They said: We were ahead of the market. They meant: We may have messed up.

This is just one of the things corporations say to skirt around awkward questions. Others being: The market is changing rapidly; it is a difficult, developing country; we are evolving. 

For the past year, Sri Lanka-based MAS Holdings has been brainstorming on how to fix its India situation, quoting all the above excuses at one point or the other. MAS Holdings is one of the world’s largest lingerie and intimate wear manufacturers, which designs and makes apparel for some of the biggest international brands out there—Victoria’s Secret, La Senza, Calvin Klein, Gap, Marks and Spencer, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Lululemon, Puma, Columbia (you name it, they’ve got it).

But the company’s own premium lingerie brand, Amanté, is stuck in India with low volumes, lower revenue and losses that are widening multifold. Amanté is run by MAS Brands in India, a wholly-owned subsidiary of MAS Holdings. Between FY15 and FY17, the losses of the company tripled, from Rs 6 crore ($898,500) to Rs 18 crore ($2.6 million), while the revenue of the company stagnated at Rs 57.5 crore ($8.6 million) in 2016-17, according to RoC filings.

But, it’s not just about two financial years. The company has been struggling to find its feet in India ever since it launched Amanté here in 2007, more than 10 years ago.

Ten years ago. When Twitter was just a year old, Airbnb had barely started and WhatsApp was still two years away. The final and seventh in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows released. The book, I mean. India had won the first Twenty-20 world cricket tournament and singer Himesh Reshammiya was still going strong.

A long time, ten years. The most powerful country on earth moved on from George W. Bush to a long-term commitment with Barack Obama and eventually ended up with Donald Trump.

And in all this time, MAS Holdings, with a turnover of more than $2 billion globally, couldn’t really crack the $3 billion lingerie market in India. This privately-held global expert in design and delivery of intimate wear has been changing strategies every few years and still doesn’t have much to show for.

Awkward, thy name is India

It’s 7:50 pm at a big apparel store in South Delhi and it’s not a good time to shop for lingerie. Saleswomen in the lingerie section are swamped with customers. No, the store is not about to shut for the day but the last shift of the saleswomen is going to end in ten minutes.

“But how am I going to pick and try on the products,” asked a 35-year-old woman as she realised the time. “Well, there are the boys around.

AUTHOR

Harveen Ahluwalia

In her last assignment, Harveen was at Mint, the business daily published by HT Media. At Mint, where she spent about two years, she wrote stories on retail, food and the media business. Harveen is a B.Com (H) graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She has a diploma in journalism from the Times School of Journalism. Like many folks at The Ken, Harveen talks and tweets a lot. When she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to sketch and doodle. She can be reached at harveen at the-ken dot com.

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