Pallav Narang, a chartered accountant living in New Delhi, was excited when he spotted an online apparel sale of big brands at dirt-cheap rates. He ordered his favorite Ralph Lauren shirts. When the delivery came, however, the package left him suspicious.
“I bought these shirts advertised on Homeshop18. While the discount deals looked tempting with very low prices, the shirts did not look right. One wash later, the fabric lost color – it was pretty obvious the shirts were smart fakes,” he said.
Narang did not avail of the company’s return policy as he realised that original Ralph Lauren shirts could not have been sold so cheap, a point he missed pondering over before placing the orders.
“Most online retailers work with aggregators who can slip in fakes,” said Sundeep Malhotra, CEO, Homeshop18. However, he defended: “We are directly associated with the brands and there is a money back guarantee. There is a problem for customers who believe genuine products can be sold so cheap.”
Browse through online retailers such as homeshop18, 99labels, myntra and at least a dozen more – they all sell branded apparel at deep discounts. Most also sell brands that are yet to arrive in India, and most work with global and Indian distributors.
“Consumers are attracted to such deals because of deep discounts and end up paying a lot for products that they believe are genuine,” said Harminder Sahni, MD, Wazir Advisors. “Chances of counterfeiting are huge because of the degree of separation between the retailers and the distributors. The chances of customers being taken for a ride with smart fakes are higher when a global brand is not present in India. Its official entry usually sees fakes disappearing.” Sahni worked with Tommy Hilfiger during its India entry. Its widely available counterfeits lost steam after its entry.
“In most instances, customers are unable to clearly differentiate between a genuine and a fake. Most of the products we retail are imported from verified distributors. However, fakes do enter the system as some spill goes unchecked,” said Ishita Swarup, founder & CEO, 99labels.com.
Soumya Jain, chief editor and CEO, LuxuryFacts, commented: “Many Indian e-commerce websites started on the promise of providing luxury and fashion goods, but spiraled down to multiple problems – one of which is selling fake goods. Duped consumers often think that the brand also has some hand in it.”
Salman Khan’s Being Human brand has seen a flourishing counterfeit clothesline for months, while it was officially launched in India only a week ago.
“While the demand for the fake Being Human clothesline clearly shows the brand’s success, it poses a huge challenge for us. We are looking at communicating this to Salman Khan fans through social media,” said Manish Mandhana, MD, Mandhana Industries, the licensee for Being Human clothesline. “Most big brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Rolex are facing counterfeit problems globally.”
To tackle the counterfeit menace, Being Human will, in the first stage of its retail expansion, run a TV commercial telling consumers where to buy genuine Being Human apparel from. Mandhana aims at 150 Being Human stores by 2014, of which 50 will be company-owned. He launched Being Human stores in West Asia markets last August.
As India joins the global markets where counterfeits are flourishing, consumers and brands are concerned. A Cognizant report , in fact, suggests that luxury brands should certify the authenticity of their own products.