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A Taste Of Luxury

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Getting a precise idea of the size of the Indian luxury market is pretty difficult. The actual sale of luxury products in the outlets within the country is not huge by global standards, though it is growing very fast, according to most consultancies. On the other hand, because the rich Indian connoisseur quite often does his buying abroad, estimating the size of the market based purely on sales from outlets within the country can be quite erroneous. What is certain, though, is that purveyors of luxury take the Indian market very, very seriously. Most of them have a presence in India, either through shops in luxury hotels or in the new luxury malls that are coming up. Others have representative offices and brand ambassadors even if they do not have direct sales outlets.

As numerous studies have shown, the number of billionaires and the other seriously wealthy — or high net worth individuals (HNIs), to use the term bankers love — has been growing rapidly over the years. (Last year's global meltdown and its effects on the Indian economy caused a dip, but both wealth and sentiment have rebounded in the past couple of months). And this class is not shy of spending. They are in the market for everything from private jets and yachts to supercars and designer clothes and jewellery.

Till recently, one big problem most luxury sellers faced in India was in finding a place suitable for setting up their outlets. Invariably, the only choice was to take up space in a five-star hotel in Delhi or Mumbai. A couple of super luxury malls built recently is providing an additional option.

Selling to the super rich is of course far more difficult than selling to the ordinary consumer because the very wealthy tend to be extremely demanding. And while some of the luxury consumers do get swayed by brand names, many others are truly discriminating. Then there are others who equate luxury primarily with exclusivity, which means that anything easily available becomes that much less desirable. So setting up an outlet in India actually means losing some  sheen associated with the brand.

Our special issue on luxury examines the luxury market and consumption patterns in India. And also carries tips from connoisseurs on what to buy and what to avoid. Enjoy the issue.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 28-09-2009)