Indian Luxury Brands Go Beyond Borders


Sanjana Chauhan | November 27, 2012

Sanjana Chauhan, founder of LuxuryNext, believes traditional craftsmanship & contemporary aesthetics are pushing Indian luxury brands into the international spotlight

Janavi cashmere, stocked in Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue & Brown’s

Sanjana Chauhan, founder of LuxuryNext, believes traditional craftsmanship & contemporary aesthetics are pushing Indian luxury brands into the international spotlight

We all talk about international luxury brands entering the Indian market and their strategies for the country. Interestingly, many Indian luxury brands have, in the past few years, slowly and steadily captured international markets with their superior product offering, innovation and creative marketing strategies.

Through the years, they have developed into strong brand names that are internationally recognised, for example Forest Essentials and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. In 2008, Estée Lauder purchased a minority stake in Forest Essentials, reinforcing the coming of age of Indian luxury.

In the hospitality sector, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces has managed to move beyond the borders of the country the US, UK and South Africa, with over a century of distinctly Indian heritage.

“ It was a drive to create an Indian brand that could match European standards of quality and design ”

One might think that entering an international market with a new luxury brand is challenging. However, new markets provide an opportunity for brand transformation and supremacy. Pashma was created as a luxury brand that presented the finest textile art of India to a global market.

It created an identity that was Indian yet resonated a contemporary global lifestyle, transcending the exotic souvenir barrier that most Indian products are associated with. Above all, it was a drive to create an Indian brand that could match European standards of quality and design.

The brand was launched in 1999 at a tradeshow in Milan and, today, is available in 900 multi-brand stores worldwide, such as Bloomingdale’s, Lane Crawford, Le Bon Marché, Henri Bendel and La Rinascente. It also has 10 standalone stores in Singapore, San Francisco, New Delhi, Mumbai, Macau and Hong Kong.

Sanobar Box by Kama Ayurveda

Similarly, Janavi was launched to create a global image of the ‘Made in India’ tag, with consistent quality and innovation as the mantra. The brand has a strong word-of-mouth marketing strategy and is proud of its passionate customers.

But what makes a brand an international success? Is it the product, the heritage, the craftsmanship or a great marketing strategy? It’s a mix of multiple factors, which begins with identifying a niche segment and positioning a high-quality product that can be differentiated from the rest by its attributes and marketing strategy.

Skincare brand Kama Ayurveda started with a range of high quality ayurvedic products distributed to niche spas internationally, before opening a store in New Delhi’s Khan Market. The brand’s launch strategy of selective availability in high-end spas raised its image to a luxury platform.

Their European partner PureNatural conducts regular trainings and workshops for brand advisors explaining to them the benefits of the products and its differentiation from the rest in the skincare category.

“ Luxury brands emphasise symbolic value, which can either be functional or perceived ”

In 1998, with a desire to create exclusive timeless products, Jyotika Jalani married traditional Indian skills with modern sophistication to launch Janavi. She used nothing but the finest cashmere from the Himalayas and the best artisans to create a brand that could stand out in the international market. Today, Janavi has managed to turn cashmere from a mere shawl to an intrinsic part of the wardrobe.

Luxury brands emphasise symbolic value, which can either be functional or perceived. All luxury brands are usually created with a surrounding mythology. One has to create associations that are unique, memorable and desirable. After all, branding is emotional.

Kama Ayurveda used ancient ayurvedic principles and the purity of its products to build a symbolic value. Jewellery brand Ganjam, which was setup in 1889 as a jeweller to royal families in India, entered the international market in 2002.

Pashma store at Raffles Hotel Singapore

Their marketing strategy is based on this heritage story, as most other luxury brands, in addition to their superior quality and innovative designs. Ganjam also promotes the brand through the annual properties that it sponsors — such as the Ganjam Jaipur Polo trophy at the Guards Club, London — which also serve as a tool for customer relationship management.

Brands create a perception of exclusivity through limited geographic availability, unique craftsmanship, creative expression and product features limited to a specific region. The core strengths of international luxury brands lie in their handcrafting excellence, heritage and history.

Though Ganjam has a heritage and history, newer brands like Pashma and Janavi have used the unique craftsmanship of fine wool weaving — a centuries old tradition of India.

“ Brands like Pashma and Janavi have used centuries old Indian craftsmanship of fine wool weaving ”

Kama Ayurveda’s competitive advantage in international markets is being pure, natural and true to ayurveda. In addition, its packaging is international and contemporary and mentions all the ingredients of the product. The brand also has certifications that allows it to sell in European markets, which is a test of not just product quality but also all the ingredients that are used.

There is need for luxury brands to project consistency and continuity at every touch point. Pashma opened its third freestanding store in Singapore — after Changi Airport and Marina Bay Sands hotel — at the shopping arcade of the iconic Raffles Hotel. The brand also has a standalone store at The Venetian Macao Resort Hotel.

Through Jalani’s perseverance and creativity, Janavi has managed to enter some of the largest temples of luxury brands, namely Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Brown’s. “From the very beginning, our aim was to take the ‘Made in India’ tag global and let it speak of consistent quality and innovation,” she says.

Embroidery detail, Janavi cashmere

Gurus claim that luxury brand marketing is the purest form of marketing as this is an industry where everything is driven by customer perception. It is a huge challenge for luxury brands to create an impact in a new market where customer perceptions are difficult to mould for a new brand.

Sometimes, like in the case of Kama Ayurveda, it is a matter of chance that a brand’s superior product is noticed by luxury promoters. In 2003, a team from Parfumerie Generale, Paris noticed the brand in India and started importing the range for their stores in France. The brand gradually grew, tying up with distributors around the world, and today is available in over 50 countries.

To further investigate luxury brands from BRICs countries on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- 11 Fine Jewellery Designers, China & Taiwan
- The Beginning of Homemade Luxury in China?
- Luxury: ‘Made by…’ or ‘Made in…’?

Hospitality | India