Starting from Jay Ambe Saree Showroom in Indrachowk in 2011, the RP Group is now the authorized supplier of 23 international brands of clothing, footwear and accessories like Da Milano Italia, Rosso Brunello, W Aurelia, Indian Terrain and Louise Philippe, among others. The group also has interests in electronics and food products. In an email interview with The Post, RP Group chairman and CEO Rupesh Pandey spoke about brand awareness among Nepalese consumers. Pandey plans to introduce other international brands in the near future and predicts that the demand for global products will increase dramatically. Extracts:
Has the pandemic been tough?
The pandemic has obviously affected the whole world, and even developed and wealthy countries are fighting to fight the coronavirus. Nepal has also been hit by a slowdown in economic activities. As the country is still going through the pandemic phase, with the emergence of new variants and lockdowns imposed to control them, our businesses have also dried up as people’s incomes plummeted and they were also not in the mood to. buy. As the disease was highly transmissible, people focused on health security; and as a result, sales declined. The strict lockdown that was imposed last year also continued this year, with almost insignificant support for businesses that have been affected by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Demand for luxury clothing and accessories was booming in Nepal before the pandemic. Premium brands have taken a big hit. will they bounce back? If so, when?
Before making a statement, things need to be seen on a bigger canvas. Both boom and bust are inherent attributes of a healthy market, and that’s why savvy minds have come up with an innovation called branding. “Identity-tied products” don’t really feel booming or declining due to dedicated and exclusive tracking. Provided the government ensures a safe environment for the market during the closings, loyal customers will not walk away. A rebound in luxury goods is unaffected by the national economic situation, as consumers remain afloat even when the economy is drowning.
High-end consumers are increasingly impacted by the economic fallout from Covid. What will be its impact on the luxury market or the sales of premium brands?
High-end consumers are not easily affected by the economic benefits. In addition, the rich in poor countries are well above average and are impacted by a few minor economic shifts, especially in luxury consumer goods. Speaking of outlook, it all depends mainly on two things. First, how many high-end global brands can be imported? This is essential because those who can afford these products prefer to buy them from duty free shops abroad, as many brands are not available in our city. Second, consumers want to make sure that the products available in Nepal are genuine. An assurance of availability of original products will dissuade them from paying more in greenbacks abroad. Unfortunately, even authorized dealers sometimes mix lower quality products for higher short-term earnings. These horrific acts must be reduced. If done as stated above, the prospect of premium products is encouraging.
Many brands are more dependent on China than the United States and Europe. What’s your focus?
A brand is associated with trust, prestige, status, loyalty and a long association. Famous producers have invested their skills, their passion, ages of perfection, an understanding of the products and a deep association with their customers for generations. Thus, brands that have carved out a niche for themselves will not be easily wiped out. The production base, however, doesn’t matter to consumers – it could be Vietnam, China, Mexico, or anywhere. If you are talking about new brands from China and other new economic superpowers, it will take time, effort, investment and dedication for them to be seen as global brands. In apparel and apparel, no new technology can really sweep the market, unlike the auto industry where a relatively new name called Tesla is shaking up the market.
There was a frenzy of online shopping as people were ordered to stay home. Do you intend to make products available through e-commerce platforms?
Rest assured, the countless entries into the e-commerce market have ruined it so much that people will hardly continue to judge the quality of clothing or leather on their mobile screens. However, surprisingly, the online market for branded products will not be so badly affected, as those who know the brand know the quality they demand and are also guaranteed to get what they want. This means that high-end customers may not have to worry about the quality of the products they order, so they will be more tuned into shopping online. Those who opt for inexpensive products are easily fooled, so they will prefer to physically examine their purchase. It is not yet known when we will be placed in the global inventory, which is why we will deliver the items purchased online to Nepal. If high-end brands trust some local online stores enough, it will be easier for us. But that has yet to happen for the brands that the RP Group represents.
How do you see the national fashion industry now? What kinds of clothing or footwear brands are Nepalese customers particularly looking for?
We have not reached the level of assuming our market as a fashion industry. There is no single choice of Kathmanduites, let alone other cities, which would push or pull the design and production of global brands. Our markets are stocked with items popular in the region, especially the Indian market. An increase in demand for quality products will be achieved if we work harder to bring in more reputable brands and instill confidence in local and international customers as to their originality. Although the demand for Nepalese fashion does not really have a significant impact, the local fashion trend can still be observed and critically acclaimed. At the moment, young Nepalese are influenced by South Korean fashion, thanks to their soap operas which attract a lot of young people.
Second-hand branded clothing has gained attention in the retail market in many countries. Is there a market in Nepal?
Don’t assume it. Cheap and counterfeit clothes and first-hand clothes are available in abundance. This kind of situation will only arise when brand awareness increases and counterfeit products are denied access to the market.
Do you think domestic buyers care about brand or price?
This requires customer segregation. When talking about high-end brand consumers, there are mainly two types: upper middle class and upper class. Upper middle class people want the best at an affordable price. They spend days window shopping or browsing online stores before focusing on their decision. These people are more numerous, so they promote price competition. The other group will not be price conscious. They will be more fashion conscious and more concerned with the availability of their choices when plugged into the world of international fashion.
Are you planning to introduce other international brands of clothing or footwear to the Nepalese market?
The RP Group always strives to offer products that offer good value for money to our consumers. We are currently in negotiations with many global brands, and some of them may materialize soon. We are making serious efforts to bring quality to our company, also beyond clothing and apparel. Very soon, the RP group will be making some scintillating announcements.