Bangalore: Ahead of a family function, 25-year-old Hema Nagarath was worrying about trying to look good while still managing to breastfeed her five-month-old without having to disappear every few hours.
Now, thanks to special bras and blouses with double panels, mothers like her have more options. “The nursing bras and the nursing aprons are a blessing for lactating mothers like me. At least, we do not have to undergo the hassle of removing clothes,” says Nagarath. “I do not know how my mother and cousins managed without them.”
While maternity wear has made steady inroads in India over the last few years, the market is becoming more sophisticated, including that of lingerie, segmenting into prenatal and post-natal apparel and accessories. Retailers are opening entire stores devoted to the niche area.
The annual maternity wear market in India is estimated at about Rs800 crore, according to Technopak Advisors Pvt Ltd, a retail consulting firm. And it’s growing at around 15-17% a year. “Young couples are opting for fewer kids these days. The idea of pampering oneself during the period is quite strong,” says Preeti Reddy, vice-president and business head of Mindscape, a division of Technopak Advisors.
Other factors contributing to growing demand for such apparel stem from higher disposable income and global exposure, as well as the fact that more women work through pregnancy and return to work soon after childbirth.
Prenatal wear includes clothing, gowns, support bras and briefs. Post-natal wear includes nursing bras, nursing aprons, nursing tops, nursing pads, bra tank tops, vests, maternity briefs, gowns and nighties, which have zippers on both sides to nurse. Other products include books, DVDs, lotions, nipple protectors and feeding pillows.
“Women need these clothes for comfort and a very flattering fit to accommodate the growing bump. It is also a more cheerful option to the otherwise (boring) maternity gowns,” says Salil Nair, chief operating officer, Shoppers Stop Ltd.
Shoppers Stop operates Mothercare stores in India under a franchise from Mothercare Plc. Nair says Indians have opened up to maternity wear and the market is growing annually by at least 25%. Mothercare, which came into India in 2006, launches merchandise and styles every two months.
Local specialized stand-alone maternity wear stores are also cropping up in major cities. Pune-based Uzazi Fashions Pvt. Ltd says it is India’s first maternity fashion brand, offering a range of 150 styles priced between Rs395 and Rs1,395.
“We are the only ones in India to offer a nursing top,” claims proprietor Minal Joshi. “It is a double-layered top in which the inside layer covers the belly and the first layer can be used to cover the baby’s head.”
In Bangalore, Radhika Jumaani started her one-stop shop for baby clothing, toys and maternity wear named Appleofmyi (that’s supposed to sound like Apple of My Eye) in December 2006. “We have seen 100% rise in our profits in the first year itself,” she says.
To attract customers, the local outlets have introduced unique products addressing the needs of a would-be mother, such as the “belly bra.”
The belly bra can be worn from second trimester onwards and holds the tummy close, preventing backache.