Interview: The Luxury Market in India

Monday, 03 September 2012
While mature markets battle recession and economic turmoil, the Indian luxury market - with its unrivaled growth opportunities- appears as attractive as ever. Yet, as several international brands can attest to, entering the Indian market may not be so difficult, but remaining there long-term with a positive presence is a challenge.

The recently launched publication The Luxury Market in India: Maharajas to Masses (Palgrave Macmillan), by Glyn Atwal, associate professor at the Burgundy School of Business in France, and Soumya Jain, chief editor and CEO of LuxuryFacts, aims to pave the way for international luxury brands. Hailed as “a breakthrough in luxury business intelligence”, the book sheds light on the highly complex Indian luxury market. In a conversation with FashionUnited, industry insiders Atwal and Jain share some insights.

FashionUnited: In your opinion, what is special about the Indian luxury market?
Soumya Jain: The Indian luxury market is very unique, distinctive, vast and might we say, confusing, for international players. India’s diversity is what lures many luxury brands here, and what eventually drives them away too. Indian luxury consumers are varied in their mindset, desires and way of shopping, depending on their location, age-group, history of luxury consumption, education, and of course, income level. There is no dearth of money, but it’s not easy to capture all the luxury consumers through one strategy. Indian consumers are astute and quite demanding in what they expect from a brand or product when they are paying such a premium for it.

What has changed in the last ten to fifteen years?
Soumya Jain: Indians have become more open to spending post-liberalisation in the 1990s [despite] … a vast majority of the Indian population coming from a saver's mindset. The younger generation … has never experienced scarcity, and has plush jobs … [It] is much more attuned to consumerism and living life to the fullest. The older generation, on the other hand, which has worked hard to fulfill all duties, is now willing to indulge themselves.

What opportunities do you see for international fashion brands entering India?
Glyn Atwal: There are massive opportunities for [them] to reach out to the burgeoning middle classes whether in the mega cities of Mumbai and Delhi or in the smaller cities … such as Ludhiana and Ahmedabad. … McKinsey Global Institute forecasted that the Indian middle class will increase to 41 per cent of the population by 2025. However, what is key here is not just the rising income levels but a shift in attitude. Here is a new generation of Indian consumers who are optimistic, self-confident and aspirational. They are increasingly conscious about the image they wish to project to the outside world. Fashion has become a language of self-expression. This is particularly apparent in the women’s fashion segment, which is enjoying a revival.

What should companies do before entering the market? Any particular steps they should take?
Glyn Atwal: International players need to conduct an internal and external audit in order to identify how to deliver a competitive strategy. However, my advice is to plan long-term. Too many players take a short-sighted view and this can be a distraction. I would also strongly advise senior executives and strategists to experience India – the real India. What I mean is that they need to be immersed in the Indian market and the consumer mindset.

Last but not least, what would be your advice for fashion companies and brands trying to enter the Indian luxury market?
Glyn Atwal: There needs to be an Indian driven approach to succeed in the Indian market. … Indian consumers are certainly attracted to the international, ‘logo-ed’ brand, but with local relevance. In the luxury segment, we have seen Indian-ness integrated into the product offering whether sarees by Hermès or the bandhgala by Canali. This strategy of ‘made for India’ needs to be a consistent feature of all relevant touch points.

From our correspondent

Photo: Palgrave Macmillan, Louis Vuitton

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