Princess Diana’s stepmother, Lady Raine Spencer, has hinted that the prospect of the world famous departmental store, Harrods, opening in India is no longer out of the question.
However, she admitted that there are difficulties involved in taking such a famous brand overseas.
Lady Spencer, director of Harrods International and Harrods Estates, was in the city recently, to attend a party at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. The Ritz Paris, owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, and Harrods Estates, hosted the party. Al Fayed recently sold the Harrods Group, that the luxury department store is a part of, to the Qatari royal family.
“The party had already been arranged six months before Mohamed sold Harrods,” explains Lady Spencer, before adding, “He is still the honorary chairman of Harrods.”
Her second husband, John Spencer, was the biological father of Princess Diana of Wales.
He “was a dear friend of Al Fayed; they knew each other for the longest time,” she recalls, adding that Al Fayed “unexpectedly” appointed her at Harrods after John died.
Ask her whether Harrods will now set foot in India and Lady Spencer says: “Mohamed always said there should only be one big Harrods in London, apart from the small boutiques located at UK airports and in other countries, that are part of Harrods International.”
She adds, “But I am sure the new owners, the Qatari royal family, want to reassess what they want to do abroad. But there is another aspect. It’s very difficult to keep your business under control when you are thousands of miles away. You have to have a very efficient partner that you can trust.”
Reportedly, Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Qatari royal family, is already weighing Shanghai as an option. So, why did Al Fayed quit?
She retorts, “I can’t speak for him, but I do know he has been very unhappy lately, after one of his brothers passed away. They were all very upset because they are a very close family.”
While in India, she met Indian clients of Harrods Estates, which sells and leases property in upmarket areas of London.
“We have lots of clients in India,” she says. “Many of them have a second home in London. This has been particularly good for us, for the last couple of years during the recession. Lots of Indians shop in Harrods too,” she smiles.
This was the daughter of novelist Barbara Cartland’s third trip to India.
Many years ago, she came with Diana’s father, the late Lord John Spencer. “John was good friends with Russi Mody, the then managing director of Tata Steel. That trip was marvellous,” she recalls.
“Of course, India now is very different to that India and I am so thrilled it is doing so well. I was so impressed with the new Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Mumbai is always magical,” she signs off.