Good enough to kill?
What would you die for? That was the question for the final session on the first day of the conference. For actor Sonam Kapoor, a panellist along with noted Bollywood fashion designer Manish Malhotra, the answer was fashion. Talking to moderator Vir Sanghvi, advisor, HT media, Kapoor recalled, "I got attracted to fashion when I saw naked models at a show," referring to a show she attended with her mother at a young age.
Malhotra too chipped in saying he is now dealing with generation of actors who are well aware about fashion. But it was Sanghvi who caused ripples of laughter. "My father (Anil Kapoor) is very fashionable despite being in his early 50s," said Kapoor before she was interrupted by the moderator. "Late 50s?" he said, referring to Kapoor's recent statement that her father was older then his stated age.
Different folks, different strokes
Catering to the diversity of Indian tastes is probably a bigger challenge for luxury brands than high import duties, said panellists at the session The Challenges For luxury brands In India. Pamela Harper, director, Library Group, a brand consultancy, said, "Needs of Indians are different across the country. Engage locally and customise for them." Even Hamilton South, founder partner, HL Group, a PR and brand consultancy, said brand customisation is the way forward. Devita Saraf, CEO, Vu Technologies, manufacturer of televisions, said, "Brands need to collaborate with locals to understand the people's needs."
Constant reinvention is the name of the game in luxury, said panellists at the session Linking Creativity and Luxury that had Gianluca Brozzetti, CEO, Roberto Cavalli Group, Nicola Obert, CEO and MD, Casa Décor and Glenn Tutssel, Global Creative Director of The Brand Union brainstorming on the topic, with Abha Bakaya, News Editor, Bloomberg UTV as moderator. Both Roberto Cavalli and Casa Décor are stamping their presence across India, with Cavalli's first store set to open in Delhi. Casa Décor already has two stores in Mumbai and Bengaluru and will open one in Delhi by the end of 2012. "Earlier, Indians would fly to Italy to hand pick furniture. We want to create the same experience for them in India," said Obert. "Indians have the capability of craftsmanship and the ability to do well," he said.
To allow or not to allow
Voices were in favour of opening up the retail sector for foreign direct investment (FDI) in India, during a discussion on The Impact Of 100% FDI On Luxury. "The landscape of luxury retail for newer investors will be attractive if regulations are further opened up," said Armando Branchini, Managing Director, Altagamma. Ajay Dua, former secretary, Ministry of commerce and industry, disagreed with Branchini. Dua, however, appeared to be a minority. Peter Beckingham, deputy British High Commissioner to India, also said allowing 100% FDI in retail will make it easier for companies to set up shop in India.
Critiquing Indian design
While big international luxury brands are eager to enter India, one thing that comes to mind is, how, and whether, talent in Indian design is developing. That was what Anjana Sharma, head, fashion, IMG Reliance and Priya Sachdev of Kitsch discussed in the session Developing India's Design Talent. "There is a dearth of institutes that give proper training in India," said Sharma. This view was shared by Sachdev. "Indian institutes should tie up with leading international institutes so Indian students get better exposure," she said. But the lid on whether Indian designers really are in demand was blown by moderator Vinod Nair, who shared an anecdote: "Major designers would brag they are going to Milan for international fashion shows. What they actually did was go there, open their suitcases, sell some clothes and return," he said.
A growing appetite for luxury
India's economy may be slowing but that hasn't dimmed the luxury market which is growing at 20% per annum. It is often asked whether our growth potential is hyped or real. Attempting an answer was Neelesh Hundekari, principal and head, luxury and lifestyle practice, AT Kearney, at the session The Future of Luxury in India. Maintaining that there are opportunities to be tapped, he said most of the action was in luxury housing followed by services.
Luxury, with a local touch
If luxury brands coming into India could help preserve cultural heritage, the government is willing to support them, said Minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning Ashwani Kumar at a session on The Importance Of Luxury. At the session, Kumar said the luxury market in India would create opportunities for craftsmen as well for managerial jobs and retail marketing, creating 1.8 million jobs by 2020. He also said that state emporia, tasked with promoting Indian handicrafts, had been unable to fulfill their mandate.
Hotels want behaved guests
Stephen Alden, CEO, Maybourne Hotel Group and Vir Sanghvi, advisor, HT Media spoke at the session A Home Away From Home. Alden said Maybourne Hotels, closely identified as an embodiment of luxury, believes in the "inside-out" concept of business where if someone were to exhibit the 'insides' of a business, the company should be proud of it. "Luxury is not just a marketing gimmick but a business culture," he said.
But do luxury hotels demand a certain decorum from guests? "We do not care what our customers wear. It's not what you wear but how you behave," he said.
So that's what men want
It's not difficult to guess the jokes that would abound at the session What Men Want and Michael Perschke, Head, Audi India alluded to that, saying that the top most Google results to that question were women and sex. But the question was whether selling luxury to men is different from selling to women? "With men it's about horsepower while for women it's colours," he said. Former US Marine Intelligence Officer and now corporate honcho Anoop Prakash, MD, Harley-Davidson India, said products needed to project masculinity. "If your target group is men, don't sell dainty little things. Give them something heavy and bold, even if it's something like a pen," he said. The panellists agreed that luxury in India was getting more attractive, accessible and reaching a tipping point.