Debenhams’ Aditya Nadkarni: Finding the right fit

25 Jan,2012

Aditya Nadkarni, Brand Head, Debenhams has been leading the brand to become the forefront of multi-brand retailing in India – setting new industry standards, venturing into uncharted territories and launching revolutionary retail concepts to provide an extraordinary shopping experience to the customers. Mr Nadkarni’s association with the retail industry started as an assistant manager – retail at Shopper’s Stop. Since then he has worked with several well known retail houses such as Trent and Piramyd where he undertook various operational functions and has been instrumental in the successful development and launch of a number of private labels as well as international brands like Blend of America, Versace, Versace Sports and Cerruti 1881. Here he talks to MXMindia’s Tuhina Anand on Debenhams’ plan in India.


Q: How do you see Debenhams poised amongst the fashion brands in India today?

Debenhams is the only premium woman-centric department store in the country today. We offer wearable fashion for the sophisticated, mature and well-travelled woman. We also provide assistance to women for their beauty and cosmetic needs, stylish home linen, speciality cookware, kids’ apparel and men’s apparel. As we offer not only international products but also products from international designers as well in every category, we believe we are unique in the premium department store segment.


Q: Can you elaborate on your expansion plans for Debenhams this year?

This year, we expect to make a strong entry with large format stores in Bangalore and Mumbai. We also aim to open three to four stores on an annual basis. Since Debenhams is a premium department store, we will be targeting Tier 1 cities.


Q: How have you been promoting the brand here?

We have focused our attention and resources towards working on an editorial basis with fashion media in the country. We also believe that our presence in the digital media space is helping to take the Debenhams brand to more and more people across the country. And of course, our customers are our brand ambassadors and they really do help to highlight the Debenhams name. Today, we enjoy one of the highest conversion rates in the segment, which is a result of the trust and confidence our loyal customers have placed on us.


Q: With the FDI in retail, especially multi-brand retail, having gone to the back burner, does it in any way hamper your expansion plans?

As a leading brand in our segment, we do not believe foreign direct investment in retail, multi-brand or single brand, would stifle our growth. In fact, we welcomed such regulation, as it would bring about more players in the segment and provide consumers with more choice.


Q: With so many international players vying for the attention of Indian buyers, what advantage does Debenhams have?

Debenhams enjoys the status of being the sole department store, in the premium segment, in the country today.


Q: How do you view the fashion retail sector, especially for international brands – the size and opportunity – in India?

Over the years, Indians have developed their fashion sense to mirror other countries and the latest trends. We see that with consumers travelling more and becoming savvy about international trends and lifestyles. The Indian consumer has evolved much more in the past decade than ever before. With the Indian economy growing positively, consumers are able to more afford the international brands present in the country today.


Q: What is the kind of investment that Debenhams will make in India in the next three years?

Debenhams is looking at opening three to four stores per year. The stores will range from 30,000 sq ft to 40,000 sq ft each. We expect to make substantial investments, keeping customer demographics and psychographics in consideration. Each store will be equipped with the traditional superior fit-out and superior quality staff.


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