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Tuesday, August 22, 2000

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Casa Mia comes to Chennai with designer furnishing

Nina Varghese

CHENNAI, Aug. 21

CASA Mia is a new brand on the block. It is a range of branded home furnishing from ICL International, a subsidiary of India Cements Ltd.

Branded home furnishing is a recent concept in India. Home furnishing or made-ups, as the trade calls it, has been more or less unbranded, except for Shyam Ahuja for dhurries and Bombay Dyeing for bedsheets and towels. The products that fall into this se gment are rugs, bed linen, towels, dish towels, table linen, table napkins and dusters. Consumers picked up these products only from the various lifestyle stores in metros.

As far as the market for branded furnishing in India is concerned, Mr. Ashwin Srinivasan, Director, ICL International, said it was in totally unchartered waters.

Mr. Srinivasan, a designer of home furnishing, has an established clientele in the US and the European market. He introduced the Casa Mia brand in India recently.

The store of the same name stocks a range of home furnishing, glassware, crockery and kitchenware from the UK.

Casa Mia will also be coming out with a new range of upholstery by mid-September. This would be a coordinate collection, Mr. Srinivasan said.

Mr. Srinivasan said he had taken part in the Home Textile Fair in Frankfurt. In January, 2000, 15 of his designs were accepted for the Trends Forum. He has also been designing for some well-known labels in the these markets for the past four years, whom he cannot name because of a confidentiality clause.

International buyers shied from the `Made in India' label as it implied poor quality and did not realise the right price, he said.

Casa Mia, on the other hand, was being retailed as a `Made in India' brand, even in the West, Mr. Srinivasan said.

Casa Mia, he said, had been appreciated for high quality fabric and design. ICL International, which also exports yarn and made-ups as a company, has been dealing only with the high end buyers.

The home furnishing segment also follows the colours of the seasons. Mr. Srinivasan said as a designer, he has been almost a year ahead of the market. Quoting an example, he said he had introduced a collection called `Nomad' in bisque, quarry and alabast er at the Home Textile Fair in Frankfurt in 1999, which is all sold out this year.

The Casa Mia range was first displayed at all the Shoppers' Stop outlets almost a year ago. But now, he said, he would be pulling out of this store as ``it is mutually beneficial to both parties''.

The brand strategy for the domestic market is slowly being evolved, Mr. Srinivasan said. To start with, there is a billboard campaign all over Chennai which has created some brand awareness. The campaign was conceptualised by Mr. Srinavasan himself and M r. Abijit Mukerjee of Mudra Communication, while the photography was by Mr. Sharad Haksar.

Earlier, branded furnishing was not considered to have much of a market in India. But Mr. Ved Prakash Arya, Chief Executive Officer, Globus, a lifestyle store in Chennai, disagreed during a recent interview. He said he had introduced some home furnishing products with hesitation, but was surprised at the speed at which they sold out.

Home furnishing from India, however, is no newcomer to the international market. Of the total export of cotton textiles worth $1,280 millions for the current year (2000-2001), the exports of fabric and made-ups together amounted to $759 millions. In July , 2000, the export of cotton textiles aggregated to $328.53 millions, of which $108 millions was from the export of cotton made-ups and $94.74 millions from cotton fabrics.

The average price realisation in respect of cotton fabric has increased to $0.49 sq m in July, 2000, from $0.48 in January. These figures are based on the shipping bills and invoices received by the Cotton Textiles Export Promotion Council of India (Texp rocil) for pre-shipping endorsement.

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