New City, New Luxury

Kolkata, the new kid on the block for growth and potential, is calling out luxury enthusiasts. Why? Read on

By: Karishma Suri

Posted on: July 1, 2014

Kolkata, the new kid on the block for growth and potential, is calling out luxury enthusiasts. Why? Read on.

While some may say ponder over Kolkata's late entry in to India’s retail revolution, the city is proving to be a brilliant market for many brands and luxury lovers alike. With a potential to become a retail hub and a major centre for the east in the near future, we hear the winds blowing in favour of Kolkata. Posting growth in many sectors, Kolkata is an emerging new destination for more fields than one.

Adding a luxe feather in its hat, however, the city has been attracting luxury vibes and for all the good reasons. With the new Quest Mall already hosting luxury brands like Canali, Paul Smith, Michael Kors, Rolex, Tag Heuer and Breitling, it is interesting to see how many brands have opened their stores in the city. Opening up a new luxury chapter in the city's book, trunk shows have also become popular, changing the way the city spells fashion. We can only hope the coming months will be an indicator of the fashionistas to be bred.

The city, and counting

Recently, Kolkata witnessed some of the biggest IT ventures, and its real estate and retail characteristics have begun to look and feel different. Apart from the 70 lakh resident population, this metropolis attracts another 70 lakh people visiting daily for services, business and entertainment. With whopping numbers and praises for this city, Kolkata, undoubtedly, is an ideal location for the growth of the retail industry. The city is expected to receive the highest share of malls in this region in the coming years and has come a long way in terms of retail maturity with a proliferation of brands and organised retail chains.

The disposable incomes of Kolkatans have been on an upward climb according to a report by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). What does that spell for the luxury market if not success and growth?

Not only retail, but the luxury real estate market of Kolkata is set to shed the lull. One may not have expected that a segment like luxury would have many fans in the realty market of Kolkata, which is branded as slow moving, but steady. However, with several luxury projects coming up in Kolkata, developers venturing in the segment can be sure that they can see their business growing. Developer Heritage Realty has 10 new projects coming up in areas like Park Circus, Rajarhat, Narendrapur, Bantala, Ballygunge, Kankurganchi, Southern Avenue, Belghoria and Canal Street. These are categorised as premium, lifestyle apartments, condominiums, exclusive apartments and penthouses in high rise formats and luxurious apartments. The sizes of the apartment may vary from 1,800-3,300 sq ft.

The luxury realty market of Kolkata
Luxury real estate is estimated to have captured a three per cent of the total real estate market in Kolkata, with the major takers being locals (with inputs from As for amenities, these new luxury homes promise 100 per cent power back up, jogging tracks, landscaped gardens as well as interiors, audio communication facilities, fire alarms, gas pipe lines, proximity card access control, office space for residents’ welfare, boom barriers, tennis courts, digital recording surveillance for entry points, visitors car parking space and more. But it’s more than just materialistic amenities that Kolkata’s rich look for and invest in. Biplab Saha, owner, Travel and Realty, says, “When home buyers invest in affordable housing they are not very particular about who their neighbour is going to be, but when it comes to luxury segment, sometimes even the religion of the neighbour becomes an issue.” Even if the homes are grand in making, “the slums and unclean surroundings may keep the buyers at bay,” adds Mr Saha.

One of the recent problems reported by Kolkata’s luxury buyers is the developer’s failure to deliver what was shown in the plan. Now, isn’t that a problem faced by many more cities in India?  Mr Saha mentions a case where two tennis courts would have been in the initial map, but home buyers found only one after the completion. In other cases, the developers do not adhere to their promise of open space. These green spaces might have been given out as parking space or taken for the construction of a new tower. “With spontaneously developing lifestyles, the demand is going to increase,” says Mr Krishnendu Moitra, Corporate Communications at Heritage Realty Group.

Shop till you drop
With many luxury brands opening doors in Kolkata, we spoke to Mr Sanjay Kapoor, Managing Director, Genesis Luxury, and understood why his brands have expanded in the city. "Kolkata is the next destination for luxury brands as the consumer here is well educated and well traveled with high disposable incomes. They are brand aware and have been shopping for their favourite brands outside of Kolkata so far. Hence we wanted to bring the brands to them and saw an opportunity at the newly opened Quest Mall," he said. With a great potential to grow as a market, Mr Kapoor shared that they are seeing healthy sales upon opening of their portfolio of brands, and feel it will get better once Quest Mall is fully operational and as awareness about this destination spreads.

If the product offering is dripping luxury, it is essential that the team behind it has the essential know how. With due importance put on training, brands today ensure that their employees walk the walk and perfect it. "We have in-house robust training modules that begin at induction and then go onto regular refresher courses for our store personnel. These modules cover everything from luxury sales training to grooming and etiquette that match all international brand standards," Mr Kapoor said.

Kolkata is a slightly different market for brands as the consumer is slightly more conservative in spending and is more price conscious as compared to cities like Mumbai and New Delhi. Yet, brands wishing to step foot into this city must keep in mind that consumers in Kolkata are well traveled and have shopped for brands internationally. Brands today need to focus on changing this mindset of shopping overseas by communicating to audiences that luxury is no longer more expensive in India and is, in fact, lesser priced than in Hong Kong and Singapore.
On a positive note, there were no challenges while setting foot in Kolkata. The novelty of a new market, the finesse of good labour and the scent of sweet success, that's what this city is brimming with at the moment.

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