How has sewing machines as a category evolved in India? What are the big trends that you see today, and what are the challenges before the industry?
The sewing machine industry in India has witnessed a marked shift in the last few years, particularly during the pandemic when consumers began to rediscover the joy of sewing as a hobby, creative craft, utilitarian function or even as a viable business proposition.
The Do-it-Yourself (DIY) trend of the pandemic fuelled sewing extensively and people who took to it had little or no issues of mental wellbeing. Another major trend is upcycling and recycling, as a majority of the new generation is acutely conscious of their carbon footprint, fast fashion and its impact on the environment. They are leaning towards minimalistic and sustainable fashion, and with sewing, they can achieve both.
We realized that there was no ecosystem in place that would help people learn or upgrade their skills or listen to customers about what they aspire for – especially tech-enabled product innovations which can save time and up their sewing game.
Hence, we created a 360-degree ecosystem comprising both online and offline offering product innovations, teaching/skilling, online tutorials, as well as post-sales service.
We are now focussed on building the hobby and creativity market through awareness and teaching support, experiential marketing through product demos, tutorials on the various features of the machine, along with the workshops at The Hab – a one-of-its-kind experiential store that provides workshops for creative minds, as well as online tutorials and blogs on our website ushasew.com.
What is the market-share of Usha’s sewing machine business? Which are the growing categories and important markets?
Usha has been the undisputed market leader in the sewing machine segment for decades and is committed to growing the category. South India is one of the biggest markets for us.
The company clocked double-digit growth in fully automatic sewing machines in FY 2021-22, with southern states like Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh driving major growth owing to the inclination of people towards pursuing sewing and quilting as a hobby. The wide range of sewing machines Usha offers range from the basic to the really high-end besides being user-friendly.
In recent years, the white machines have led this growth. In fact, our sewing machines business grew substantially in 2020-21 & 2021-22 owing to the growth in the Automatic Zig Zag (white machines) category, gaining over 60- 65% market share in this category as of today.
What are the innovations coming into Usha sewing machines to fulfil the changing needs of consumers? What are some examples of smart design elements or technology integrated into the machines for ease of use and enhanced creativity?
Usha has launched a slew of innovative, sewing machines equipped with Japanese technology in the last couple of year – Quilt Magic, Design Craft, Sew Magic, MC 8200 QCP SE, Style Stitch, and Mystique and Usha Memory Craft Skyline S-9 with Artistic Digitizer and Memory Craft 9850, Usha 6700P, Usha Memory Craft 550E.
Additionally, all the new embroidery machines from Usha come with the Artistic Digitizer, a user-friendly embroidery designing software compatible with both Windows and iOS, simplifying digitization of images, and enabling specialised embroidery like stipple fill, net fill, array fill and monogramming. These machines also allow free-motion embroidery for all textile arts, quilting, dress-making, home furnishings and more.
What are the shifts in consumer behaviour that you see?
We see increased demand for sewing machines from the senior population, who look forward to pursuing hobbies that keep them busy, mentally and creatively agile, and also help enhance their motor skills. As for parents, many realised that inculcating the habit of sewing in their kids is a great way to teach them a life skill while keeping them away from those all-addictive screens.
Please define your target audience – both individuals and industrial – and how you market your products to them. What is the quantum of advertising spends?
As a brand, Usha caters to audiences across India, agnostic of age, gender, and geography. We offer sewing machines suitable for kids as young as 8 years, all the way up to senior citizens in their 70s and more – basically, everyone who wants to learn, grow, create, and further their passion for sewing.
For us, offline and online work in tandem and complement each other to drive real retail success. We have made relevant investments and concerted efforts to enhance the browse-to-buy journey. Meanwhile, as footfall returns to retail stores, we are also re-inventing our in-store experiences. These are key factors in our bullish growth expectation for Usha.
Usha spends around 9-10% of its revenue on various kinds of advertising and marketing communications including specially designed POSM, ad campaigns, consumer offers, regional marketing, home demos and in-shop initiatives. We have special focus on experiential marketing and developing new teaching content on the skill of sewing.
What are Usha’s future plans for the sewing machines business? Where do you see scope for growth and expansion?
Usha has just signed its next 20-year agreement with leading hi-tech sewing machine manufacturer in Japan, Janome Corporation. Our long-term vision is to grow the market at an accelerated pace by introducing user-friendly and technologically superior sewing machines. Also, to leverage the growth potential for the fully automatic sewing machines business and lead it as this is a segment expected to double over the next decade or so.
What is one motto that you follow as a business leader?
Actually, there are two – stay constantly curious and be the best at what you do. Only true passion can spur you to do these, because it’s only then that the journey – with all its challenges and learnings – is as enjoyable as the destination.