CEO Breakfast Forum

Held recently in New Delhi, the CEO Breakfast Forum aimed at scrutinising whether the said boom in Indian luxury industry is for real or not

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: November 10, 2010

Held recently in New Delhi, The CEO Breakfast Forum aimed at scrutinising whether the boom in Indian luxury industry is for real or not.

The global luxury industry has emerged from the recent economic crisis and brands have shown considerable growth in the period following it. However, CEOs and heads of various luxury brands in India sat together to dissect whether this growth is actually sustainable or not.

Organised by The Luxury Marketing Council India and American Express, The CEO Breakfast Forum was called upon to discuss whether the boom is for real or not.

The opening remarks were given by Amit Dutta, Managing Director, The Luxury Marketing Council, India which was followed up with some suggestions by Shailesh Baidwan, CEO, American Express India.

Baidwan optimistically said that the boom is real – the numbers are bigger and more real. He said, “The INR 20 lakh and above income is a good segment. But the below INR 20 lakh income segment is still cautious about spending. However, the demand for luxury services is increasing.”

A point agreed upon by all was that luxury in India was growing top to bottom. Sanjay Kapoor, Managing Director, Genesis Luxury, said, “We noticed we sold more exclusive fashion pieces instead of entry-level products in the beginning. So there is a market which wants to feel good and look good, there is a boom, but we still need to understand our customers. We have to unlock the potential of customers, educate more and move to smaller cities.”

Anoop Parkash of Harley Davidson also agreed that educating consumers is very important. He explained, “Harley Davidson has a huge history, which is good, but puts a pressure on us to communicate the brand philosophy correctly. Harley is a collection of experiences which we want to give to consumers through events.” On being asked about whether he would like to tap the smaller cities, Parkash said that they do want to go to the smaller cities, but the question is how soon.

Another potentially strong method of brand communication was spelled out by Jessica Sim, Area Director of Northern & Eastern India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan for Singapore Tourism Board. She said that internet and word of mouth were very important to connect people from around the world to a brand. Experiences have to be interactive and two-way.

Dinaz Madhukar, Vice President of DLF Emporio, was the apt person to ask about how crazy consumers are about logos in India. She pointed out that people were moving away from ‘logofication’, although only by those who truly understand luxury. She also said, “Delhi is more about logos and showing off rather than Mumbai which is more cosmopolitan in its outlook.”

Re-iterating the above point, even Hemant Sagar of Lecoanet Hemant mentioned that the Indian society is still status-driven rather than creativity-driven.

Art, which is also an important luxury product, has not taken off much in India yet. Kishore XXX, says, “People only talk about the price points of art in India, not the actual value or beauty of the art. But once the education is there, the art market will definitely grow.” He also said, however, that a lot of art is bought in India because people are buying it – it’s a bandwagon effect.

Oona Dhabhar of Conde Nast India gave an outlook into the Indian fashion industry. She informed that a significant amount of money has been invested with Indian fashion designers. In fact, Indian brides are buying designer clothes and jewellery. However, there is still a significant potential in the three metro cities which is untapped.

Travel is something which Indians have been indulging in forever now. But experiential travel is making a grand presence felt among Indians. Amit Kalsi, Vice President – Private Travel, Abercrombie & Kent, confirmed that Indians are now traveling to satisfy themselves rather than to brag to family and friends about it. As an indication he said that every year they see a million plus outbound travellers from India.

One of the important conclusions of the forum was that awareness needed to be created about super-luxury brands, especially for aspirational consumers. And only the uber-rich shouldn’t be targeted. There is a need to go beyond that.

However, all said and done, what remains to be seen is how the industry faces the challenge of increasing awareness for its products and provide special experiences to potential customers – because, well, everything requires money and huge time investments!

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