Can they generate global interest?
Representative image of branded outfits. News 18. Instagram/ Sabyasachi
When the undisputed king of Indian couture, Sabhyasachi, opened his first store in Manhattan’s Tony West Village in a heritage structure on Christopher Street this month, on October 16, it marked a turning point for the latent potential and India’s untapped potential to create truly global luxury brands. .
Having thoroughly tested the global market through collections at Bergdorf, presentations at New York Fashion Week and collaborations with Christian Loubotin and H&M and having developed its global clientele with bridal wear, accessories and Indian jewelry and Westerners, the time had come to take the story of Indian heritage to the world in an unabashed way.
Why only a few Indian brands have a global presence
But why is Sabhyasachi one of the few Indian brands that has managed to create a global presence. Why didn’t this happen sooner and why is its overseas presence limited to the US while the luxury market is also big in Europe, Japan and China? Why has a non-couture brand that is not intrinsically linked to the Indian diaspora failed to create the same fanfare?
The answer is not simple. Although it is a key supplier to the world’s most famous luxury brands, from the diamonds that adorn Harry Winston jewelry and the essential oils that are blended into Estée Lauder cosmetics and Chanel perfumes, to the textiles and the intricate craftsmanship that allow fashion houses in France and Italy to remain unmatched, India remained behind the scenes. We’ve given credit for our incredible natural resources, cultural capital and know-how to European and South African holding companies that are notoriously secretive about their supply chain.
What can Indian brands do
So what can Indian brands do to earn their rightful place in the global luxury market, not only as the most exciting emerging consumer market, but also as a powerhouse of Indian-made luxury brands that are consumed by people in the United States, Europe and Japan. , Middle East and beyond?
For starters, we can take inspiration from one of our other world-renowned brands, Taj Hotels and Resorts. With a heritage spanning over 100 years, Taj has perfected hospitality and luxury travel in an astonishing way. Its constant concern for customer service goes far beyond the minimum requirements of the sector to become a new benchmark and a mark of “Tajness”. This focus on customer service is something that more and more Indian companies must strive for as it is a non-negotiable luxury.
This remains one of the biggest shortcomings of Indian consumer brands due to poor infrastructure, lack of service standardization protocols and cavalier attitude towards rules and regulations. This explains why global brands that have entered the Indian market with the help of trusted brands or the Aditya Birla Group are struggling to find in-store staff who can meet their global standards.
The other challenge is the disproportionate capital required and the longevity of vision needed to build the next LVMH. Luxury brands are at the very least a multi-decade business, with most big brands boasting a heritage of over 100 years. Think of it as a slow roast of product development, disruptive aesthetics, highly sophisticated brand building, shrewd storytelling, and omnichannel presence.
All of this requires a huge amount of capital, which remains elusive as most investors and brand owners today are looking at a 5-10 year horizon for brand maturity and exponential growth. Luxury, by its very nature, cannot compete with SAAS level growth or D2C timelines. Arguably, only India’s mature business houses can foot the bill and maintain the stamina to build the next LVMH.
And finally, but perhaps most importantly, creating a luxury brand requires a change in mindset not only among brand owners, but also among consumers. Traditionally, luxury has been associated with Europe thanks to a long period of historical dominance both political and cultural. The narrative of European sophistication has been so internalized by the world that while India arguably has a much longer, richer and more diverse heritage, we hesitate to truly claim it and tell India’s story to the world.
As geopolitics undergo a huge shift, India matures as a developing economy, and Indian identity finds new admirers, perhaps now is the time to dig deep into our cultural landscape, evolve our storytelling and assert our rightful position as a tastemaker and influencer.
The good news is that the train appears to have left the station. Good Earth’s Anita Lal has launched a quintessentially Indian luxury perfume brand, Lilanur Perfumes, for global consumers who bypass India entirely by selling only in Bergdorf in the United States. Meanwhile, Estee Lauder has set up an incubator for Indian beauty startups seeing the potential to discover the next global skincare brand while partner Nykka finalizes partnerships to expand its footprint in GCC markets.
Luxury skincare brand Forest Essentials will soon open 12 stores in the UK after realizing that 30% of its online sales come from them. Vahdam Teas is rapidly expanding its overseas presence, with distribution channels in the United States and Europe.
With 42% of Indian startups admitting to global expansion ambitions in a recent survey, Indian luxury brands have a promising future..
Radhika Butala is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of The Better Collective
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