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Online sales growing rapidly
Financial Chronicle - 29 Apr 2010

"WE have an integrated ecosystem with Facebook and Twitter" Atul Chand Lifestyle Retail Busines, CEO, ITC.

FROM a thriving but persecuted tobacco company in the initial decades to a conglomerate with hotels, ITC has made it look so easy over the years through constantly reinventing itself. ITC’s divisional CEOs run their businesses almost independently; yet there’s a high level of synergy across the businesses. Among the thriving divisions is Lifestyle Retail. And John Players, the apparel brand for the male Indian youth, is one that Lifestyle Retail is betting high on. Speaking to Ritwik Mukherjee, the divisional chief executive, Lifestyle Retail Business, ITC, Atul Chand, dwelt at length on wideranging issues facing the brand and the division’s business. Excerpts:

Why was Ranbir Kapoor chosen as the Brand ambassador for John Players?

There has been an evolution in the lifestyles and attitudes of the Indian youth, who are today more expressive, social and confident. John Players seeks to connect with the youth in a manner that echoes the current generation's mood. One of the key initiatives is to use a suitable brand ambassador who reflects the brand's youthfulness, energy and vibrancy. Ranbir Kapoor is a youth icon and his effortless style and attitude relate well with the sentiments of millions of young Indians. Ranbir, as the "New Face of Cool" for John Players.

Is it for the first time that the in-house designing team would be working with a brand ambassador? What is the mandate to the design team?

John Players has a vibrant range, with formals, casuals, denims and partywear, which enables the fashion conscious youth to make an effortless style statement. With our new campaign and celebrity association, there is heightened consumer interest around the brand. To strengthen the product range and further leverage the celebrity association, we will soon launch the Ranbir Kapoor Signature Collection. Our design team is working with Ranbir to craft a collection that incorporates his fashion preferences.

How effective is online sales in India? How effective are the platforms like Facebook, YouTube?

Online shopping provides convenience and a wide range of products to the consumer. With growing internet usage and digital media, online shopping will emerge as a significant sales channel for the apparel category. Social networking sites like Facebook are an effective way for brands to engage with their target audience. We have created an integrated digital ecosystem comprising our brand website, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to create buzz and excitement, engage in a two-way conversation to enhance bonding, and communicate information to trigger store visits and purchases. Some of the initiatives have been with Gul Panag and Farah Ali Khan and Sheetal Mallar, leveraging of “Behind the Scenes” clips for the John Players campaign shoot with Ranbir, videos on YouTube and contests on Facebook. smaller markets and varied consumer segments. Gifting is a strong trend, being driven by customers residing in different cities; our large store network is synergistically fuelling this growth.

Would you also be taking the mobile phone route and how?

We use the mobile medium to communicate key messages like launch of the season, range highlights, promotions etc. Newer technologies and tie-ups in the mobile space are being explored in order to target and send relevant messages to the target audience.

How many outlets does John Players have now? How many more will be added?

With the growing consumer interest around John Players, we are planning to increase to 300 exclusive stores in the next 18 months. The focus will be multiple stores in metros and seeding smaller markets, thus taking the brand closer to the consumer. John Players is also available in over 1,200 leading MBOs(multi brand outlets) and departmental stores.

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