The Journey of Luxury & the Evolving Luxury Customer in India

If one goggles’ the word ‘Luxury’, it throws up about 197,000,000 results in some 0.33 seconds !

Various definitions crop up – for example, ‘something inessential but conducive to comfort & pleasure’ ; ‘ something expensive & hard to obtain’ ; ‘sumptuous living or surroundings’ ; ‘something pleasant, expensive & surprising’ etc etc.

So what really is Luxury ? Luxury is a product for some. For others, luxury is a status or a service, while for some; it is a prized possession or asset. It can also be a combination of all of these for a few. Luxury is also a differentiator in the social hierarchy. It’s a way of life for some.

Flashback India : End 1800 to Early 1900.

Luxury was reserved for the kings and their queens. Luxury was also meant for the British aristocrats & the ‘brown sahebs’, but not for the common Indian.

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala ordered Cartier to create a special necklace for him, which was later termed as ‘Collier de Patiala’. Weighing a total of 962 carats, it contained 2930 diamonds including the famous de beer which was the world’s 7th largest diamond at 234 carats. Maharaja Yadavinder Singh, his heir was the last kind to don this magnificent creation.

Maharaja Jagatjit Singh, an avid traveler and a gamer, was fond of carrying his entire royal gear even while travelling. He was a loyalist customer of Louis Vuitton who crafted special wardrobe like trunks for his travels. The Vuitton Company took special pride in filling his orders. It is believed that he owned over 60 large trunks that could hold his clothes, paraphernalia, swords, suits, turbans, shoes etc besides just his elaborate traditional dresses.

Automobiles and cars were another fascination for our maharaja’s. It is believed that the Maharaja of Mysore had no less than 24 Bentleys and Rolls Royce.

Fast Forward : The pre-independence and post-independence era (1940 ~ 1980).

The swadeshi movement fuelled by a desire to be self ruled and self governed led to a major upswing of the anti British sentiment and everything foreign was taboo. Khadi became a norm of the day and textiles made in the mills of the British empire were being discarded and burnt in the streets. Post independence, with demolition of the zamindari , caste & class systems, reforms were a way of the society. The British, having siphoned off most of India’s treasures & upper class income, a change in the pattern of consumption of the so called elite was inevitable. No longer could the new upper class maintain palaces and harems or wear silks and muslins !

Fast forward : The liberalisation era & beyond (1990 onwards):

With over 40+ years of self rule governed by a pro-Russian closed atmosphere, license raj and barriers to foreign trade kind of philosophy, the government decided to liberalise the economy. The youth of India was frustrated and was wondering why he should not have the same lifestyle as his counterpart in rest of the world.

Train travels were becoming faster – thanks to introduction of Rajdhani Express in early 70’s.

The humble ambassador was getting replaced by the fast & swift, Maruti 800 in early 80’s.

By early 1980s, the first generation of Indian fashion designers started cropping up, including Satya Paul. However, it was Rohit Khosla (1958–1994), who became a pioneer in fashion industry, when he founded Ensemble in 1987, with Tarun Tahiliani, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and others. In its early years, the 1980s, Indian designer largely focussed on haute couture, however in the next decade saw a growth in the domestic retail industry, as well as an influx outsourced garment business from the western countries.

Luxury Today :

Today luxury has seeped into every aspect of our lifestyles. Automobiles ; fashion ; travel ; tourism ; health and wellness ; hospitality & fine dining ; aviation ; medical tourism ; watches & jewellery ; home & interiors ; technology & hybrid – all are affected by the so called luxury phenomenon.

The changing Indian mind sets with a fast changing global mindset of it’s majorly youth population is calling the shots. The great Indian middle class aptly termed as ‘The Closet Customer’ is not shy of experimentation and wishes to engage with luxury even if for a brief duration. He seeks value for money and does not accept the product or brand just for its name or face value. He wants to buy into the life style of the rich and famous even for a short experience.

Luxury brands are responding and fuelling further growth, desire & craving for such latent dreams. Luxury brands are scaling down & premium brands are scaling up to meet this new customer. Adaptation to Indian taste trends and likes is a norm. Hermes creates sari’s ; Canali offers bandhgala’s ; McDonald introduces McAloo Tikki burgers – all are attempts to remain in India for a long time to come.

Eventually, luxury is a long term business and India is a long term market. Indians are realising their own potential and creating their own unique identity and demand. Indian heritage is being rediscovered by the new youth and is being restored to its past glory. Luxury has not arrived with a short term stint – it is a long term market and is here to stay and re-live its glory again – glory that existed in the Indian heritage is being fuelled by a dynamic India , thriving , pulsating , breathtaking – as luxury entwines its way back into an Incredible India .


The article was written by Abhay Gupta, Founder & CEO of Luxury Connect LLP and was instrumental in bringing leading international luxury brands to india. For more details about the company you could visit the website |