Lugging it right

  • Madhusheel Arora, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 01, 2015 09:22 IST

Ever considered what luggage to carry when travelling? If you are like most residents of the tricity, you would love to be seen with a suitcase of one of the leading brands in luggage manufacturing and retailing, even though the Rs 5,000-crore organised industry itself is dominated by the unorganised segment.

The around Rs 15 crore market in the tricity is on an upswing, even though this is the discount season with major brands like VIP and Samsonite offering pieces on sale.

“For the past five years at least, the market has been doing well. The sale of new luggage is good, as now people travel abroad far more frequently. Every other house has a member studying abroad, that also helps,”says Vivek Jolly, owner of a VIP exclusive showroom in Sector 19.

Soft luggage forms around 70% of the sales of the company and the same is true of the market. As the business becomes more organised, this should start reversing.

Margins in the business are good. Still, most companies have ventured into premium segments to attract the moneyed client with deep pockets, who want style and glam quotient in the luggage they carry.

Of course, getting the luggage to be lighter remains one of the focus areas for companies, though there is difference of opinion. “Light luggage is OK. However, for suitcase to remain stable and be of use, you need a minimum amount of lining to be built into it. There is a limit to the weight reduction that can be achieved. There are suitcases that are feather-weight, but the material used is different,”says Devinder Kumar, owner of a Samsonite showroom in Sector 19.

“Luggage manufacturing is mostly done in China, Indonesia and Hong Kong. In India, soft category like bags is almost a cottage industry. Anyone can buy a Rs 10,000 stitching machine and make a workable soft bag. For hard category luggage, you need to be able to have a machine set-up worth `1 crore and that is why they are costly and more durable,”he adds.

The industry has a direct correlation with the number of people travelling and with the wedding season. The kind of material used in manufacture is undergoing a change with new material apart from cloth making inroads. Synthetic material is a new favourite as it offers a sleek, thin look, even to the hard baggage you carry.

Other important determiners of sales in the industry are colour, safety, branding and after-sales service. Blue, black and maroon remain the perennial favourite, though with the materials like polycarbonates morphed into suitcases, there is an array of colours on offer. Interestingly and surprisingly, safety does not seem all that important apart from a zip that can be built to last. The wheels of a trolley suitcase need to be moved around to ensure life, unless you have bought a self-lubricating wheel set. After-sales service to tend to handles, straps and wheels are sticky, but critical areas.

Branding is the differentiator. The product is being portrayed as affordable luxury as the industry sees a clear need to get those buying from the unorganised to the organised segment.

How this transition is made could well be the game-changer for the industry.

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