Fabindia: Branding India’s Artisanal Craft for Mass Retail
As India’s most iconic garments and home furnishings company, Fabindia had come a long way from its humble beginnings as an export shop in 1960, selling handloom fabrics to overseas customers. In 1976, Fabindia started domestic operations in India, and in the next 38 years it had become synonymous with quality handmade products procured from artisans all over India, with a social conscience. The business combined the twin objectives of making a profit and providing a sustainable livelihood for rural artisans. A whole generation of loyal shoppers had grown up with the brand and the view that “If you were a Fabindia person, you were alright.” However, the winds of change were blowing. The next generation of consumers, who were part of a different economic environment and world order, were less tied to the Fabindia ethos and had wider consumption choices. Given the changes, was it time to evolve? Should Fabindia broaden its positioning? If it remained niche, could it continue the phenomenal growth it had experienced? If Fabindia chose to broaden its positioning, what should that broader positioning be?
The case can be used in a broad variety of courses including business strategy, marketing strategy, branding, and social innovation. The case documents the dramatic growth of Fabindia from inception through 2013 and presents research data on consumer’s perception of the Fabindia brand. The case also highlights that profit and social responsibility need not be at loggerheads and thus makes the case for profits with a social conscience. The decision focus of the case stems from the findings of the market research which shows that contrary to what management had assumed—a niche player of ethnic products, today’s Indian consumers perceive Fabindia to be a part of the broader retail fabric of India. This raises the interesting question of should Fabindia sharpen its positioning to retain the niche position that management had always perceived Fabindia to possess or should it broaden its positioning?