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The big brand theory

With the slowing down of the economy, luxury brands that have set shops in India could well be facing rough weather these days, writes Vinod Nair.

india Updated: May 16, 2009 17:22 IST
Vinod Nair

With the slowing down of the economy, luxury brands that have set shops in India could well be facing rough weather these days. I hear a lot of contradicting reports on how well or bad these brands are doing when it comes to actually selling the products.

In fact when some tell me that their brands are doing well or reasonably well, I really have my doubts on that. Primarily, I feel that only a few brands and their managers know how to select merchandise that suits the needs/tastes of the Indian consumer.

At a glance
A round at some of their retail outlets revealed that some brands are keeping rows full of pantsuits and business suits. Yet another shop showed clothes and accessories that were seasons old, some of them with the stitches coming off their seams. All of them, without exception, had many garment styles (stacks of evening gowns, for instance) that just cannot sell.

The reason for this, I fear, is the lack of understanding of the market when it comes to buying their merchandise. I have my doubts as to how many brands actually have buyers in their fold whose job is to buy what the market demands. Most do merchandising themselves. For this, of course they should have proper understanding of the market to begin with.

Then come measures that have to be taken to satisfy their elite clientele. Then come the brand egos. I know of brands that come with their rigid international policies and refrain from taking that extra step to please their customers. Once when I got to know this I told the head of the brand in India that unless their intention is just to ‘display’ their merchandise on the racks, they really have to put their so-called rules aside. If the customer wants something to be delivered to his/her doorstep, you damn well have to do it if you want to do business successfully in India, I told him.

Money wise
Then comes the transaction part of the business. I hear that, unlike in the West where all transactions are done through credit cards, here wads of cash (in thousands) are handed over the table while customers buy. This happens at stores and especially when these brands do their trunk shows in other cities. So the question is, are these brands following the guidelines while doing their business?

I suspect that if they say they are doing fairly good business, it will be so because they could be doing cash transactions. I think these brands will have to pull up their socks and learn to pamper their customers more if they want to succeed in India. For this, first, they will have to be in the minds of the people.

Vanish
I know of A-class brands that have entered the country but are still ‘invisible’ in many ways as they failed to get into newspaper and magazine editorials. People are just not aware of the existence of some of these brands and what is happening in their world.

We all know that these brands are now entering the Indian market sensing the burgeoning middle class who has started earning well now. Unless these brands learn to tap this class and convert them into their clients their purpose, I am pretty convinced, will not be served.