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Get ready! The British are coming

Kishore Singh | February 19, 2005

The East India Company can't get enough of the country and is back in a new avatar, the Brits having decided that India is up and ready, not just for sourcing out silks and cashmeres, but also to be fed its own home-grown brands in what it refers to as the "best of breed".

That's top-notch luxury products at prices to match, and yes, it seems India has the capacity to park a few million pounds on properties in Knightsbridge, shopping at Harrods, and so on.

The British Luxury Council this week launched the World Luxury Council office in India (apparently the term "British" can't be sold and so when BLC came up for sale in October 2003, the name was changed to "World" Luxury Council) at functions in Delhi and Mumbai.

It already has offices in Frankfurt and Dubai, and next on the anvil are Moscow and Shanghai, indicating the growth in the consumption of luxury goods in these markets.

And, ambitiously, the target WLC has set for itself in the first year of operations is 1 million. Tough? "If I can sell six Rolls-Royce cars in a year, I'll already have exceeded that target," says Alan F Judd, former investment banker and now CEO of the Council.

But the British are not looking at India just as a market in which to park their high-end goods and services (including, inevitably, banking) but also to source out products that it could help to brand.

"We have a company called Ideal Solutions through which, for a 20 per cent fee, we will build brands and place them on our luxury network," says Judd.

Just how that works is simple. Judd, for instance, found himself in Agra a while ago, where he lucked upon a studio that does inlay tabletops "that are incredibly beautiful".

Asked the price for the size of a dining table top, he was told it was 600 -- already probably high by Indian standards. "I told the manufacturer that we could sell it at Harrods for 14,000." Of course, before doing that, Judd and Co would create a brand, sell the image, do a catalogue, and position the range appropriately.

The upside is, it could also arrive at a deal for its strategic partner and client Knightsbridge to use these tabletops for its London apartments, thereby illustrating how networking between the "best of breed" could monitor exclusivity for its Council members.

Membership is bought for a fee that is negotiable, though is 25,000 on average. "But for a restaurant such as Olive, we might charge a fee in the range of 5,000," Judd mentions.

And what would Olive gain from such partnership? "Our luxury division Western & Oriental Travels is aimed at high net individuals who spend between 10,000-30,000 on a two-week's holiday for a couple. We would promote a restaurant such as Olive to them, create events, promote business opportunities," Judd explains, "in the manner of a strategic communications group to drive new business for member clients."

WLC, which has Geoffrey Chamberlain as chairman and Devyani Raman heading business development at its Hilton Towers office in Mumbai, is keen on a range of mid-rung manufacturers and service providers, and its Indian panorama could possibly include fashion, furniture, and hotels and restaurants.

What Judd hopes to particularly offer India is "quite a bit of retail business, and investment advice".

Chamberlain and Judd, both workaholics who "are attracted to global markets" decided they "understood luxury products and services" and have made it their particular brand of service.

"With WLC, we're in the position of being at the centre of a triangular operation that includes what three separate agencies -- advertising, PR and the trader/service provider -- would do, and we deliver more efficiently."

And with the kind of clients they're working with already -- the Indian names will be announced shortly -- price, clearly, is not an issue.

Emperor Jehangir's court may have been banished to the realms of history, but it's time to greet the arrival of the East India Company, Phase II, circa 2005.


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