T-shirt Market in India: Challenges and Opportunities

T-shirt is an attractive apparel category across consumer segments. The formal introduction of t-shirts happened in 1913, t-shirts have graduated from being a uniform category to becoming a multipurpose, multiuse, all-occasion apparel category across the globe. India too offers no exception to this trend.

Consumers’ wardrobes, in India and across the world, are undergoing a distinct shift – from formal clothing to a greater preference for trendy and casual attire. This trend towards casualisation has provided a boost to the t-shirt market. Their greater level of comfort, superior feel, affordability and fashionableness makes t-shirts an attractive apparel category across consumer segments. The formal introduction of t-shirts happened in 1913, with the introduction of crewnecks for soldiers as uniforms by the US Navy. Since then, t-shirts have graduated from being a uniform category to becoming a multipurpose, multiuse, all-occasion apparel category across the globe. India too offers no exception to this trend.



India’s Rs 12,200 crore-worth t-shirt market is expected to grow at an impressive CAGR of 12 percent to reach Rs 21,250 crore by 2018. This market, which includes knit shirts, polo shirts, knit tops, etc., is presently dominated by the men’s and boys’ segments, which contribute 85 percent of the market share. The women’s and girls’ segments are, on the other hand, expected to register a higher CAGR of 14 percent over the next ?ve years, compared to the 11 percent growth anticipated for the men’s and boys’segments. The expected faster growth of women’s and girls’ t-shirts may be attributed to the comparatively lower base of market size and increasing acceptance of casual clothing among women. As a matter of fact, the t-shirts category is one of the top high-growth categories in men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel in India.


Comfort characteristics, easy-care properties, affordability, easy-design options using stripes and prints, and a casual look are the major driving forces propelling the t-shirt market in India, which is a predominantly young country with a median age of 27 years. Indian youth seek comfort and style in their clothing, which is better met by t-shirts compared to woven shirts. According to a survey conducted by Global Lifestyle Monitor in 2012, 80 percent of Indian consumers choose comfort over fashion in their selection of apparels. However, in recent times, t-shirts have graduated from being only a fashion need to something that consumers get emotionally attached to.

Due to the ease of printing options, many social movements and non-governmental organisations have started printing their core messages onto t-shirts so as to reach their target audience faster and more effectively. Printed t-shirts with logos of educational institutes, corporate ?rms, etc. create an emotional bonding with the consumer’s psyche. Many consumers ?nd it dif?cult to throw away such t-shirts after regular use and, instead, they store them in order to keep their emotional attachment alive.

The increasing trend of Friday dressing is another driving factor for the t-shirts market in India. Many MNCs operating in India, and many Indian companies as well, allow smart-casual clothing as of?cial attire on Fridays. This has provided an impetus to the demand for business casuals and formal t-shirts.

The Indian working class has also started spending more on recreational activities including travelling to holiday destinations and spending time in shopping and exercising, for which they generally prefer t-shirts. The rapid penetration of e-tailing in the fashion space has also signi?cantly boosted the fashion market in general. The t-shirt category, in particular, has displayed a higher acceptance for e-tailing.


In India, most of the brands and retailers that earlier used to focus on men’s casualwear have now started promoting women’s casualwear, including t-shirts and denims. Many discount schemes and loyalty programmes are being rolled out to tempt women into experimenting with t-shirts. At present, a bulk of the women’s t-shirt market is concentrated in the metros and bigger cities. However, in the years to come, the women’s t-shirts category is expected to register deeper penetration into tier-I and -II cities as well. Contemporary ethnicwear, which is basically a combination of westernwear with such Indian ethnicwear garments like salwar-kameez, does offer strong competition to women’s casualwear.


The fact that Indian youth seek a distinct look has forced t-shirt manufacturers and retailers to explore various dimensions of product innovation primarily related to product design, colour selection options and ?bre mix. In addition to cotton t-shirts, the Indian fashion market is also witnessing huge demand for polyester-cotton blended t-shirts. The demand for t-shirts printed with traditional Indian designs has also gained momentum. Many retailers have started providing the option of customising t-shirts through their websites. In the years to come, the demand for organic cotton-based t-shirts, and those made from recycled products, etc. is expected to pick up in select Indian cities. Such products are already in demand in many western countries.


The t-shirt market in India faces its own set of challenges. For instance, a huge chunk of the t-shirt market is unorganised and highly fragmented. This high level of industry fragmentation has resulted in an extremely competitive market wherein product price has become the core basis for competition. At the same time, t-shirt manufacturing is also highly fragmented yet concentrated, in such knitting clusters as Ludhiana and Tirupur. Smaller manufacturers are grappling with issues of quality management, colour consistency, ef?uent discharge, marketing, etc.

However, these challenges can also be viewed as opportunities for growth and improvement by organised manufacturers, retailers and brands. The increasing brand awareness among the Indian youth will drive the penetration of t-shirt brands into smaller cities and rural India, thus increasing the share of various brands within the t-shirt market. The proliferation of private labels has made t-shirts more affordable for value-seeking consumers in smaller cities.

Most private labels are witnessing high growth in the t-shirts category. Although the t-shirt market will continue to remain fragmented in the short run, it is expected to register comparatively higher growth than, say, the woven apparel market. The ability to deliver quality t-shirts in trendy designs at reasonable prices will be a crucial success factor for players in the Indian t-shirts market.

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