From the days of working as a product manager in France for Cartier to his current position of Lladró Commercial’s chief executive, Alain Viot has had a rewarding career in the luxury business.
Two years after obtaining his MBA from ESSEC, a leading business school in France, Viot began his professional journey with the Richemont Group, which he joined in 1987.
He spent 17 years there, coordinating and marketing strategies of exclusive brands such as Cartier, Piaget, Dunhill and MontBlanc. He, then, took over as Lladró Commercial’s CEO and managing director. Excerpts:
India recently opened up 51% foreign direct investment (FDI) in single brands. What does this mean for foreign players?
This new regulation is certainly an added motivation to enter the market. After five years of presence in India through a distributor, Lladró entered into a joint venture with Spa Lifestyle recently, taking 26% of a newly formed company, Lladró India Pvt. Ltd.
Entering a joint venture allows us to bring in our expertise of our product and of luxury retail, while benefiting from the partner’s knowledge of the local market.
We believe this is a combination for success.
There are estimates that suggest that the luxury market in India is worth $17.7-billion. What are the challenges and opportunities for luxury players and which direction do you see the luxury market taking?
We see all sorts of figures regarding the value of the Indian luxury market and, personally, I tend not to rely on them too much. How do you define this so-called luxury market to start with? We do believe, however, that there is ample space for many players as the market for exclusive products is growing in width and depth, and at an accelerating pace. The challenges are well known to everyone: the lack of adequate retail environment, the value of import duties and the difficulty of finding appropriate staff.
But we think that, step by step and with time, those difficulties can be overcome.
How has the luxury customer evolved since the last decade?
Of course, we have witnessed over the last few years a “democratization” of luxury as more and more people want to acquire products from high-end brands. It is the “because I’m worth it” syndrome! And most brands are happy to create lines that cater to the masses while retaining a luxury image. At the other end of the spectrum, the extremely rich demand more and more exclusive, sometime extravagant, products. At Lladró, we have launched High Porcelain, which is to porcelain art what haute couture is to ready-to-wear: the highest expression of porcelain artistry and craftsmanship. This means extremely limited editions or unique pieces with real museum value and of jaw-dropping complexity and beauty.
In fact, we’re about to launch this category in India. I believe in real authentic luxury for the future.
How is the Indian luxury market different from the West? Does luxury have different connotations for Indians?
Not really. Orientals are as well versed in the concept of luxury as people in the West, because of their very rich culture and traditions. Luxury is a global concept, which people share all over the world because it helps them feel better and to share universal emotions.
Which are the new emerging luxury markets? What are the opportunities and challenges for luxury marketers? How are you pushing growth in developed markets?
Russia, China and, of course, India are the markets of the future for Lladró and we are opening boutiques in all of them. The challenges are more or less similar to the ones we face in India, except for the retail environment, where we expect a major improvement in India in the near future, while Russia and China are already very well positioned.