In a competitive business scenario, a key element of the strategy is to constantly refresh your product lineup. Making a change or innovating is easier said than done. The thought itself is seductive. But making a clean break with the past is tough. Ground reality can be very different. If the existing product is doing well, why change? Then there is the cost and pricing issue of the fear of failure.
I got a first-hand experience of the entire gamut of issues involved when strategizing for change when I was consulting with a company that made fabrics for export. Its sheetings business catered to US-based retailers, and the product was well received. It was now looking to bring about change. The question was how to go about it, evaluate options and weigh attendant risks.
My interactions began with the sourcing team, the kind of yarns they worked with (comfort factor here). Our discussions also broached cost implications with both sourcing and sales teams. For starters, we decided to look at sourcing different kinds of yarns. At that time, the yarn we used was 100s Ne count and lower counts of up to 40s Ne which are coarse. So we decided to explore finer yarn counts.
This threw up some challenges
The yarn had to be sourced from several locations even overseas which meant identifying new suppliers
We had to give the sales guys a heads up (which we did) even as we did not know how the product would play out.
Finer yarn quality was expensive, even more than silk in one case. Pricing for change can be daunting. We had to do a lot of hand-holding at this stage as the sales team was not comfortable/confident with the cost issue.
Going with finer yarn generally means more attention and challenges at the production stage. We had to loop in the warping and weaving departments in new trials along with product developers.
From the very start I detected some hesitancy; taking the leap wouldn’t be easy. So I decided to first make them comfortable with the idea of change. When you plan for change, the comfort factor among immediate stakeholders is paramount. It may either break or make a product.
My aim was to make all internal stakeholders a part of the new product we had only in our mind’s eye. Subsequent interactions were held with the sourcing team, product development team, preparatory team, and weaving teams to get the first round of trial samples out. Finally, we had a 1000 thread count fabric with 200s Ne in the weft as a sample of just 5-6 meters to demonstrate how the finest of the sheet feels like. This was very important to create a lasting impression in the customer's memory and woo them to engage with this new range. Using combinations of wefts and warp, we had close to a dozen combinations to offer in the first round.
A year later, the company was consuming over a million kilos of finer yarn. And new products were launched with existing customers in the following seasons.
To sum up, making a change requires a leap of faith and overcoming hesitancy (which is natural) or fear of the unknown. It requires creating confidence across internal stakeholders. The prize will then be yours.
By Jeevan L Xavier, Founder, JLX Studio