Is India ready for niche luxury brands?

The Mill started hosting pop-ups in other cities and was considering a permanent space in Delhi before the pandemic hit. Now that spending has focused on e-commerce, with the launch of a content-rich website.

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Niche brands outside of India face a difficult task in negotiating the complex and potentially costly balance between physical and digital retail. Local expertise is essential. The Collective, an Indian multi-brand retailer launched in 2009 by the fashion division of conglomerate Aditya Birla Group, aims to provide a strong platform offering both options to brands.

The Collective is now a major player in multi-brand luxury, selling more than 85 brands in stores in 11 cities and also via e-commerce. “Online has helped customers better discover niche brands,” says Amit Pande, brand manager at The Collective. “Our content strategy helps people engage with niche brands a lot more. It helps now that India is Instagram’s biggest market.

A key brand is Kenzo, first launched by The Collective in 2016. The Kenzo Tiger pattern is a consistent bestseller, while around 30% of Kenzo’s sales in India are now online.

Reliance Brands Limited (RBL), India’s largest player in the luxury market, has partnerships with more than 60 luxury brands, including big names Tiffany, Burberry and Giorgio Armani, among others. Last year, the company launched Aijo Luxe, its own e-commerce platform, which has 265 brands. “There is a huge untapped opportunity as the Indian consumer is hungry for globally recognized niche luxury brands,” says Sumeet Yadav, Group Vice Chairman, Reliance Brands Limited. “They fill a need because sometimes these brands are able to reflect a consumer’s personality in a way that mainstream luxury brands cannot.”

Aijo Luxe brands include Stella McCartney, Cult Gaia and Isabel Marant, with Veja Shoes, Marc Jacobs and Alice + Olivia joining the mix this year. Yadav says that while online is important for building brand recognition, some form of physical presence is imperative for sales.

The White Crow has stores in eight cities and stocks various brands, including Salvatore Ferragamo.

Photo: The White Crow

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