Despite its size, India is a country of great challenges but also opportunities when it comes to luxury. Tell us more about your approach to study and analyse the market including profiling the luxury consumer.
You are right about India being a huge market with many disparities ranging from demography, geography, cultural, languages, consumer mind sets and even dressing or food habits. Truly said, India is a subcontinent and hence a complex market for a global brand to penetrate. A one size fit all approach is the most route to disaster. Many a brands have made this mistake in the past and have had to scale down operations, shut shop or simply change their approach due to a partial or incomplete understanding of the regional nuances of every geography within India.
Simply put, it may be suicidal for a brand to feel that a tier one city consumer will behave in the same manner across all tier one cities. Each tier one city has a different dynamics plus influence of the core state culture it belongs to. It may be still worthwhile to divide India and its consumers into broader categories of North, south, east and west at one level and then dig deeper into the localised market where the brand wishes to begin operations. This is the kind of approach we have adopted in our consumer study and broadly classified Indian consumers into EIGHT different categories. Each one behaves differently and needs to be handled / dealt with accordingly.
Throughout the past years your initiatives included not only researching the market and providing key insights to International luxury brands, but also local investors (retailers, franchisees, developers etc). Tell us more.
Luxury Connect as an organisation is now eight years old. Started with the premise of addressing the entire value chain of need that a luxury brand / retailer / investor may have, we address the end to end requirements ranging from stagey, compliance, skilling and operations. We realised that while most strategy advisory firms could offer a wonderful project report at an exorbitant cost, the implementation of the same was normally left to the brand to fend for themselves. Considering the complexities of the market and the need to understand the cultural and communication gaps that may crop up between the global brand as well as any localised implementation teams that they may adopt, Luxury Connect steps in as a 360 degree solution provider.
Not only do we structure a complete and practically implementable project plan, we also support through the value journey at every step of the brand evolution in India. To summarise, a three step journey as a brand is likely to undergo would involve : choice of best entry tactic, followed by compliance, regulatory and statutory, further followed by operational excellence at front and back end. Using skilling and talent management as our differentiator, we assist and address the needs at every step of the journey. Our vast experience, network, database and industry specific knowledge helps us leverage our strategic inputs with skilled and experienced talent pool. By creating and establishing India’s first and only luxury business school, as a group, we pivot around our fulcrums of knowledge and talent.
Tell us more about your Luxury B School as a concept.
Luxury Connect Business School (LCBS) is uniquely positioned as India’s first and only luxury focussed B school. We are proud to have initiated this unique category of luxury management as a specialised education stream when no one was even aware of such educational categories. My individual journey as a luxury professional who assisted top names like a Versace, Corneliani amongst others in their India entry and scale up journey, helped me to visualise, create and establish this. The weakest link being talent, I knew that this could be my major differentiator as an offering. Today, the school offers programs ranging from online courses; weekend courses, corporate trainings & full time masters programs. Most luxury brands in India work with us for their talent needs. Regular customised solutions are offered to sectors ranging from fashion to travel, watches, automobiles, hospitality etc. Wealth managers at investment companies, concierge service providers, travel retail to mall management teams, we service them all.
The luxury industry is one of the most desired. What has been your approach in nurturing local talent?
Our approach to develop the local talent has been adopted by engulfing global best practices and customising them to local standards and needs. By partnering with international best B schools like a SDA Bocconi, followed by International university of Monaco and currently, the Academia Del Lusso, we ensured that we create a structure which is at par with accepted norms of the global standards.
Besides, by seeking blessing and guidance from Fondazione Altagamma, we further cemented our acceptance and standards. Inviting international faculty for delivering lectures to designing modules, we worked on to bridging the communication gaps between global teachers and Indian students. By now, the program, pedagogy, teaching methodology has evolved into a practical process where by our in-house researchers regularly update the curriculum with the latest developments round the world. Practicing professionals from the trade then deliver the lectures by sharing live examples of theoretical inputs.
Further regular industry connect sessions, filed trips, live projects and industry projects help the students hit the ground running. A compulsory six months internship further prepares them to take on responsibilities as they venture deeper into their career journey. Hence we ensure that desirability of the sector is transformed into serviceability by our students. With an emphasis on customer service , our students are able to innovate and approach sales from a strategic perspective rather than a pure push sales approach.
In your recent book you speak about the importance to understand both the past and the evolution of India’s luxury market. Such analysis can be crucial for luxury brands, for instance jewellery brands when considering India in their business plans.
Yes, correct Oliver. I believe that it is important for a global brand to get a clear perspective of the evolutionary journey of luxury in India. Unlike many other emerging markets, we’ve had a rich heritage, culture as well as fine tastes. Indian consumers mind set has been formed, influenced and dictated by traditional values. The 250+ years of subjugation by the British, the loot of our riches, the attempts to squash our pride have left a deep rooted impact on our minds. The quit India movement & the swadeshi movements initiated by public pyres of all goods made in Great Britain have not been forgotten.
Yet, luxury brands are most desired and are the differentiators between the have and the have not’s. Swift changes over the past almost 75 years of the political, economic, and caste based societal hierarchy systems have now been replaced by meritocracy. It only makes sense for luxury brands to understand all of this before trying to penetrate the market. Their brand communications at every stage can be assisted by respecting historical facts and adopting as per need.
For long, India’s luxury market has been hindered by legislation, starting with the need of a local partner. To what extent has legislation evolved? Is there more that governing authorities should consider?
Like most other things, the legal and regulatory frameworks have also seen a slow but steady change. The government started the liberalization process in the nineties and to date, several improvements have been issued. If earlier one needed a local partner, now one has a choice of investing directly by opening a subsidiary, or forming a JV or still come in via a franchise partner. The current government is inviting FDI,is working on global ranking of ease of doing business and attracting foreign companies to also make in India. Several brands have set up shop from manufacturing to retailing. Surely, things are changing rapidly and for the better.
In such a sophisticated market, how do luxury sectors compare when it comes to marketing and branding?
I believe that the market for premium to luxury goods has now evolved in a wholistic and well-rounded manner. Indian brands have followed suite and have upped their antenna’s. More and more global brands are eyeing Indians as the next large audience for them. From destination weddings of celebrities and cine starts, it is not unusual to see weddings by HNI’s and upper middle class families being held in explosive locations ranging from Europe, to Australia, to Asia. Travel, tourism, adventure sports, cruise holidays, concierge services, dermatology, yachts, holiday homes all around the world etc, Indians are seen splurging on all things nice. No longer is the market restricted to fashion & accessories and or watches & jewellery etc. Indians are now buying private mobility devices beyond just automobiles.
What is the target audience / profile that can most benefit from your book?
The book has been authored to target a varied set of audiences. Whether it is an international brand wanting to enter India, or a Indian entrepreneur wanting to position himself in the luxury arena, they both will find equal value from their perspective. A luxury enthusiast, keen to know more about Indian luxury, be it a institution teaching about regional markets, or a individual wanting to make a career in the Indian luxury space, once again each will find some great insights here in.
In a nut shell, the book is a single point to stop for anything and everything that someone may want to know about the Indian luxury market. Ranging from the past, present and future of the market, one also gets a deep rooted idea on its consumers, & their behaviours. Not to miss out on challenges and methods to circumvent the same, te book also describes a deeply researched success model for a brand to adopt. Know about what brands are already present, who controls them their key locations and their number of outlets etc. Know it all in one ready guide as never before.
Tell us about your future initiative and how you see the rebound of the luxury sector post-pandemic
Being a knowledge based organisation, we constantly research and develop reports, articles, blogs, analytics and trend forecast. Our next endeavour now in its formative stages is all about disseminating this knowledge to our followers, students, clients and market at large. Christened as ‘Luxury Cruxx’, this business unit will release all our works via newsletters, webinars, pod casts and video logs called ‘Luxe Talks’. A few episodes have been created around ‘Corona Virus and its impact on Indian Luxury’ and can viewed at link above. In due course, luxury crux will become a database of luxury global professionals readily available for brands to choose from.
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