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Anil Prabhakar is vice president ­ business development at the Gitanjali Group. He has over two decades of experience and has worked with brands such as Blue Star, Onida, Citizen, Westar, Rado and Dunhill.

Inspiration India

India has been on the global luxury marketers' radar for quite some time now. International luxury brands have been designing and marketing products inspired by India for the global market.


[ By Anil Prabhakar ]

ith the resurgence in India's economic fortune, the India story has captured the imagination of many international luxury players. For instance, interest in Indian themes is being capitalised by European luxury brands with the launch of niche products. If European brands can successfully sell an India story globally, an Indian brand can definitely do it more effectively. Some Indian brands have started taking steps in that direction, and in the times to come, this movement will help the `Made in India' label gain acceptance and credibility. There are some interesting examples which I would like to share with the readers of Solitaire International. Take for instance, the way Montblanc has capitalised on Mahatma Gandhi. In 2009, the German writing instrument brand launched a limited edition set of 3,000 fountain pens and 3,000 roller ball pens as a tribute to the life and achievements of the charismatic leader. The figure is symbolic of the people who followed him during his

Swiss watchmaker Borgeaud launched its Septagraph Perpétuel model in Mumbai last year, even before it was unveiled in Switzerland.



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fight for Independence. The top of the cap and cone are inspired by the spindle which Gandhi used to spin cotton. One of the symbols of Indian Independence, the colour white is a reference to truth and peace, while the Mandarin garnet represents the colour orange that is a part of the Indian flag. The nib shows an image of Mahatma Gandhi, walking with a stick. Montblanc also launched a Limited Edition 241 pen, inspired by the 241 milelong Dandi march that Gandhi undertook in 1930. The collection has only 241 pieces available worldwide and each pen costs Rs.11 lakh. Swiss luxury pen manufacturer Caran d'Ache, which retails through William Penn stores across India, caught the trend movement as early as 2007, when it introduced 101 Limited Edition Ganesh fountain and roller pens as a tribute to India's most widely worshipped god. Entirely manufactured in Geneva, this collector's piece features Ganesh carved in relief and coated with gold. The cap is crowned with a 1.5 carat cabochon-cut ruby. Each piece was individually numbered and sold separately or as a set. Caran d'Ache's clever association between the pen, a universal symbol of knowledge, and Ganesh, a god believed to have the power to remove ignorance, is ingenious. Following its success with the Ganesh pen, Caran d'Ache continued its association with Indian gods with the Buddha and Shiva series. The latter was developed in collaboration with Edouard Jud, an artist and jeweller. The firm produced 108 fountain pens and 55 roller pens to honour Lord Shiva, the father of Ganesh. Most recently, Caran d'Ache launched the Balaji limited edition pen as a tribute to Lord Tirupati Balaji, the reincarnation of Vishnu. The image of the deity is carved on the external cage, and is delicately sculpted on the clip as well. Encased in solid silver is a matt black lacquer body, symbolic of Lord Balaji's dark body and is crowned with a carnelian stone. It comprises individually numbered 108 fountain pens and 108 roller pens in solid silver ­ symbolic of the 108 different names of Lord Balaji.

Time to shine

Cartier likewise launched a special watch edition Cartier Santos 100 Taj Mahal that paid homage to one of the world's most celebrated architectural wonders. This watch featured an 18 karat yellow gold case and a diamond bezel that showcases two rows of round brilliant diamonds. The elaborate dial recreated the Taj Mahal and its surrounding grounds in hand engraved gold, mother of pearl, onyx and emerald. Borgeaud, a Swiss watch brand, similarly launched its latest Septagraph Perpétuel complication watch model in Mumbai in November 2010. This was the first time that a Swiss watch brand launched a new model in India even before it was unveiled in Switzerland and other international markets. Ideally suited for the Indian market, the technology is inspired by ancient Indian philosophy, indicating the Rahu Kaal - inauspicious periods in a day. Marc Aeshbacher, CEO and president of Borgeaud, said, "It is not often that a whole new complication is created, especially one that has roots that are 3,000 years old, inspired by Indian philosophy. Not only that, but this is the first time, perhaps ever, that a watch has been

(Above) Shiva and Balaji limited edition pens by Caran d'Ache. (Below) Montblanc's Mahatma Gandhi pen.


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inspired by Indian philosophy. It is our hope, that not only will we create a lasting legacy with the introduction of the Septagraph, but that it will join the realms of both Indian icons and iconic watches." Parisian luxury brand Hermès has always had a visible Indian influence on its scarves. But last year, the brand chose the theme `Indian Fantasies' to flaunt their India connection and its international campaigns featured renowned model Lakshmi Menon, and was received well by luxury loyalists. The brand also employs a few Indian craftsmen based out of Paris. What also resulted was a host of all things Indian, such as a perfume called Garden of the Monsoon, which evokes the aroma of Kerala's freshness after rain, the use of kantha work and Indian paintings on scarves as well as bangles showing off Indian motifs. Ambaji Shinde, the famous Indian artist who worked for Harry Winston in the US, referenced the Indian cultural database like the temple structures and sculptures to create distinctly western pieces of jewellery. He achieved worldwide fame while working for the House of Harry Winston, in particular for the creation of the signature wreath necklace. Among western celebrities who glittered in Shinde's creations at Oscar ceremonies were Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Julianne Moore, Marica Gay Harden, Halle Berry, Madonna and Mira Sorvino. In 1999, he designed the necklace worn by Gwyneth Paltrow to the Oscars. The 45.52-carat blue Hope diamond, was reset by Shinde, and had earlier been worn by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Reverse order

(Above) Harry Winston diamond briolette earrings designed by Ambaji Shinde. (Below) Shinde's iconic design of the Harry Winston wreath necklace.

Indian brands are also slowly making a mark on the global luxury front, and are increasingly finding acceptance by overseas buyers. One such laudable example is Amrut Single malt whisky, which has made its presence felt in this snobbish category dominated by Scottish brands. Leading whisky expert, Jim Murray, has named this Indian malt the third best in the world in his new Whisky Bible 2010. In the hospitality sector, the brands Taj and Oberoi have earned the respect of their global counterparts. The Taj Group of Hotels has a chain of 16 hotels spanning the US, Malaysia, UK, South Africa, Middle East, Australia and Bhutan. Similarly, the Oberoi group has presence in Egypt, Mauritius, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Both these brands provide excellent service and are distinctly Indian. In the under-branded leather accessories sector, Hidesign's success is nothing short of spectacular. In a market inundated with mass-made machine goods, the brand is famous for its handcrafted women's handbags, work & travel bags, and belts. Hidesign has even managed to attract investment from the world's largest luxury group LVMH. The brand, which was launched in 1978, today has a turnover in excess of Rs.100 crore. It is also perhaps the only Indian brand that had a major contribution coming out of its overseas operations. In the times to come this brand will be the one to watch out for in the branded leather goods business. Hidesign opened its flagship store in the heart of Pondicherry in March 2010. Spread over four sprawling levels, the store reflects the values of the iconic leather brand: luxury, heritage, craftsmanship and warmth. Hidesign has a presence in countries such as Hong Kong, UK, Russia, South Africa, and the US. It also sells through department stores such as Fraser, John Lewis and Selfridges.



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Most customers are willing to purchase luxury services from Indian players as Indian service is considered to be world class. According to AT Kearney, India is not going to remain only a market for luxury products, but will also create its own luxury brands at least in the following categories: apparel, jewellery, and leather accessories. In each of these categories, there exists a strong domestic skill and know-how base, deep cultural roots, and a thriving domestic market. Notably, India is a strong export player (although not at the luxury end) in all three segments. Despite the small market for Indian luxury apparel, designers like Rohit Bal, Ritu Beri, Manish Arora and Sabyasachi have made a name for themselves in international markets. Designers need the support of corporate houses to flourish and this is true even in the global context. It is learnt that corporate houses like Reliance are in talks with leading designers and it would be interesting to see how things develop going forward. Globally, the jewellery business remains under-branded. In the list of top 100 global brands released by brand consultancy Interbrand for the year 2010, only the following find a mention: Louis Vuitton at number 16; Gucci at 44; Hermès at 69; Tiffany at 76; Cartier at number 77. Of these, Tiffany is the only brand that has a significant contribution of jewellery in its product portfolio. Half of the Cartier's sales come from watches, while Gucci and Louis Vuitton have a negligible contribution of jewellery in their respective product portfolios. International jewellery brands like Cartier, Chopard and Tiffany have been in the country for some time, although their impact on the market has been limited. One of the primary reasons is that the brand logo is neither visible nor identifiable in jewellery.

Jim Murray, has named Bangalore-based Amrut Single Malt whisky the third-best in the world in his new Whisky Bible 2010.

End note

Jewellery in India is both a luxury product and a luxury asset. Though branding in jewellery is at a nascent stage, it is interesting to note that the Kohinoor diamond is perhaps the first and most prestigious luxury brand to have emerged from India. In India, the branded jewellery movement was pioneered by Gili and today there are many players including Tanishq, Reliance, Orra and others. In the luxury space, a few brands such as Zoya, Ganjam and Giantti have made an impression. Zoya, which currently has two stores in India, is the sister brand of Tanishq belonging to Titan Industries, a pioneer in watch and jewellery retailing. Zoya was launched two years ago with a solid grounding as it rode on the fame of Titan Industries, which has a network of 450 watch and jewellery stores across the country. Indian jewellery designs are unique and there are opportunities to create an international luxury brand with an Indian connection, soul and cultural roots. But jewellers will have to be successful in India first before spreading out internationally.

Over the years, Cartier has made several timepieces featuring Indian motifs like this elephant watch from the Cirque Animalier de Cartier collection.



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