Minister for Commerce, Industry and Trade Kamal Nath on Friday said while a young and rapidly growing India offered a huge market for top international luxury brands, they also needed to think about investing in Indian brands that could grow globally.
"Here is a chance for Europe to give its consumers a brand emerging in India," the trade minister said in his speech during the inaugural session of the Hindustan Times Mint Luxury Conference organised by HT Media Ltd at the Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi and attended by 22 top executives from prestigious luxury houses from around the world besides French Foreign Trade Minister Christine Lagarde and many local dignitaries.
In a speech full of his by-now-famous wit and humour, Kamal Nath explained what India's much talked about 9-plus per cent growth and its unique demographics meant for investors in the retail and luxury segments. He said domestic consumption was fuelling India's growth, and not exports, which was quite the case in China.
He said India offered a huge market for global luxury brands as it was not only young - 60 per cent of the population was less than 25 years of age - but also had one of the largest middle class to which 25 million people (the population of Thailand) were being added every year.
The trade minister said another good thing about India was that it respected intellectual property rights. "We do not make cheese and give it a French name," he said in a tongue-in-cheek reference to China and many Southeast Asian countries.
French Minister Lagarde was also made the butt of Kamal Nath's repartee. "We are for once not discussing the WTO," the minister said at the start of his speech in an obvious reference to the French dignitary with whom he has been holding regular dialogue, sometimes acrimonious and bitter, on multilateral trade issues.
The trade minister said he was often asked what he was going to a luxury conference and while he could think of a few reasons for doing so, there should be no confusion at all in the minds of the executives attending the showpiece event. "You are at the right place at the right time," the minister told them.
Earlier, in her welcome address, HT Media Ltd Vice Chairman Shobhana Bhartia thanked the minister for some of the policy changes that had been effected in the retail sector since the inaugural Luxury Conference held in Mumbai last year.
Bhartia listed out the rapid strides being made in the retail sector - 360 upcoming malls are set to make available 90 million square feet of retail space and more would be added with the boom in the hotel industry.
She called for public-private participation to realise the full growth potential offered by the sector and create India's own high street.
Some of the other speakers at the conference include Yves Carcelle, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton, Francoise Montenay, president of Chanel SAS, Christian Blanckaert, executive vice-president of Hermès International, Philippe Leopold-Metzger, CEO of Piaget, Michele Norsa, CEO of Salvatore Ferragamo, and Christophe Caillaud, president of Jean Paul Gaultier.