Venture capitalists, e-commerce giants, and prominent D2C brand owners gathered to explore factors that would enable Indian entrepreneurs to build luxury brands for a global consumer audience, a market currently valued at 275 billion USD. The closed-door discussion took place at Upswing 2022– a future forecasting event created by strategic brand consultancy The Better Collective focusing on the theme “Is India sitting on a multimillion-dollar homegrown luxury opportunity?” 

Senior leaders from the industry came forward to discuss the variables that can help both promote and obstruct the transformation of India from a supplier to a creator of globally relevant luxury brands. India has been a long-time supply partner to luxury giants like LVMH, Estee Lauder, Kering, and Richmont among others, exporting millions of dollars’ worth of essential oils, diamonds, textiles, and coffee which power brands like Tiffanys, Omega, and Chanel. While the domestic luxury market is focused on importing global brands for Indian consumers, made-in-India luxury brands are still only a handful.

“Brands like Tanishq, Sabyasachi, and Forest Essentials are showing us the possibility for building truly world-class brands that leverage India’s natural resources, craftsmanship heritage, and philosophy with finesse. In fact, Estee Lauder has recently created a brand incubator for Indian beauty brands because they see global potential. So, the question is why a handful of such brands are there only and how Indian entrepreneurs can move further in this direction-be it through fundraising, brand building or retail partnerships.” said Radhika Butala, Founder, The Better Collective.

The panel discussion featured a thought-provoking conversation with Nikhil Vora, Founder of Sixth Sense Ventures who has invested in companies like Paytm, Purplle, Saffron Stays, Giva, and Vahdam Teas among many others, Almona Bhatia, Chief Strategy Officer, Tata Cliq Luxury, and Shubhika Jain, founder of D2C skincare brand Ras Luxury Oils.

“Most of the legacy business houses have been brought up on the notion of end consumers who are mass or mass premium. Most of the next generation of entrepreneurs have a very short window of opportunity, they are not there for the next big thing in the next 50 years, at most they are looking at a window of 10 years. So you can’t have a luxury brand that requires disproportionate capital and disproportionate resources of the founder when they are not available. Go with the underlying assumption that Indian entrepreneurs don’t have the longevity needed to create a luxury brand, said Nikhil Vora, Founder, Sixth Sense Venture.

Adding to this Almona Bhatia, CSO, Tata Cliq Luxury said, “You need the right mix of beautiful storytelling, right testing of products. And it needs to be done over time. Today, collaborations and pop-ups are a great way to start creating that buzz and test the market to understand the product life cycle better and faster. Along with that, a crucial aspect of luxury marketing is flawlessness and aesthetics, and great intuitive customer service. Indian luxe brands are absolutely beautiful. They are hand-picked, labour of love. But we need better storytelling, and to create more windows for our brands to narrate stories, backed with strong customer service, back-end proficiency of logistics, and customer sensitivity.”

Shubhika Jain, Founder of Ras Luxury Oils said “People are buying luxury online, but they are buying it from places people already trust, 20% of customers globally are buying luxury online and that’s growing so that gives us hope. And to be able to move from online to offline the passion for the product has to be greater than the passion for profit. We are actually foraying into global markets as we speak and it’s encouraging to see the enthusiasm for our products. “

While vision, capital, and aesthetic storytelling remain an ongoing challenge, the panel was in consensus that the world is eager for the India story. The perception that true luxury can only emerge from Italy or France is slowly changing as India leverages its equally rich cultural history and resources with greater brand-building finesse.