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Ecommerce growth means now is a good time to sell fashion and beauty in India, says the UK India Business Council

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The fast development of ecommerce and a burgeoning middle class means now is a good time for British fashion and beauty brands to start selling in India, according to a UK India Business Council report.

The council’s new report, Fashion and beauty sector India – market entry opportunities for UK companies, suggests that the “rapid growth” of the country’s ecommerce sector and the development of organised retail space such as malls is creating new opportunities for British brands to sell in the fast-growing market where demand for foreign brands, particularly British ones, is strong. Second and third tier cities are now becoming more accessible for those brands to sell into, the report said.

“Growth in India’s fashion and beauty sector is driven by a burgeoning middle class, particularly from a young aspirational professional urban class with a growing disposable incomes,” said Richard Heald, chief executive of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC). “In fact, over the next two decades India’s middle-class will grow to over 40% of population, creating the world’s fifth largest consumer market.

“As a result India’s organised retail sector presents immense opportunities for UK fashion and beauty companies, which benefit from India’s continuing love affair with British brands and belief. In the minds of Indians, UK brands represent style and quality. As such, UK companies have a unique opportunity across India.”

To date it’s an opportunity that brands including Burberry, Lush and the Body Shop are already taking hold of, says the report.

Retailers should be aware of challenges including India’s complex tax system and regulatory environment, the report said. However, it added, a proposed simplification of the tax regime through a proposed goods and services tax was expected to simplify taxation rules, especially for those coming new to the market.

The report, published jointly with Cluttons, was launched on Friday at an event where speakers included Mark Ashman, former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, Reliance India and HyperCity India. He said: “India’s retail sector continues to go through a period of incredibly exciting transition with both single and multi-brand retail formats as well as international brands becoming increasingly popular amongst India’s aspiring consumers.”

Earlier this year the UKIBC played host to a discussion on ecommerce. At it, Samar Singh president and chief executive of Indian ecommerce solutions provider Iksula, said: “I see a very large opportunity for UK brands to enter India. Online is a faster route to Indian consumers, more so now mobile traffic is growing rapidly, with 500 million mobiles we are leapfrogging technology in the ecommerce sector.”

At the same event, Robert Bready, former product director of Asos and who is now creative and retail director of KOOVs, said: “There is a real hunger for brands currently not available in India, and barriers to ecommerce are constantly falling.

“India has a young population and 40m middle class households, meaning huge numbers of potential fashion consumers. This is all gearing up for an explosive increase in ecommerce.”

However, he cautioned “UK companies need to adapt their business model to India. 70 per cent of e-commerce customers pay with cash on delivery and the UK’s affordable high street brands need to realise they become premium in India. So they should pitch their brand correctly.”

Image: © ramstock –

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