New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Swati Bisht, a mother of two girls - Sneha, 9, and Sakshi, 6 - was never a shopaholic until her two daughters pushed her to the local mall. Even at this tender age, Sneha and Sakshi are so brand conscious that they are the guiding force behind their parents' shopping decisions.
After an initial unsettling phase, Bisht has accepted being dominated by her daughters, whom she calls "over-smart phone" generation.
"Earlier when my elder daughter would ask me to buy certain brands, I would be astonished and shocked. But now I find that children are choosing what they want to wear and not the other way round. Our role is now restricted to just making payment," Bisht, an executive in a private company, told IANS.
Gone are the days when children would wear or buy whatever is thrown at them. The shopping bug seemingly bites right in the cradle.
Retailers and manufacturers are not complaining. No wonder that the kids' apparel business has fuelled the clothing market, making it a Rs 13,000 crore ($2 billion) business in the country.
Of this, Rs 3,000 crore is cornered by branded apparel. And the market is growing at a healthy 10 percent every year.
Within the apparel segment, children's wear is showing tremendous growth, accounting for 20 percent of the overall market in 2013 and is expected to grow to 22 percent by 2023.
As the market shows lots of promise, designers, big international brands and online portals are all trying to get their share of marekt pie.
Manoj Mahla, Director, India Kids Fashion Week, whose first edition will begin in Mumbai from Friday, described the growth in the sector as "phenomenal".
The main reason for the boom in the sector is that India has one of the world's youngest populations -- about 30 percent of it under the age of 14.
"The nuclear family system, double income couples spending increased amounts on children and growing brand awareness among kids would be drivers for growth," Mahla said.
According to a 2014 Assocham paper on "Growing market for branded kids-wear in India", children's fashion has percolated down to tier-II and tier-III cities like Dehradun, Indore, Ludhiana, Nashik, Pune and Varanasi.
It is not just international brands like Armani Junior, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger Kids, Zara Kids, H&M and GAP that have targetted their audience with aggressive marketing; domestic brands like Gini and Jony and 612 League are also witnessing increased demand.
What has also further boosted the sector is the advent of e-commerce.
In fact, 'Shopping for kids isn't child's play' is the apt tagline of a children's brand promoted by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
Sites such as Jabong.com <http://jabong.com>, FirstCry, Hopscotch, Ebay and others are making a killing in this sector, with working and upwardly mobile parents opting for them to ensure that their children are trend setters.
Even Indian designers don't want to be left behind in this race to corner the market.
According to designer Archana Kochhar, the kids' apparel market has many retail players but has not been explored by any designer as a category.
"We have seen brands like Barbie and others coming up with special lines, but they are not precisely designer collections. Hence, the kids apparel market seems to be a potential market for designers to explore," said Kochhar, who is introducing her kids' line for the first time through India Kids Fashion Week.
The India Kids Fashion Week, which provides a platform to designers to exhibit their lines, has 35 participants this time, which include big brands and designers. The second edition will be held in Delhi from June 18 to 19.
Kochhar said that earlier school uniforms were the only segment which saw some designer involvement.
"But now, given the changing family scenario, increase in disposable income and, most importantly, the increase in awareness due to internet exposure, kids have become fashion conscious, making the segment very attractive," she added.
(Kavita Bajeli-Datt can be contacted at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>)