By : WADe Bureau | 22 May 2018 | TRENDING WADe TOPICS
What does luxury mean in today’s context? Is luxury still restricted to the elite? How are the consumers redefining luxury with the growing global exposure? This session at WADe Asia 2017 aimed to answer to some of these questions was chaired by award-winning communicator, author of the book ‘Decoding Luxe’, Mahul Brahma with esteem panelists Dr. Sheetal Jain, Founder, Luxe Analytics, celebrated Interior Designer Manjeet Bhullar, Anhad Bhullar, Brand Strategist at Manjeet Bullar Design, and Ar. Bobby Mukherji of Bobby Mukherji & Associates, Mumbai. SURFACES REPORTER presents some of the most important arguments and comments from the very interesting discussion. Please share you queries, comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mahul sets the tone for the discussion with an extract from his book ‘Decoding Luxe’, on the grandeur and luxurious taste of the Maharajas. “20% of Rolls Royce’s global sale was from India in the 1920s. In 1926, the Maharaja of Patiala commissioned Cartier to remodel his crown jewels which included a 234 carat De Beers diamond, the result was a breath taking Patiala Necklace weighing 962.25 carats with 2913 diamonds. In 1928, Maharaja of J&K placed orders for custom-made 30 trunks from a so called luggage maker called Louis Vuitton. There was certain Nizam who procured 1500 Davidsons for postmen who delivered his letters.” This was the state of luxury back then. So how has the scenario changed today?
New Age Luxury Consumer demands International Standards at home, says Bobby Mukherji
As per Bobby Mukherji, a lot has changed especially, the mindset and taste of the new rich clan of India. People love to go on vacation outside India, getting a glimpse of international lifestyle and they realize that though they have all the riches, their lifestyle does not remotely match to that experience. He says, people today are asking for the best lifestyle and luxury even in remote corners of the country. Citing an example he shares, how palatial homes of costing over 100 crores are being built in remote rural settings with architects from Belgium, Italy and US working on it. He once designed a house where the aircraft would land inside the house, so that housemates could go to Bangalore for their grocery shopping. He said, he had to cater to that and give them a lifestyle inside the house which created their own little microcosm. The moment they step out of their gates, it’s probably very rural but inside they have all the earthy comforts.
As for young architects and designers who want to work in this segment, Bobby feels its important for them to get an exposure at an early age through travels around the world as we gear up to cater to more and more demands of International standards of luxury. Bobby further says “it’s not about money it’s about creating that right international setting that they want that they have experienced.”
Marketers must understand the psyche of the New-age Luxury buyer, says Sheetal Jain.
Adding to what Bobby said, Dr. Sheetal Jain, says there is a tremendous shift of luxury from class to mass or we can say from Maharajas to Prajas. There has been an emergence of new luxury consumers who are very different from traditional luxury consumers; well-informed, choosy, they look for wide options and they are less wealthy and less royal. She stresses that it’s important for marketers & designers to understand the perception of this class of luxury clientele who seek products that are more accessible, affordable luxury which they can adapt, understand, but the same time it is very important for marketers to strike a balance in being omnipresent yet being exclusive.
“Today’s new luxury consumers are more willing to spend money for experiences rather than accumulation or ownership. So the young luxury buyer may just spend for a lavish holidays rather than spending on a car or a home.”
We must bring back Indian Aesthetics, the fine taste of the Maharajas, says Manjeet Bhullar
The concept of Indian aesthetics and fine taste of the Maharaja of Patiala who wanted to redo his jewellery in a particular style was of a certain fine taste, he says, pointing out that everything depends on the development of Indian aesthetic which hails on fine taste. He feels, the prolonged exposure to post colonial mindset where Indians had a low image after independence, subject to socialist mindset which was not really of international standards and the Indian education systems, not being ready to mark the aesthetic training led to the current scenario of luxury in India being in complete mess. He further emphasized on maintaining the traditional and cultural design aesthetics while designing residential, commercial or hospitality projects saying, which imparts them a certain personality. “We need to understand the role of the Indian aesthetic and our traditions and come up with a very modern form which could be recognized world-wide as Indian aesthetics,” he says.>
As for international exposure, he says that the internet is getting us to understand things that we have not known. It is like accessing a library anytime, everyday of the week. “What we designers need to look at is readdressing this how to use our historical references and high political standards, our own Indianess that would bring about optics that look Indian but behave international.” One should look at addressing the need of fine taste. Primarily before we get swayed into this huge ocean of internationalism where everything looks like a cookie cutter offbeat of other, he added.
We have to take a leaf off old Maharajas as part of our greater consciousness, as they were the one who brought in the Rolls Royce, lightings, lovely guns, fine wedgewood on tables, the cutlery, crockery on the dining table, fine linen, fine carpets and so on. We need to find once again the sense of Indianess, the sense of taste in order to take the Indian story forward.
“Part of Indian ingenuity is how with simple things one can create luxury,”- Manjeet Bullar
Having said that, he says, part of the Indian ingenuity is how we can create luxury with simple things. Everything is luxury depending the person’s need like sleeping on the roof terrace is Indian luxury. Sleeping with fine cotton linen is Indian luxury. Eating a baked Tandoori roti is Indian luxury. He said banke raja is the attitude it is the way you look at luxury.
Bring in your passion for business as much as for design to revive Indian Crafts, says Bobby Mukherji
Responding to the question put forward by Pravin Solanki of for National Institute of Design on the condition of Indian craft and craftsmen, and not getting enough value, Bobby points to the marketing and business aspects which needs to be attached with every product that has been materialized. One needs to reach out to masses through brochures, advertisements and other means to make the product visible and available to clients. “What we are lacking is our business sense in terms of marketing. You will have to find ways to reach out to the masses to get your products to them. We get so passionate only about our designs, that we completely miss out the business angle of it.” Adding further, he explains, “There are a lot of small companies in Europe who picked up their traditional art and craft and scaled up to mammoth proportion because of their business skills. They did not cocoon themselves, waiting for people to come to their doorstep. For example, Italians are highly aggressive in taking that art out of the world, while the French wait for the people to come to their doorstep. Same applies to India as well.”
Affordable Luxury drives 60% of the sales for Luxury Brands, says Anhad Bhullar
As per Anhad Bhullar there are 3 major levels of luxury. First being the ‘inaccessibility’ that maybe 1% of luxury buyers such as the Maharajas jewelry may buy. The second is the ‘intermediate luxury’ which is like, maybe once we can buy saving for upto 3 year or wait for 3-4 years to stock up in line to get something. That’s the intermediate level for guys who want to land their aircraft in their home, that’s the kind of luxury they like now days. The third most is the “affordable luxury”, the most accessible luxury which drives the 60% of the sales of the entire Louis Vuitton or other groups. These are the Perfumes, expensive Lipstick, Cosmetics etc. These little things contribute to a very large picture which eventually leads us to see the campaign that brands like Louis Vuitton puts up; the massive fashion shows that they do in the middle of the sea and the Top designers to showcase their talent. That money is coming from the lipsticks and perfumes. The present generation is actually taking us to drive the future of luxury. Luxury is something that constantly changes and evolves. ‘The way we think, the way we act on a daily basis changes everyday,” she says adding, “We have to understand the present to build the future. This is why second generation like myself have to understand the India story,” she concludes.
Seconding Anhad, Mahul pointed out how most luxury brands marketers have one Asia strategy even though the Indian and Chinese consumers are very different and therefore, it doesn’t work. “We must understand that we have a rich legacy, it’s not our first exposure to luxury, whereas for Chinese consumers it is their first exposure so they don’t mind experiencing the luxury products on offer.” There are various levels of luxury consumers, Experientialist, who typically value exciting experience more than any buying product or brands they spend on experiences. The Connoisseurs, who have passion in certain areas of interest and makes it a point to be well-informed and knowledgeable about it. Then Flaunters who occupy a great percentage in India and for them the Logo matters. They are the force that drives luxury in India, those who value brand names over all other factors. And finally the Aesthetes, who value the design more than the brand.
Concluding the session, Mahul thanks the panelists for sharing various aspects of luxury through their own experiences in varied fields and leaving a thought to ponder upon, “How to maintain exclusivity and to what extend we should have inclusive luxury?” Interesting indeed. This is what WADe is coming up with soon.
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