06 October 2017 15:08:55 IST

Malathy Sriram writes poems and short stories for children and adults, as well as book reviews and articles of general interest. She is a post-graduate in English Literature from Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai. Her work has been published in Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Mirror and Femina. She has edited website content and is the editor of The Small Supplement, an online magazine for children with articles on history, science, arts and culture, sports, technology, companies and brands, mythology and short stories. Reading, teaching English, listening to music (all genres) and singing complete her oeuvre.

‘Inner’ Lux-ury for the masses

How Lux broke a taboo and became the first Indian innerwear company to advertise its products

Today, one can see advertisements for any product in print and on TV. But there was a time when hosiery and lingerie were considered ‘unmentionables’ and kept under wraps. Lux is said to have broken the taboo by becoming the first Indian innerwear company to advertise and promote its products, thus upgrading them to a ‘brand’ status.

The beginnings

Lux Industries was originally named Biswanath Hosiery Mills. It was started in 1957 by Shri Girdharilalji Todi at a time when innerwear was considered essential but not luxurious as people were unwilling to spend more than what was necessary; good quality was considered a bonus! The founder began his company with the aim of providing high quality, everyday comfort to the common man at an affordable price.

By 1964, the second generation — the founder’s sons — had taken over the reins. Most of the work is said to have been outsourced during this period, with yarn being supplied to outside workers along with product specifics. The company’s growth was slow but steady.

Aggressive advertising

With the dawn of satellite television, the company went in for aggressive advertising. Their first TV ad in 1992 starring Sunny Deol with the iconic tagline Yeh andar ki baat hai, was a runaway success. It pandered to the bourgeois sentiment even as it conveyed information. (Lux was the first innerwear company to go in for celebrity endorsement. After Sunny Deol, it brought on board the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Varun Dhawan and Prachi Desai to promote its products. Recently, Amitabh Bachchan was signed on as brand ambassador for two of its brands!).

Around the same time, Lux also went in for a promotional venture titled ‘ Mazedar Mauka ’, a consumer coupon scheme.

To capitalise on the curiosity that the ad and coupon scheme generated, and ensure brand recognition and loyalty, the company decided to gradually reduce its dependence on outside workers.

Taking back control

It invested in advanced automated equipment (to reduce human error, save fabric, and get better precision). Several steps in the production process, such as knitting and packaging, were brought in-house to maintain uniform and unimpeachable quality (The areas that were still outsourced were brought under Lux’s full control). Research and development functions were given a new fillip. This changeover took over a decade, but in the meantime, the company’s activities went on smoothly.

By 1993, Lux had begun to export its products to the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The very next year, it created a revolution of sorts by becoming the first hosiery company to hold a conference for its dealers.

The year 1995 saw Biswanath Hosiery Mills being incorporated into Lux Industries Ltd. Since then, the company has shown exponential growth — it is said to have grown a mind-boggling 100 times in the last two decades, especially due to its flagship brand Lux Cozi, that was introduced in 1993. In 2001, it became a public limited company.

Diverse products

What started as a single-product company today offers a diverse range of 12 brands (with about 100 products) for all ages, genders, seasons, and locations. A whole family’s innerwear needs are met through the company with briefs, boxers, trunks, vests, spaghetti tops, socks, thermals, panties, camisoles and leggings.

The 12 brands of the company are Lux-Venus, Classic, Cozi, Cozi Bigshot, Cozi Glo, ONN, and GenX — all innerwear for men; Lux Mozze (socks); Lux-Cottswool and Inferno (thermal wear); and Karishma and Touch (inner wear for women). Lyra leggings was recently launched (Lux is reportedly the first innerwear company to enter outerwear range of products). All brands have high recall among consumers.

Lux products are available everywhere — the company has about 900 distributors and 4.5 lakh retail units. It exports its products to about 47 countries, but 90 per cent of the sales come from within India. The company is also active on e-commerce websites, giving customers better access.

Today, Lux is the third largest innerwear brand in the country, the market for which is said to be worth about ₹20,000 crore, most of it unorganised. As incomes rise and awareness increases, interest in branded innerwear has correspondingly shot up. Lux hopes to capitalise on this with quality products offered at reasonable rates.

Global brand

In terms of volume, Lux is ranked first in India among innerwear manufacturers, producing more than 10 lakh units per day. The company holds a 22 per cent market share in the men’s innerwear category. It is also the top innerwear brand in Bengal and has a commanding presence in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It is also the top Indian exporter of innerwear.

The company is headquartered in Kolkata and has six manufacturing units at five locations across India. (One at Tirupur in Tamil Nadu and four at different places in Kolkata, West Bengal — BT Road, Dhulagarh, Agarpara and Dankuni; and the last one in Ludhiana, Punjab). The Dankuni project, spread over 21 acres, is the latest one and is supposed to be one of the biggest in Asia.

Future plans

Lux Industries’ turnover in 2017 was ₹971 crore. Over the next five years, it plans to double its turnover to ₹2,000 crore. Its aim is to be recognised as the best Indian hosiery company, globally. To that end, it spends about 7 per cent of its revenue on advertisements. To keep its name in the public eye in other ways, it has sponsored cricket teams in T20s and Bollywood events. Lux sponsors the the Indian Premier League and its brand Lux Cozi is the merchandising partner for Kolkata Knight Riders for the next two years.

It also plans to have a licensing arrangement with an international innerwear brand to achieve higher margins.

Lux Industries holds the ISO 9001:2008 certification. It has won many awards, including ‘Asia’s Most Promising Brand 2012-13’, ‘Master Brand’ for two years in a row, ‘Admired Brand of India 2014-15’ and ‘World’s Greatest Brands and Leaders 2015’.

CSR activity

As part of its CSR initiatives, Lux contributes to projects that are aimed at eradicating hunger and poverty, promoting education, providing medical aid, and social welfare. The initiatives also include (anonymous) provision of clean drinking water and food to pilgrims on religious journeys ( yatras ). Its Bangur Avenue Sansad Bhavan in Kolkata is a dharamshala that offers free lodging, food and drinking water to pilgrims.