Why Luxury Brands Need A Digital-First Approach Towards India


Limei Hoang | July 01, 2021

Younger consumers are expected to drive India's e-commerce market in the coming years.Credit: Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

India is at the cusp of a technological and digital revolution, making the world’s second most populous nation a key market for luxury brands to invest in. We speak to Gaurav Kushwaha, CEO of leading Indian jewellery platform BlueStone about why brands should ensure they take a digital-first approach.

As the chief executive of one of India’s leading luxury jewellery platforms BlueStone, Gaurav Kushwaha knows a thing or two about how to persuade the Indian luxury consumer to spend money on big ticket items. What makes his job even more tricky, is that he’s able to sell jewellery online to a customer base traditionally known for favouring the physical experience.

However, that hasn’t stopped him building BlueStone into a company that is on track to reach $500 million by 2023. Indeed, over the past two years the company’s online revenues have grown by 60 and 70 percent sequentially. And with 200 more stores planned over the next two years – in addition to its existing 40 – Kushwaha believe the company is poised to capitalise on the growing number of affluent consumers in the Indian market, particularly those with a smartphone.

According to government estimates, India’s digital economy is expected to represent 20 percent of its gross domestic product in 2025. Statista also predicts that internet users are expected to climb to 974 million by 2025 and online shoppers are expected to reach 350 million at the same time, making digital one of the most important and effective methods in India for reaching consumers.

And with the e-commerce market in India expected to grow by 1200 percent by 2026, according to a report by Morgan Stanley, it comes as little surprise that Kushwaha’s advice to luxury brands wanting to establish a presence in the Indian market is to take a digital-first approach.

“It has to be a digital first approach for the luxury brands when they are coming to India,” Kushwaha told Luxury Society in an interview, ahead of the first edition of the Asia Loopers India event on July 8, where he will speak on a panel about how to decipher India’s luxury omnichannel strategies.

“They should just remain focused online for at least three to four years, which will allow brands to gain enough acceptance and enough awareness in the market for them to then go offline and tap that opportunity,” he said.

Companies need to ensure that they invest in educating consumers about their brand by working on building a brand story and communicating their brand story, as well entering the right kinds of partnerships with trusted retailers to establish themselves in the Indian market,” he added.

Bluestone CEO Gaurav KushwahaCredit: Courtesy of Bluestone

Indeed, building trust is another key point Kushwaha stresses as an important point for luxury brands to consider. “Building that trust definitely is paramount,” said Kushwaha.

“Luxury categories around 25 years ago were almost non-existent in India,” he continued. “So, the luxury space itself kind of never existed in India. However, that has changed very rapidly in last 15 to 20 years, with a lot of folks in the newer generation, who are happy to spend on big ticket items like watches and other accessories. That shifted only started happening as recently as a year ago.”

Kushwaha credits part of BlueStone’s success to its transparency with its customers, particularly with a customer base more familiar with purchasing jewellery in-store rather than online. “Because we understood the value conscious nature of the Indian consumers, we are very, very transparent about the inherent value that is actually openly put on the website,” he said.

“We focused a lot on things that give comfort to our customers,” said Kushwaha, noting how BlueStone's 30-day moneyback return policy, presentation of its categories and focus on building strong communities on social channels as well as word-of-mouth have helped the company generate significant engagement levels.

One of Bluestone's physical stores.Credit: Courtesy of Bluestone.

Looking forward, Kushwaha believes in Indian luxury market is set to significantly expand in the coming years. “I think Indian luxury market is still in its nascency… The right brands need to come in at the right time and make the best of this movement that is happening. There is definitely going to be an early mover advantage, no two ways about it. This also that this is not a market they should ignore, because when it grows, it's going to be huge.”

“Because the new generation is changing very, very fast,” he added. “Their behaviours are changing very fast. They are very keen on consumption, and are very keen on spending. It's might be within four to five years, seven or six years, by the time others has woken up, a lot of opportunity might be lost. But take baby steps. Get a foot in the door. Time is more important than money. Don't invest too much money, but invest time.”

To hear more from BlueStone CEO Gaurav Kushwaha and to hear more insights on the opportunities in the Indian market and its digital economy, please register at the link at the bottom of the page.

The event, which takes place on July 8, will focus on topics like consumer behaviours, e-commerce, content and mobile marketing in the post-COVID-19 landscape. Key speakers include Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and executive chairman of S4 Capital, the French ambassador to India, H.E. Emmanuel Lenain and Sankalp Mehrotra, senior director of Monetisation at Indian marketplace platform Flipkart.

For more insights on the opportunities in the India market and to register for the event, please click here.

Digital | India | Luxury