Thursday, July 07, 2011

Ruf N Tuf : Struggling to Survive

Brand : Ruf N Tuf
Company : Arvind Mills

Brand Analysis Count : # 488

Ruf N Tuf  was an innovative brand which virtually revolutionized the Indian jeans market. It was also a brand which ultimately failed to capitalize on the tremendous growth that it created. Born in 1995, Ruf N Tuf was India's first Ready To Stitch jeans brand. Ruf N Tuf along with Newport Jeans virtually made the jeans category penetrate into the semi-urban and rural markets.

During the 90's jeans gained much prominence in the urban markets. Although there were enough room for all the players in the market, Arvind mills felt the need to expand the market by targeting the rural/semi urban market. The strategy was partly driven by the increased competition from the urban market by well known global labels.
Ruf N Tuf was a brilliant idea. The concept was to sell the ready-to-stitch jeans to the consumers who were not accustomed to buying readymade clothes. The ready-to-stitch brand was very affordable and broke the price barrier for this category. Jeans were no longer an aspirational product but became affordable to a larger section of the market.

The idea of ready to stitch jeans caught the attention of the consumers. The brand was highly successful in the initial phase of the lifecycle. Consumers liked the very relevant brand name and the price was the real game changer. For 299 one was able to afford a good quality jeans when the average prices of readymade brands was over Rs 700. The brand had the Bollywood Action Hero Akshay Kumar as the brand ambassador for Ruf N Tuf. These tactics made the sales of the brand soar during the initial phase of the brand's life.

The successful run of Ruf N Tuf did not last long. The brand faced significant problems from counterfeits which merely copied the brand elements and fooled the consumers. Ruf N Tuf tried to manage the counterfeits by embossing log on the jeans pocket but these measures found little success.
The brand then began to face another issue which is directly linked with its product performance. The idea behind Ruf N Tuf's business model is that the tailor will stitch the jeans in a way that is comparable with the readymade ones. That assumption proved wrong. Consumers began to feel that the tailors were not able to bring the finishing in a perfect manner compared to readymades. The local brand made use of this weakness by launching low quality jeans with good stitching and competitive price. This strategy of local brands virtually killed the market of Ruf N Tuf.

To counter the onslaught from local readymade brands, Ruf N Tuf reduced the quality of the product and tried to compete on price. That strategy too failed to click in the market. Since the market of Ruf N Tuf was highly price sensitive, the local brands took advantage of the weakness of Ruf N Tuf. The presence of Newport and Ruf N Tuf  started creating problems in the company's product line. These brands began to cannibalize each other despite having different distribution channels.

These issues created huge inventory issues for Arvind Mills during the early 2000 forcing the company to put Ruf N Tuf in the freezer. The brand was on the verge of being killed. In 2004, the company decided to rejuvenate the brand by associating with Big Bazaar. According to the arrangement, the brand will be available only through Big Bazaar. Thus Ruf N Tuf virtually became a private label ( not theoretically ).

The story of Ruf N Tuf provides some insights to the difficult task of marketing. The consumers loved the idea of a ready-to-stitch jeans  and the low price. But they are not ready to compromise on quality and fit. And the business model of Ruf N Tuf had no control on the tailor who made the final product. Hence the brand was not able to control the complete experience to the consumer which ultimately lead to the demise of the brand.

The next question is that if the ordinary shirtings and suitings can thrive then why not Ruf N Tuf ?  I think its because of the points of parity . Ruf N Tuf's point of parity was established with readymade Jeans and not textiles. Hence the consumers expected Ruf N Tuf to be having the same stitching quality as the readymade jeans.Hence the comparison with readymade jeans is inevitable.I think the brand could have carved a better market if it had established parity with denim clothing rather than readymade jeans.
The current strategy of associating with Big Bazaar ensures the survival of the brand. Through the extensive chain of stores, the brand rightly ensures that it reaches its desired TG through Big Bazaar. Big Bazaar offers instant reach to the bargain hunters and price conscious consumers. In that sense, the brand has struck on a workable strategy. Having said that , from a mainstream brand to a private label ( somewhat) it is a fall from grace. The solace is that the brand is still alive.

2 comments:

  1. Great Job Mr.Harish, yes you are right that 'Ruf N Tuf' did the comparative marketing with 'Readymade Jeans' only, which is just a small part of the complete textile industry. Broader comparison may would have worked better.
    Also, association with Hypermarkets will let the brand survival, organization should work once again to make it an iconic brand of India.
    Suggestion to Ruf N Tuf:
    Arvind Mills can have association with the renowned tailors of the town and city and prescribed them with 'Authorized Ruf N Tuf Creator'.In this way they will gain control on the stitching part as well. This will also produce loyalty of tailors towards the company, due to their market recognition and special catalog and suggestions will make the consumers(mid-level consumers) feel special.

    Anurag Kumar Singh
    http://www.greenflag.in

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  2. Dinesh Kumar G7:10 PM

    Sir,
    Its a clear flank attack by the local brands against Ruf & Tuf. Why did they compromised themselves on quality and reduced the price? Instead they would have introduced another brand with low price to compete with the local brands.
    Also ready made brands, be it formal trousers/Jeans, being a finished product highly satisfies the need of the customer rather Ready to stitch brands creates more expectations and later if it fails to deliver then it has to see the consequences.

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