French luxury body head Epinay says India, France markets similar | Mint

French luxury body head Epinay says India, France markets similar

Bénédicte Epinay, CEO of Comité Colbert.
Bénédicte Epinay, CEO of Comité Colbert.

Summary

  • Bénédicte Epinay, CEO of Comité Colbert, France’s official luxury association representing about 95 of the world’s top luxury brands, said bureaucracy, high customs duties, and a lack of luxury infrastructure are major obstacles that are coming in the way of further development of the sector

NEW DELHI : Albeit small, India has long been seen as a promising market for luxury goods. But the market has been a challenge to navigate for many companies looking to enter. Bénédicte Epinay, CEO of Comité Colbert, France’s official luxury association representing about 95 of the world’s top luxury brands, said bureaucracy, high customs duties, and a lack of luxury infrastructure are major obstacles that are coming in the way of further development of the sector.

In conversation with Mint on the sidelines of the recently concluded luxury summit by the The Indo-French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IFCCI) in the city, Epinay said India’s rich cultural heritage, growing economy, and increasing smartphone penetration are key factors that can drive the luxury market. “New horizontal regulations like BIS—a certification mandatory for all footwear manufacturers, for example, which makes them use the ISI mark on their footwear—would induce heavy costs to virtuous players like our companies, without any positive effects for Indian consumers. It would also be detrimental to the development of new luxury shops," she said.

While India has been a promising market for French luxury brands for at least 20 years, the direction in which the industry could be headed is a worry if these challenges are not addressed, she said. “There are a lot of obstacles in the way of the luxury market here, including the bureaucracy. For this the committee is also having a dialogue with the Ministry of Commerce in India," she said.

However, she noted that the launch of two new luxury malls in the bigger metros in the last month alone—including Mumbai’s Jio World Plaza and the Phoenix Mall of Asia in Bengaluru—have addressed India’s lack of luxury infrastru-cture to some extent. French department store chain Galeries Lafayette is also expected to expand in Delhi’s Emporio mall—in a new construction within the mall premises.

Epinay emphasized the need for adaptation. She said while most brands are considering expanding to the country, it is those that are willing to adapt to the local market, who will succeed. “The general secretary of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) when visiting India some years ago said that the market was very paradoxical in some ways. The one trend is that we will shift in the years to come, from a global market to a market with local identities. This is where India has a very important role to play. India is so rooted in its past," she said.

Epinay said India’s luxury market is unique in many ways and noted that Indian consumers have a deep appreciation for luxury which dates back to the maharajas. “India has great knowhow in terms of luxury and there have been many purveyors of luxury in the country. And that makes it very similar to France in many ways," she said.

Comité Colbert is working to address this issue by investing in training and education programs for aspiring artisans. The association is also collaborating with schools and universities to develop new curricula for luxury craftsmanship.

She added that China’s luxury market is only second to that in the US and is too big a market to be compared to that of India’s. “The question is what the India market is itself and it must not be compared to China or the Middle East. China is a very different market from India. Two decades ago, the Chinese embraced western brands because everyone wanted to dress like westerners and wear their jewellery, so luxury boomed there. Today, their consumption is very high. But since India is not that way and has many cultural traditions of its own, only brands that will meld with local traditions will do well here," she said.

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