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    Branded luxury wooing India

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    The band of luxury brands is escalating in India. Ranjan Kaplish, correspondent, follows their trail.

    Indian fashion connoisseurs will soon get to see an all-time favourite – Giorgio Armani. Though the brand has pulled out of the joint venture talks with Reliance, it is likely to have a tie-up with DLF to show its presence in the country, say industry sources.

    “Our retail division is in talks with various luxury brands to bring them to DLF retail destinations. We do want brands like Armani to be at our upcoming project, The Emporio, at Vasant Kunj in New Delhi, which would be an exclusive luxury retail destination,” said a DLF official.

    “However, I can’t make any comment about our supposed association with Armani, as we are in silent mode with our Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DRHP) pending with Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI),” he added.

    DLF entered the retail industry with the launch of City Centre in Gurgaon in 2000. The active projects of the company include City Centre in DLF City, Mega Mall and Grand Mall, all in Gurgaon. The projects under execution include The Promenade, The Emporio, The Courtyard, and The South Court in New Delhi; and The Galleria in Jalandhar.

    There is also a buzz that Armani is still in talks with AV Birla Group-owned Madura Garments. Commenting on this, Hemchandra Javeri, group president, Madura Garments, outwardly denied the news, saying, “There’s nothing like that as of now; we are not talking to any luxury brand.” Madura Garments was the first company that Armani considered as its India partner.

    None of the officials from Giorgio Armani were available for comments on the development.

    Armani is expected to launch its boutique brands, Giorgio Armani Black Label and Emporio Armani, in India. These top-end brands are mainly retailed through select exclusive stores across the globe, while Armani Exchange has presence across high-street multi-brand outlets. The company, in an effort to expand its retail presence, opened stores in Taipei and at the Survanabhumi Airport in Bangkok. A third flagship in Tokyo is scheduled for a September launch. In early 2006, announcing its plans for China, the group had mentioned that it plans to open 30 stores in the Chinese Mainland before 2008. With India on its priority list, Armani is targeting New Delhi and Mumbai to open flagship stores in the first phase.

    India contributes barely one per cent to the more than $80 billon world luxury market; but with almost 25 million people being added to the middle class every year, high-end luxury brands are looking to tap an unlimited growth in their purchasing power.

    It’s not just Armani who’s finding its slot in the developing luxury retail in the country. The recent past has seen the entry of high-end labels like Escada, which entered the country through an exclusive tie-up with Brandhouse Retails Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of S Kumars Worldwide Ltd. Calvin Klein watches and jewellery announced its foray with a distribution agreement with Finex Distributors Pvt. Ltd. Murjani Group has the credit for bringing Tommy Hilfiger to Indian shores; the company followed it up with an association with Calvin Klein apparel. Murjani also has exclusive relationships with major international brands in India, including Gucci and Jimmy Choo.

    It was just one Louis Vuitton store in 2003 and now we can see a stream of names like Chanel, Gucci and Ferragamo at various five-star hotels like Taj Mahal in Mumbai and Imperial in New Delhi. Sports Station India Pvt. Ltd brought Fratelli Rossetti in May last year. Brands like Nine West, Aldo, Bally, La Sensa and Mango are doing well in Major Brands’ bouquet, while Reliance Retail is another major talking with many brands to retail them through its upcoming projects.

    A total of 26 luxury brands had put in proposals to enter India after the FDI relaxation, of which 12 have already been approved. The new brands in line include Hermes, the makers of fashion accessories like bags, scarves and ties.

    With the line-up of global luxury brands labouring to find their niche on the Indian subcontinent, the list of beneficiaries would include the burgeoning cream of retail developers and the shoppers with deep pockets. On the other hand, we can also see the fake maniacs. The strategies that brands may adopt to combat this parallel market will be a subject of interest.