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Retail: Luxury marketers come together

July 23, 2007 10:20 IST

There's strength in numbers, luxury marketers in India have realised. Early this month, high-end fashion retailers, led by Kimaya CEO Pradeep Hirani, announced the formation of 'Indiluxe Retail Council of India'. The by-invitation-only forum, says Hirani, will "take care of common concerns of retailers", now that Indian fashion has a global market and is growing fast.

But it's not just fashion that Indiluxe proposes to cater to -- although the presence at the IRCI launch of Fashion Design Council of India director general, Rathi Vinay Jha, Sailaja Tahiliani of Ensemble, Sanjay Kapoor of Samsaara, Amit Dholakia of Amara, and other promoters of high-end fashion stores does give that impression.

The idea, says Hirani, is for IRCI to, by and by, look at the lifestyle, fashion accessories and the luxury retail industry as a whole.

Indiluxe, however, is not the only exclusive body of high-end retailers, marketeers in India. There was the World Luxury Council which started operations in India around two years ago, did a few events, but is now, by all accounts, quite defunct.

In October last year, the Luxury Marketing Council, the US-originated platform for more than 675 major international luxury goods and services companies, set up shop in India, and is going great guns.

According to Devyani Raman, the CEO of luxury-consultant, Leading Brands of the World and the licence holder for India, LMC already has 12 members in India, and from April 1 next year will become a non-profit trust committed to building the luxury industry in India.

Clearly, the fact that so many luxury brands have either come to India, or are waiting for clarity in FDI policy to come in, explains why you have such forums. Then there is the huge projected market for luxury goods here.

A February 2006 study, India Luxury Trends 2006: An Insight into the Affluent Indian Lifestyle, by Technopak estimated that there were about 1.6 million households earning Rs 45 lakh ($100,000) or more per year, spending about Rs 4 lakh ($9,000) a year on "luxury/very premium" goods and services, which made for a market potential of about Rs 65,000 crore ($14.4 billion). Besides, the number of households that fit this description was was growing at a healthy rate of about 14 per cent a year.

But the problem, says Amit Dutta, vice president, brand, customer engagement and lending, American Express India, is the "findability" of these customers.

"After all, not much is known about this target customer. He is hardly likely to participate in market research, often he does not even answer the phone himself."

This is where LMC comes in with its roundtables — where marketing professionals can discuss strategies, share best practices, understand affinities. Often, the roundtables also lead to on-ground alliances, says Raman, citing the example of the joint Porsche-AmEx joint promotion which works both as a publicity activity for the recently-launched German sports car and a loyalty programme for AmEx Platinum cards. Taj, a member of LMC, is also a strong partner of AmEx Platinum Cards.

The fledgeling IRCI, of course, does not offer services of this kind yet, being more, as designer Tarun Tahiliani describes it, a "trade body". So, IRCI will address issues like fixing mark-ups of designer wear, enforce quality standards and ethical practices, prevent plagiarism and poaching of staff, lobby with the government and maybe associate with developers to come up with a retail space that could be a fit abode of luxury brands.

For the IRCI, a home-grown body unlike the LMC, this is as good a place to start as any. 

Gargi Gupta in New Delhi