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Pursuit Of Exclusivity

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Dhananjay Sinha (not his real name) had a peculiar problem. The businessman had figured on every list of the country's super rich for the past four years. But what he aspired for was a change in lifestyle. That's when he approached a luxury lifestyle consultant. The advice he got was — buy exclusivity.

At the Rolls-Royce showroom, Sinha was offered countless customisation choices — diamonds on the steering wheel, a goldplated ‘Spirit of Ecstasy', etc. "The super rich love to agonise over choice. It gives them a big thrill," says a person in the know. What did Sinha choose in his pursuit of exclusivity? If it got printed, it would no longer be exclusive, would it?

Yasho Saboo, CEO, Ethos Watches, a large premium-to-luxury watch retailer, cites an instance of some visitors to India coming with watches of a brand called Hautlence, with a price tag of 50,000 Swiss francs per watch. Who would buy an unheard of brand at such a price? "We have come to deliver three units to undisclosed buyers," he was told. 

That said, despite a slowdown in the economy, luxury purchases in India have shown no signs of slowing down, say experts. A study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and consulting services major AT Kearney forecasts that by 2015, the market size for luxury goods, services and assets in India will touch $14.72 billion, from $5.75 billion in 2010.

Of course, luxury assets (houses, for example) will fuel a bulk of that. While a little more than half of the luxury consumption ($7.9 billion) will be through luxury assets, another $1.45 billion will be spent on luxury services and the remaining $5.38 billion on products.

Madhukar Sabnavis, country head, discovery and planning, O&M India, feels that luxury housing projects done up by designers such as Versace and Giorgio Armani will find takers. For example, Armani Casa has partnered with the Lodha Group to design the interiors of World Towers, in central Mumbai.

In some categories India shows a marked difference from the rest of the world in luxury products consumption. In India, luxury buying is dominated by jewellery and fragrances, while it is apparel, accessories and cosmetics in the South-east Asian market. But in certain categories such as wine, India, a primarily red wine market, is adapting to global tastes. In the summer, consumption of white wine went up from about 30 per cent to over 50 per cent of the market. "This mirrors the European market,"says the CII-AT Kearney report.