Some love technology, while for others it's a necessary evil. Ms Devita Saraf falls into the first category. So much so, that she calls it a "fun business", as she talks about her six year old Vu Technologies.
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on May 25, 2012
Some love technology while for others it’s a necessary evil. Ms Devita Saraf falls into the first category. So much so, that she calls it a “fun business” as she talks about her six year old Vu Technologies.
Sitting confident at the café in Le Meridien, Ms Devita Saraf gave a gracious welcome as I approached her. This young owner of Vu Technologies, a luxury technology company dabbling mainly in televisions, was impeccably dressed with each hair in place.
After exchanging a few pleasantries and ordering the F&B paraphernalia, we sat down to begin the interview. My questions arose from the central thought of how can you define luxury in technology? So after apologizing for my marginal disinterest in anything technological, I asked her that question. “You answered the question when you said that you don’t know technology and it doesn’t interest you, but you still are a buyer of it,” she said. “For many, buying electronics in India is like buying vegetables. It’s unglamourous, not interesting. So we decided to make it appealing. We try to make it easy for a non-technical person to understand the products when they come to our stores. Also, luxury is a lot of fun which we try to incorporate in our products. Like we came out with the Opulence TV. The idea is to appeal to someone who may not be very technical but has an eye for beautiful things.”
She continued to talk about the various layers in which luxury has to be reflected, whether it is the packaging or the customer service. Luxury, for Vu Technologies, also comes through its customized, bespoke, personalized pieces. “For example, we had a customer who wanted to have a very tech-savvy and stylish theatre. So we mounted it on the floor for them where people could walk over it. Then we came up with a waterproof TV, so you can take a bath with the TV. We keep coming up with unique products because luxury is about pampering the customer. And a customer purchasing TV wants something unique with it. So we have taken a boring product and made it fun using the best that luxury can offer,” she explained.
Down to basics
This is not her first brush with technology. Ms Saraf, before starting Vu, was handling marketing for her father’s Zenith Computers. But that being a mass company, it was quite a jump to the opposite end of the spectrum, to start a luxury goods venture. “When training at Zenith Computers, I realised that India is changing and is starting to become a very luxury oriented market. Interestingly Indians are talking about luxury in every nook and corner. It’s not just South Delhi, South Mumbai buying luxury products. So that’s when I decided to start a fun luxury brand,” she reminisced.
With six stores in India currently, Vu can boast about having a good presence, with flags stuck in Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Gujarat. But the run-up to these six stores hasn’t been easy as well. “We started a lot of stores, shut them down and then reopened. The market is very fluid. Our first store was in Nariman Point (Mumbai) at the only available large mall which was the best place for retail. Then Phoenix and Palladium developed and we moved there. In India, you have to be willing to invest, because it’s not like DLF Emporio mall has been there for 25 years and that’s the only place to go for luxury, like when you go to Singapore, you know Takashimaya is the place to buy luxury, and that’s been there since I was a kid. Luxury is still finding its bearings in India,” she said.
Jaipur, in fact, has turned out to be the hen laying the golden eggs for Vu. The Opulence TV, which has crystal studded in the panels, has seen much popularity in the ‘jewel city of Jaipur’, as compared to the more practical Mumbai.
The India story
Being a brand started by an Indian naturally brings me to ask her opinion about Indian brands, and why they are not as popular globally as their European or American counterparts. Ms Saraf applauded the quality and designs of Indian brands and products, but reasoned about the intent of the designers. She rues the fact that Indian designers have, maybe, not taken that “leap of faith” to build a, say, New York office from a scratch, settle there to further the business and then take it globally from there.
“I think others are making more use of the India story rather than Indians themselves. For example, I bought the limited edition Hermes sari because it was a master piece. Probably the piece I bought was the only one. Something I can treasure for a long time,” she said.
The next rung
Geographical expansion is one of the main plans at Vu Technologies right now. Apart from that, they are always on the run-up to introduce innovative products. And the latest one is India’s first 3D camera! With the Vu 3D camera, you can capture 3D HD movies and still photographs, in real time with its dual lens-dual sensor (DLDS) technology. Their integrated 3D display does not require any glasses to view 3D videos and photographs. The 3D camera comes complete with two 16-megapixel sensors. It has the capabilities to connect to HD TV and allows for live streaming of video in 3D and 2D. It also comes with a 32 GB expendable SD card slot. On-the-fly 3D to 2D switch allows capture of 2D FULL HD 1080p videos and high resolution 16 MP photos as well.
Having started a very exciting run-up to Vu Luxury Awards last year, we were curious to know at what stage the awards are and when are they happening. Ms Saraf, however, does not have a set date in mind, having faced some roadblocks in the process. Being quite an unorganized industry in India, it is quite a task to get the industry together. “People don’t have that relation with one another. The coop-etition mindset is not there. So we decided on getting people together this year and then have the awards. I am expecting to host them sometime next year. But we are trying to find the right format where we get the right people in the industry together and not people on the periphery who just act as if they know luxury. At the end of the day, it is a business-oriented award, and not some celebrity shindig,” she said.
Reaching the tail-end of our conversation, it suddenly struck me to ask something which I should have probably asked her first. Why would a young, intelligent, vivacious woman choose technology over more exciting fields like fashion or hospitality? “Because I think technology has the capacity to reach a lot more people. A bag will only be restricted to a few people. The hotel will only be restricted to that area. But something like a Blackberry Messenger reaches the whole country. And it’s fun. It’s not just for men or women. It’s for youngsters, kids, older people – everyone gets involved. It’s a fun business.”
“Ah, that’s the root of it all,” I thought, as we went into an off-the-record conversation on joys of entrepreneurship.