Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Levi Strauss' Amisha Jain on Indian market trends, Lollapalooza and Deepika Padukone

Amisha Jain, senior VP and MD of SAMEA, Levi Strauss & Co., says the brand will continue to drive conversations around women

Published: Jan 31, 2023 02:58:05 PM IST
Updated: Jan 31, 2023 03:34:51 PM IST

Levi Strauss' Amisha Jain on Indian market trends, Lollapalooza and Deepika PadukoneLevi Strauss’ Amisha Jain, says "India is a key market for the brand and Asia as a whole continues to be a high-growth market for Levi’s. It’s a market in which the digital and innovation space continues to grow exponentially.

Amisha Jain is a retail veteran. With over 20 years of experience, Jain has worked with brands like Zivame, Nike, and Arvind Group, among others. In 2022, she became the senior vice president and managing director of South Asia-Middle East and Africa (SAMEA), Levi Strauss & Co., where she is responsible for leading the company’s operations, expansion, and growth in the SAMEA market. Jain shares with Storyboard18 interesting views on the Indian market, especially when it comes to the clothing category. She says, “Everyone has a perception that India is a price sensitive market. However, we have seen that consumer mindset is now changing from being price conscious to performance conscious. Consumers want to invest in products that are fashionable, but at the same time are also functional and enduring in their relevance.”

In an interview with Storyboard18, Jain also shares why the brand decided to associate with global music festival Lollapalooza's India debut, how Deepika Padukone is enhancing the brand, and more.

Read on.

Q. What made you say yes to a collaboration with Lollapalooza India? What are the opportunities for a brand like Levi's at an event like this?
Levi’s and music have always been intertwined. In its 170-year-old history, the brand has always had an undeniable presence within the music on and off the stage. This longstanding global association spans community music projects, supporting up-and-coming talent to associations with music festivals. As a brand, we have always believed that music can be a galvanizing force with the power to connect people across all barriers. Hence, an association with the inaugural edition of Lollapalooza India 2023 seemed like a natural extension to us. Our partnership with Lollapalooza India 2023 is another step towards connecting with a new generation of Levi’s. With this association, the brand aims to be present in the lives of its consumers at moments when they are their true selves, on the lookout for a community to have memorable experiences.

Q. The pandemic did hurt the experiential marketing activities for brands like Levi's. How did you connect with your audience in the online world? Also, how do you tie it back when events are back on ground?
We have always endeavoured to be where our fans are, that is at the center of culture. The pandemic brought restrictions to all retailers across the globe. Due to numerous restrictions, we maintained a close digital connection with our audience. The focus was on being agile, responding to situations quickly and most important being relevant to our fans. For instance, on 20th May we celebrated the birthday of the blue jean (501 Day) online and realized that the 501 Live music program, entertainment, and interviews from some of our favourite artists brought a lot of joy. We also saw some of our fans and brand friends posting pictures from our past 501 Day events reminding us that the love for the brand is still strong. Now after 3 years when things are back to pre-COVID levels, we are bringing our customers with live events and Lollapalooza being the first big event of the year. Being a DTC-first brand that’s committed to being everywhere our consumers love to interact and shop, we are still conversing and listening to our consumers on our digital platforms.

Also read: From growth to sustainability, the role new technologies play in luxury brand management

Q. In a way, musicians are the OG creators. What are the ways in which you plan to engage with artists, especially in India, this year?
Earlier this year, we unveiled the Levi’s Music Project with artists Ritviz and Kayan. The internationally acclaimed initiative is aimed at empowering more rising artists than ever before thanks to an exciting new digital framework that allows young talent from around the world to connect with professional artists. This year we aim to continue to create opportunities for artists, both new and old through the spirit of innovation, making this collaboration a prime opportunity to partner up with the goal of allowing Levi’s to provide an unprecedented amount of access to music education through content, workshops, and collaborations. Created for artists, by artists.

Q. What are the key consumer trends that have emerged in the apparel category in 2022?
We have also seen a continued acceleration of the casualisation trend across the world. One of the fastest-growing categories currently is a more sportier athleisure look especially for women. Not only this, but today’s fashion consumer is also more inclined towards sustainable fashion and the inclination has only grown post-COVID. To cater to the emerging trends, we are going to go after the complete head-to-toe look and drive a fast expansion across footwear and accessories as well. From a product perspective, we have already launched Levi’s Gold Tab that includes sportier pieces like tank tops, joggers and leggings, and have been employing production techniques that use far less water than traditional methods. In addition to this, we have worked towards more sustainable, more circular products and practices, while developing new business models that reduce waste and extend the life of denim. These include Water.

Also read: Making a greener wardrobe? You may want to start with jeans

Q. As a global apparel brand, how do you see India as a market—in terms of people, trends, and insights?
India is a key market for LS&Co. and, considering the country’s large population, means there is significant untapped market potential. The country’s growing median income earners and robust economy make it an increasingly attractive market for retailers. The consumer, too, is evolving. Today’s consumer is willing to try new things and is willing to spend with brands with which they have a real connection. This has been seen across the board, not only in the larger cities but also in smaller towns. Moreover, the pandemic has led to a growing casualization trend. Consumers want to wear clothes that are fashionable, yet comfortable. Levi’s offers a full lifestyle proposition to shoppers, with complete head-to-toe looks. One of the fastest-growing categories for women in particular is sportswear, which we offer beyond denim. Also, footwear and accessories will be another category where we are intending to drive expansion. Apart from seasonal collections, we also are proud of our collaborations such as our recent one with Deepika Padukone and we will continue to build on that strategy.

Q. How has the association with Deepika Padukone helped the brand?
Recognizing a shift to casualization and more relaxed ways of dressing, the key focus of our collaboration with Deepika Padukone has been to keep the collection true to Levi’s authenticity and Deepika’s influence on fashion-enthusiasts. The introduction of Padukone’s signature favorites into the collection was a way for us to explore unknown textile territories and also relate to a newer fashion consumer. The collection was well received by consumers. We were able to reach a younger, Gen Z and millennial consumer base with this association, helping us to create a new generation of Levi’s fans. The association also helped us establish that Levi’s goes beyond denim, and has helped us establish us as a true lifestyle brand with head-to-toe collections.

Also read: The anti-sustainability Black Friday sales: Where are India's Patagonias?

Q. You are a seasoned retail business enthusiast. What makes Indian shoppers interesting to the rest of the world?
Everyone has a perception that India is a price sensitive market, however we have seen that consumer mindset is now changing from being price conscious to performance conscious. Consumers want to invest in products that are fashionable, but at the same time are also functional and enduring in their relevance. In the past few years, the Indian consumer has also become mindful of the choices they are making and have shown an inclination towards sustainable fashion. If you look at our collections, while it appeals to a more cutting-edge fashion, Levi’s products are thoughtfully created and made to last. We have used waterless technology, cottonised hemp, wood pulp in the form of Tencel. We are trying to stay true to Levi’s value of durability. It is not at all fast-fashion, but it is fashion-forward.

Q. Where is India on Levi's growth map?
India is a key market for the brand and Asia as a whole continues to be a high-growth market for Levi’s. It’s a market in which the digital and innovation space continues to grow exponentially - and so our priorities of being brand-led, DTC first as a company and of diversifying our portfolio are executed through the lens of connecting with our fans in the ways they love to shop.

Q. From a marketing lens, what more can we expect to see from Levi's this year?
This year is a monumental one for LS&Co. as we celebrate 170 years of the company’s operations and 150 years since we first introduced our iconic Levi’s 501 jeans. As a brand, these two milestones will remain to be our focus this year and we may initiate some interesting collaborations and initiatives around them. Lastly, in the last few years, we have also focused on conversations around women – both through product and marketing efforts. We will continue to drive these conversations even this year, considering women’s swear is an important category for us as a brand.