Shein: Chinese fashion brand set to return to India with Reliance Retail

Shien was banned in June 2020 along with a dozen Chinese apps as tensions escalated following skirmishes along LAC in Ladakh

A file photo showing a Shein clothing range. The partnership with Reliance Retail is expected to include offline stores apart from an online presence. (Photo courtesy: Shein)
A file photo showing a Shein clothing range. The partnership with Reliance Retail is expected to include offline stores apart from an online presence. (Photo courtesy: Shein)

Aditya Anand

According to a news report by the Wall Street Journal, Reliance Retail is set to reintroduce the popular Chinese fashion brand Shein in India through a strategic partnership. The move comes two years after Shein's app was banned in the country amidst heightened tensions between India and China at the Galwan border.

More recently though Shein has been facing flak in the US amid allegations forced labour and internment of Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority in China. Shein has refuted these charges.

The Wall Street Journal report highlights that the Indian government has approved the partnership between Reliance Retail and Shein, which encompasses the country's sourcing, manufacturing, and retailing of Shein products.

With Shein's primary sources of products being the US, India, Brazil, and Australia, the brand is likely to diversify its supply chain beyond China and potentially source fabrics for its global and local manufacturing operations from small businesses in India. This move will help Shein tap into India's growing consumer market and address concerns regarding cotton sourcing in the US.

Sources suggest that the partnership between Reliance Retail and Shein may lead to the establishment of offline stores through Reliance's Ajio platform. Additionally, there are indications of a production hub in India to cater to the Middle East market.

IndiaRetailing in a news report said its attempts to obtain comments from Reliance Retail regarding the partnership resulted in a "no comments" response for now, indicating that further details are yet to be disclosed.

Founded in 2012 in Nanjing, China, Shein has gained global popularity and operates in over 150 countries. The fashion and lifestyle e-retailer utilises on-demand manufacturing technology to connect suppliers, minimising inventory waste and enabling the delivery of affordable products to customers worldwide.

Recently, Shein has expanded its global footprint through manufacturing in Turkey, warehouses in Poland, and a distribution center in the US. The Wall Street Journal also reports that Shein's latest funding round has put the company's valuation at around two-thirds of its $100 billion valuation from the previous year, emphasising its status as a fast-fashion behemoth.

Meanwhile, a group of US lawmakers have called for Shein to be investigated over claims that Uyghur forced labour is used to make some of the clothes it sells.

In a letter signed by two over dozen Republican and Democrat lawmakers, cited "credible allegations of utilising underpaid and forced labour".

They also called on the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to force Shein to independently audit and verify "that the company does not use Uyghur forced labour", before it was allowed to sell shares in the US.

In response to the letter, Shein told the BBC, "We are committed to respecting human rights and adhering to local laws and regulations in each market we operate in."

"Our suppliers must adhere to a strict code of conduct that is aligned to the International Labour Organization's core conventions," it added.

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