail shelf space. Today, if you look at the range of offering of the top 500 - 1000 textile retailers in India, you are sure to find linen taking 15 per cent of the shelf space, and I wouldn't be surprised if someone told me that an average of 8-10 per cent of product range offered by major retail brands is linen.

Would you mind spelling out the company's expansion plans for India?
Our Bandra Linking road store launched in April 2017 was our 144th store in the countryand the 35th store in Maharashtra. In the western India, we have created a strong presence with a network of 41 company-run and franchisee stores. We are also very strong in the South India where we successfully launched 80 stores and we will continue to consolidate in these markets. Simultaneously, we hope to make in-roads in the Northern and an Eastern market to create a nationwide presence. Our dream is to have around 300 stores in India by 2020. Facebook Twitter Linkedin Email