France & India - Retying the Knot

France is the birthplace of many luxury brands while India is the source of uber-rich luxury consumers (read: erstwhile Maharajas). Then why are French brands afraid of getting into the huge goldmine called India?

By: Veronique Poles, Luxury Consultant

Posted on: November 10, 2010

France is the birthplace of many luxury brands while India is the source of uber-rich luxury consumers (read: erstwhile Maharajas). Then why are French brands afraid of getting into the huge goldmine called India?

Hermes india inspiration ad elephant for fashionCartier used to create special necklaces for Indian maharajas a century back. That was perhaps the earliest example of French luxury brands catering to the Indian market. Although luxury brands from many countries are trying to enter India and guarantee their slice of the profit cake early on, I guess French brands are the last in this race.

Being a consultant to French brands, and living in India and understanding the Indian luxury market has given me a good enough idea of both the sides. So here I attempt to answer the How, What and Why of French brands’ reluctance to enter this huge, diversified Indian market.

How is India different from other luxury markets?
Most of the time, we use one word ‘India’, like we say ‘France’. But when we speak about India, we should rather think ‘Europe’. India with all its states and regions is like speaking about different countries of Europe with differences in culture, religion, language, food, taste, habits, weather, budget and so on. The diversity here is huge and companies should spend more time to understand the consumers in each state of India.

In comparison with other Asian countries, India has a huge luxury heritage to respect and to work with, which allows endless opportunities in creation and fusion. And I guess it will allow different profitable collaborations between Indian designers, craftsmen and French companies. But both the countries will have to work hand in hand for quality, finishing and to train people on those points to reach a new level of high standards.

And the main difference, compared with the rest of the world, India is different because of the price factor and value for price demands of Indians! It is tricky for luxury brands to understand the way Indian consumers spend their money! Luckily it’s becoming slightly clearer day by day.

cartier santos taj mahal watch india inspirationWhat problems are French brands facing while entering India?
For so many years we have spent watching programmes on TV speaking about India, but only focusing on negatives clichés like poverty, slums, and so on. Do you think this allows French brands to be adventurous in starting business in India? For the past two years only have the French being receiving concrete and relevant information on the Indian market. But the positivism is spreading very slowly.

When I started speaking about luxury in India seven years back, many thought I was crazy and they closed their doors! Today also, when I ask French companies to think about India as the next destination for luxury, they just answer “Not now, maybe in few years” or “We have other priorities”.

I just feel they are not being adventurous and not taking up challenges, which requires taking reasonable risks as well. This huge and complex country scares them sometimes. That’s the reason why they prefer entering easier countries like Brazil or China, where now everything is organized.

French brands are entering China 10 years after pioneering luxury brands created their place there. French companies are focusing on this country since it sounds easier now. It is like their El Dorado. Now they know China and understand how to do business there, mistakes to avoid, what can work and so on. In fact, taking reference from the success stories of some companies, they are more comfortable with the Chinese market. Also things are easier than before because the market is mature!

How many French companies started there 10 years back? Very few… like now in India. Part of my mission is to inform and educate French luxury companies, and postgraduate students in luxury, with concrete and updated information on the Indian market, so that they can explore business opportunities in India.

loreal indian ambassador aishwarya rai in franceWhat strategies should French brands employ to get a hold in the Indian market?

Brands should have a personalized approach, paying attention to the specificity of the market and not acting ‘globally’ and only based on an internationally point of view.

Avoid ready made strategies and solutions. What works in other countries may not work in India, and what work for one brand will not work 100 per cent for another brand. And more than ever, they should be patient!

Think about having a part or all of the collection produced in India in order to get better prices. It also helps to react faster as per the mood of the market, which sometimes changes very fast. 

Be innovative and creative in strategy, business development, and collections. Be in touch with customers, in particular informing and educating them. There is so much to test and experience when the Indian market is maturing which makes this market so exciting and challenging. Taking a step ahead, some brands will have to work on themselves, reconsidering their products and their positioning. Consider including the ‘Indianness’ in your collections and introduce some customised products.

India is one of the biggest and youngest country in the world and I just feel that the country has more than enough to make its own fashion statement and lead  the fashion world with its own style instead of following what comes from ‘West’. I always admire Indian women and how feminine they are with their outfits. The Indian wardrobe is just so beautiful, with a varied palette of colours, various techniques used to embellish outfits, and so on. You can be ‘unique’ every day, which is such a privilege and this is real luxury for me. This luxury is not available anymore in the West, where we are more and more like goats dressed the same way, no identity, and no personality. Hope people in the Indian fashion industry will always keep alive as much as they can what is part of your identity!

French brands need to work on appropriate segmentation of the targeted audience in India. Distribute products via different formats, but also in different locations. Not all products and brands can have the same success by having a presence in Mumbai or Delhi only.

Being there in India or having a kind of presence is better than waiting and seeing. It is time to open your eyes to reality and to invest.

It can be your golden chance to board the train of the Indian success story and get the biggest parts of the cake!

veronique poles luxury expert french indiaVeronique Poles is a freelance fashion and luxury consultant based inMumbai, with more than 15 years of extensive experience with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Givenchy and Waterman/Gillete Pen Company just to mention a few. Bespoke creations, however, are her first love. For LuxuryFacts, she unveils some of the best kept secrets in the sphere of ‘word of mouth landmarks’ for connoisseurs of products with substance. They are greatest creations made by artisans of excellence and guardians of tradition, who work with passion for detail and quality to make your dreams come true.

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