Indian consumers who avidly shop for luxury goods when travelling abroad turn into guilt-ridden window shoppers back home when they look at the poverty here, fashion experts said at a luxury summit here Thursday.
"There is a great degree of guilt in the minds of the Indian consumer if he spends a lot of money on a luxury product because of the depressing conditions around like acute poverty," said Charu Sachdev, chief executive of TSG International, a company that markets and distributes high-end luxury brands like Moschino and Jean Paul Gaultier.
"They feel as if it is wrong to spend so much. This tendency of the Indian consumer is one reason why luxury brands have not really taken off in the Indian market," Sachdev added.
"The same consumer will however go on a shopping spree on the high-streets of London or Dubai. They don't even ask for a discount."
India has a rapidly growing high-end retail market, valued around $3.5 billion in 2008, and is slated to touch $30 billion by 2015.
The general view of luxury label owners and fashion house executives at the luxury summit was that the "typical mindset" of the Indian consumer, coupled with high rental prices, import duties and low margins, have dampened plans of a number of luxury brand owners.
Calling for a holistic approach to the luxury business in India, fashion and lifestyle magazine Marie Claire editor Shefalee Vasudev said: "I urge luxury labels to source from India to encourage development of the deprived classes."
"Fab India, an Indian ethnic wear retail chain sources most of its garments from Uttar Pradesh, helping a lot of under-privileged families," Vasudev said.
However, John Hooks, deputy managing director of world renowned fashion house Giorgio Armani, took a contrary view.
"We are not here to solve the problems of the world. Our job is to conduct business properly and it will somehow add to the entire system," Hooks said.
Luxury brand retailers also lamented the high import duties imposed on such goods.
"The price difference is because of the steep import duties imposed in India, which makes the product costlier by as much as 30 percent," said co-chief executive of Damascus based fashion retailer Chalhoub group.