Milan, May 1 (IANS) A strong, diverse democracy and people's hunger to be in sync with international fashion trends make India a special place for expansion plans for Switzerland-based brand Bata, which did not have to grapple with the challenges that came along with the introduction of GST and demonetisation in the country, says a top company official.
Bata's Chief Financial Officer Alberto Toni says the brand has a strong affinity for India.
"There are generations in India who grew up with Bata, so I think the country has a special place in our heart because it has always responded incredibly well to our evolution. Clearly, India is one of the places in the world where things are happening in a fast and a positive way without major disruption," Toni told IANS in an interview here.
Toni, who was present at the second edition of Bata Fashion Weekend here last week, said India offers a huge opportunity to investors.
"It is a place that offers an investor an opportunity to work in a democracy and also in a multicultural, multiregional, multiethical environment. There are a few places that offers such diversity that allows you to experiment differently. It is a big market and relatably stable market and also a peaceful democracy.
"There are plenty of characteristics that make India as an attractive market," he added.
Was there any impact on the brand when the Indian government introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation?
"They are two different things. The GST was announced, communicated and changed where we were given time to prepare ourselves and it was something that was totally acceptable. Most of the people whom I spoke to and our point of view was that it was a positive step.
"Demonetisation was a little bit shocking and I am extremely proud how the Indian organisation reacted. In our opinion every struggle should come as an opportunity. Yes, our sales dropped for a couple of months, but at the end, we reacted well and we went through a wet period without suffering a lot. We are back on track."
India is a priority market for the 85-year-old brand.
"What we are extremely focussed on is to make the right investments. We have a very clear model where we first define India as a priority market, which is based on simple parameters like opportunity, which is given by the market, by the trading conditions, by the economy and by its population.
"I think India has those qualities. We have a great orientation and a great network of stores. We are opening 100 stores a year and we are refurbushing stores. We have very clear investment plans for India. The brand is responding and in India, the numbers are definitely coming," said Toni.
Toni said Bata has especially done well in Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities of the country, and they see a huge opportunity in Tier-3 and Tier-4 sectors.
"Where maybe it's not the right route to come directly, so we are strongly looking at franchise opportunities for people who know the local market. We also have plans to expand in franchise spectrum," Toni told IANS.
(Nivedita is in Milan at the invitation of Bata Fashion Weekend organisers. She can be contacted at email@example.com)