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Time is really the ultimate luxury," said Shivajirao Gaekwar, deputy director of Sotheby’s Auction India, at the Global Luxury Realty Conclave (GLRC) 2019, a two-day conference (22-23 February) of luxury realty developers, stakeholders in luxury industries and high net worth individuals, organized by Sotheby’s International Realty in Delhi. “You need enough time to see art, you need enough time to think about what you’re going to buy," he added.

Leisure has always been crucial to luxury pursuits, but globalization and amplified connectivity make time more valuable than ever before. Gaekwar brought up time as luxury in the context of collecting art. Yet the meaning and impact of luxury in a new world became a recurrent point of discussion across sessions.

Luxury beyond brand legacy

Immersive experiences, ethical behaviour and personalization are key signifiers of luxury today. “In real estate, luxury has always been about heritage and craftsmanship but now we are moving into a different spectrum of actually offering personalized service experiences," Reeza Sebastian, president, residential business at Bengaluru-based Embassy Group, said on Day 2, during a session on the changing landscape of luxury. Luxury is still growing in India, but Dinaz Madhukar, executive vice-president of DLF Luxury and another panellist in the same session, sees the next stage of evolution as already under way. “When we started Emporio (in 2007), we went with established luxury; we weren’t experimenting. When we went with The Chanakya (launched in 2017), we were open to trying new brands," she told Lounge. Madhukar spotlighted made-in-India labels, such as Grassroots by Anita Dongre, Perona and Good Earth Paro, which are sharing retail space with Hermes and Ralph Lauren in The Chanakya. Their popularity indicates a pride among Indians in home-grown ventures, many of which are rooted in the ethos of making heritage relevant with new-age design.

Meet the new luxury buyers

The mass affluents, a growing demographic in India, are the new buyers of luxury. “They are defined by the fact that they have not inherited their wealth," Alex Kuruvilla, MD, Condé Nast India and a panellist at the conclave, told Lounge. According to Kuruvilla, mass affluents often start by trading up in product categories, switching from an Indian to an international brand. Kuruvilla pointed out that this demographic does extensive research in search of value and quality. It prefers experiences over products, and roots for differentiation. “Most importantly, they are all digital natives," he added. “They discover and research, purchase, they might try offline but buy online and they share in digital (platforms)." Honing them to become long-term customers should be a key strategy for luxury brands.

Millennials comprise a significant number among the mass affluent target group. The millennial consumer is a key target for brands today, and Madhukar suggested a multifocal approach to cater to them. “We see people 25 and upwards indulging in luxury so the requirements are that much more diverse," she said. “It’s important that you are two steps ahead of them, giving that novelty factor."

For Madhukar, that means going beyond shopping to offer a curated retail experience, from masterclasses to personalized sessions with stylists.

India, with its history and socio-economic diversity, makes for a unique luxury market. It is what sets India apart from other luxury markets. As Sanjay Kapoor, founder-MD of Genesis Luxury, said during a session titled “Purpose Of Life-A Global Perspective": “India will not be the new China. India will be the new India."

Mint was a media partner of GLRC 2019.

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