Last weekend, the Ross School of Business hosted the seventh iteration of the India Business Conference, with the theme of “India Marching Ahead.” A variety of Indian business leaders and former bureaucrats sat down to talk about strides being made in the realm of business in India, and how the business relationship between the United States and India has been changing for the better. Among the list of panelists, which included esteemed guests such as Yum! Brands India President Niren Chaudhary and former Minister of Finance for India Yashwant Sinha, Myntra CEO Ananth Narayanan and his talk about changing waves in the Indian retail industry through his retail app stood out.

Narayanan has a colorful history within Indian enterprise. Previously serving on McKinsey & Company’s product development and automotive practice teams in South Asia, Narayanan’s background isn’t immediately indicative of someone with fashion expertise. But he emphasized that heading Myntra requires more than rudimentary style knowledge.

“[Myntra] works hard in understanding the quirks of the Indian consumer base,” Narayanan said during his talk.

And this is important considering the rapidly developing economy India has right now. Myntra’s parent company, Flipkart, has only recently ushered in the advent of online, Amazon-style shopping in the country. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, India’s e-commerce market itself has grown around $9 billion between 2009 and 2013. In 2014, Amazon made an effort to cash in on this trend with a $2 billion investment in their Indian business. The industry for online purchases in India is much like the Wild West in its open landscape; with Myntra, Narayanan is among some of the individuals trying to capitalize on the opportunity, creating a new generation of fashion-conscious Indians in the process.

Myntra was acquired by Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart (Amazon’s biggest competitor in the region) in early 2014. While Flipkart mainly functions as a “one stop shop” online destination for Indian consumers, Myntra was a strategic buy for Flipkart in their efforts to target India’s new, trendy and financially empowered youth population. Flush with Flipkart’s cash and boasting an impressive inventory of the latest in fashion and athletic wear, Myntra utilizes a variety of mobile and online channels to reach their targeted demographics, oftentimes pushing an app-centric shopping experience in a country whose mobile phone adoption has grown to over 1 billion subscribers according to Forbes.

Not only has Myntra been engaging Indian consumers in innovative ways, but they’re also among a select few Indian companies engaging India’s millennial populace on issues relating to gender and identity in Indian society. Their recent “All About You” advertising campaign employs Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone to challenge longstanding myths about the kind of colors and clothes Indian women should wear; in a joint campaign with Indian fashion label Anouk, Myntra broadcasts a commercial depicting a lesbian couple and their anxieties around meeting each other’s conservative Indian parents for the first time. Evidently, Myntra is a remarkably progressive company in a country that has been blighted with issues of misogyny and homophobia, marking a change in India’s social direction from the country’s youth, and companies like Myntra helping to empower them.

Time will tell if India’s consumers will bite when it comes to Myntra’s advances, but the company is making laudable strides in increasing fashion accessibility to Indians. By giving young Indians a platform to both more easily express themselves through their styles, and affirm their beliefs and values, Myntra is a refreshing addition to India’s corporate landscape. With India on track to be the world’s youngest country by 2020 (according to the New York Times), Myntra’s efforts in targeting India’s emerging millennial middle class and the newfound disposable incomes they possess are paving way for an empowered, independent and socially conscious Indian populace. 

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