Louis Vuitton bags and Bvlgari watches may have been in India for years, but as demand for foreign luxury brands grow alongside the country’s rapid economic transformation, tweaking them to local needs could help further boost sales.
If flavoured with Indian tastes, such luxury brands stand a better choice of doing well here, delegates to the Mint-Hindustan Times luxury conference said. “The challenge for a foreign luxury brand player is to make its brand known in India and adapt the product to Indian tastes,” Jerome Bonnafont, Ambassador of France said.
Some are beginning to do just that.
Italian designer Giorgio Armani’s famous brand Armani recently included a sherwani in its latest collection. Ferragamo, which takes its name from 20th century Italian footwear designer Salvatore Ferragamo, is making footwear studded with traditional Indian jewellery.
“Until some years ago luxury was Americanised, then it became westernised and now it will be globalised,” said Andrea Illy, Chairman of Italy-based coffee brand Illycaffé.
In India, “there is a premium market for luxury products which is very limited and it is the aspirational luxury category that is the fastest growing,” he said.
Illy defined new luxury or aspirational luxury as the new affluent that are young and are exposed to international travel. A strong challenge for foreign players is to understand the cultural sensitivities of Indians and interpret their needs and tastes, he said.
The growing luxury market in India will also give a boost to employment in the country, said Bonnafont.
He cited the example of Louis Vuitton, which plans to set up a manufacturing facility at Puducherry, also known as Pondicherry — a former French colony. It will be the first factory that the company would be setting up in Asia.
“With the new luxury market growing at the fastest pace, people in France or Italy wouldn’t be enough to produce enough for these new markets,” Bonnafont said.