Luxury in India takes centre stage

Isaac Mostovicz writes that India's dominance in Asia's luxury market is beginning to attract major players in global luxury...

New reports suggest that India’s luxury market is growing and maturing quickly. Earlier this week Forbes reported that the luxury boutique hospitality association, Relais & Chateaux, recently launched in India.

Relais & Chateaux president Jaume Tapies said:

We currently have 40 members in Asia and I’m confident that we can reach 100 in the next three years. We started looking at India in 2007 and enrolled our first member two years ago. We plan to add five more members in the next 18 months. My big surprise in coming to India was when I saw the deep understanding there is for what we stand for.

Mr Tapies’ findings about India are not surprising. I’ve written previously about luxury real estate in India taking off, and luxury automakers fighting for dominance in the Indian market.

What Mr Tapies’ findings do mean is that more major brands in the luxury industry are taking notice. What started as a small drip of interest at the end of 2009 has turned into more of a torrent.

Mr Tapies’ quote “I saw the deep understanding there is for what we stand for” is very interesting, too. Relais & Chateaux is for the discerning luxury customer. Considering the price point for their rooms, it’s clear their primary target market are Theta personalities. Much of India’s newly-wealthy class could be considered Thetas.

Thetas are concerned with truthfulness and denounce fakes. The screening process to become a member of Relais & Chateau is a long-term assessment to determine whether the hotel is “real” or “fake”:

We have a team of nine inspectors who visit the property incognito and submit a technical report to the board which makes the final call. Typically, the process takes a year. We have to be scrupulous as 1.5 million people trust Relais & Chataeux every year. Collectively, our properties do 750,000 room nights annually at an average room rate of 345 euros.

Relais & Chateaux is catering to those in India who, now with greater incomes, are becoming hyper-aware of how they are perceived by others, especially those they believe to be part of the social class that they wish to belong.

The people who stay at these hotels know the rigorous inspection process that member hotels undergo. Because this is such public information, it adds to the allure for an Indian Theta.

When they book a reservation to stay at a Relais & Chateaux hotel, they are likely to tell their friends and colleagues. They need people to know that they are able to afford to stay at such an exclusive hotel in their home country.

As more major luxury brands take notice of India’s heightened luxury profile, it could inspire neighbouring Asian countries to take notice and make some changes.

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Keeping luxury a family business

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Is it personal investment and independence (by the designer or the founding family) that makes a luxury brand special? Such is the suggestion of this article in Forbes last week. Recently Millward Brown, a market research company owned by WPP, put together a list of the world’s most powerful luxury brands using WPP’s Brandz database, which according to the article is the world’s largest repository of brand equity data, including over a million interviews with consumers about their attitude towards brands.

Louis Vuitton was on top, but there were several companies on the top end of the list (including Armani and Hermes) that are private or still have a family as a primary shareholder–by having a majority or entire stake in the company, these companies can focus on quality and design without having shareholders breathing down their necks about higher profits.

There’s also a nice quote about the longevity of luxury from Nikhil Gharekhan, senior vice president at Millward Brown:

Luxury brands do very well because they command high levels of emotional loyalty. They ensure that the loyal customers are going to come, and, therefore, revenue stream is assured. Even in times of recession these brands don’t cut costs; they continue to deliver top quality. It’s almost a justification to splurge on these brands.

Forbes also has a slideshow of some of the luxury brands on the list here.

Do private luxury brands have an advantage over their public peers?

[Photo by Donna Grayson]

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