Marketing

Living in the lap of luxury

Manisha Jha | Updated on April 04, 2013

Are you sitting easy in cool, imported comfort? In the pictures is a range of furniture from Casa Decor.

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Firms selling accessories for lavish homes are having a good run.

Those palatial homes with their fancy facades and fantastic architecture, have you ever stopped to wonder what they really look like inside? What kind of sofas would the uber rich plonk themselves on? Would the floors be Italian marble and shower enclosures German? Would their toilets be hi-tech, checking blood pressure and playing music?

Enter the fascinating world of luxury home interior accessories where the world is your oyster, quite literally. Marble flooring imported from Italy, Spain and Turkey, double-glazed glass panels from Thailand and Dubai, bathroom fittings from Germany, mattresses from Sweden, designer furniture, concepts such as ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ kitchens and walk-in-wardrobes inspired by the West are just some of the newfangled features strewn around the abodes of most classic upwardly mobile and well-heeled high networth individuals’ (HNIs) luxury abodes today.

Companies in the luxury home interiors and accessories business from across the world are flocking to India to set up stores selling all of these and more. While some are establishing manufacturing units in the country, others are happy to access these appurtenances from their home countries.

A discerning clientele has even got most of these firms opting for co-branding tie-ups with the major luxury real estate developers here to become their preferred partner/supplier.

Branded interior decoration is another way of being exclusive and distinctive.

A case in point is the Lodha group’s World Towers in Mumbai, which is being designed by the Armani Casa Interior Design Studio, with each residential unit featuring Armani Roca bathrooms and Armani kitchens.

“Providing a good-looking façade and external amenities such as gym, pool and spa are a given now in luxury housing. So to differentiate themselves, developers are increasingly moving focus from external facilities to the finer details inside the house, such as interior decoration, kitchen and bathroom fittings, home appliances, furnishings, furniture and innovative space design concepts,” says Reema Kundalini, Head of Marketing, Oberoi Realty. The company has tie-ups with a horde of European brands for sourcing its construction and design materials.

Thanks to this, hitherto unexplored concepts and products are being introduced to create a new market, a phenomenon Kundalini dubs as ‘Apple-ising’.

“We are trying to create a demand for something new and innovative which the customer does not need, but still wants, just like Apple products,” she adds on a lighter note. “This is how previously unheard of concepts such as wet and dry kitchen, powder room, island kitchen, are now becoming popular,” she says.

Real estate companies are using collaborative working styles that integrate brands and design with interiors and architecture early in the process, to clearly define the core values and essence of every project.

Given the demand for ‘imported’ luxury accessories, foreign companies such as Germany-based Siemens Home Appliances are even planning to start manufacturing in India. The company now provides imported kitchen solutions to luxury home developers such as DLF, Prestige, Lodha and Hiranandani for homes starting from Rs 30,000 per sq. ft.

Ajaz Vakil, GM – Sales (Built-in Appliances), Siemens Home Appliances, says: “The clients are getting much more demanding lately, in terms of more emphasis on interior design elements such as high-end sofas, textured furnishings and detailing. In kitchens, the demand for an island kitchen concept is catching on, where the kitchen and living space merge into one with the kitchen becoming a place for the owners to socialise and entertain guests. Simple modular kitchens are passé now, and kitchens with pre-fitted appliances are becoming popular.”

Given the growth potential of this market, Vakil says the company has decided to expand to tier II cities, such as Surat, and is to also set up a facility in Chennai.

It is not just kitchens that are undergoing a makeover. Bathroom fittings in luxury homes too have graduated into providing a spa-like bathing experience called ‘Vichy Shower’ at home, which comes replete with multiple jet nozzles which bathe you while you lie down and relax!

“Even a simple teeth-brushing experience in the morning can be transformed by installing a German-made Ad Notam LCD mirror television with an integrated television embedded inside the mirror allowing one to view news,” says architect Bobby Mukherjee. (You can use it while you’re in the bath tub too.) It uses mirror image technology, he explains.

These bells and whistles can set you back by anything between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 and above per sq. ft., he adds.

Nevertheless, statistics suggest the opportunity is huge. According to data compiled by Sweden-based mattress company Hastens, the value of luxury goods sold in India was $2.18 billion in 2011. There was a simple reason – the number of HNIs grew by 35 per cent between 2008 and 2012, to about 170,000 and this number is set to increase to 450,000 by 2015.

Mumbai and Gurgaon, India’s luxury housing hot spots, have seen much activity in this regard. Firms selling all manner of luxury, be it tableware, furniture, curtains, lighting, loos, and what have you, have mushroomed. Some of these new entrants include Hastens, French furniture and home accessory store My Tailor Home, which houses 12 international brands from Italy, France and Germany, and Indo-Italian company Casa Decor, a Tata-Poltrona Frau joint venture.

Apart from providing traditional, retail showroom experiences for individuals, these firms also take up B2B home decoration projects customised to professionals such as architects and contractors. The shop-in-shop model, franchisee model, cluster model – with small shops around a bigger standalone shop – and tie-ups with local suppliers and vendors are other formats that these companies are rolling out currently, though the overarching supply chain management strategy remains that of direct import of their finished goods from their home countries.

“We entered the Indian market in 2009 with one store, and now we have three in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. We also plan to scale our 15-20 per cent sales growth to 30 per cent in the next three to six months by opening new stores in metros as well as tier II and tier III cities. Out strategy is to be present closer to the local luxury home developers in the city and tap that demand,” said Akshay Shetty, Director, Hastens.

Hastens, which is preferred partner for bedroom furniture and mattresses for a Lodha project, has priced its beds in the range of Rs 3-20 lakh. Not for the faint-hearted! The mattresses are imported directly from Sweden and use natural materials such as cotton, wool, horsehair, flax, Swedish pine wood and a patented industrial spring system which conforms to the shape of the back while lying down, or so the company claims.

Hastens is betting big on India emerging as an important market in the next five years, after the US and Europe. The company’s average cost per store ranges between Rs 2.7 crore to Rs 4.3 crore.

Casa Decor’s CEO and Managing Director Nicola Obert says: “Our target clientele are households with an annual revenue of Rs 2 crore.” Casa Décor has two stores in Delhi and Mumbai, and is eyeing big cities such as Kolkata, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad through a franchisee store model. It has shops-in-shops in Coimbatore and Chennai. Its draw is the high-end leather quality in its designer furniture, which includes sofa sets priced between Rs 70,000 and Rs 9 lakh, says Obert. He adds, “We plan to inject another Rs 6-8 crore in our business this year, taking our total investment in four years to Rs 30 crore from Rs 22 crore currently.”

From concept to completion, these companies handle it all. Rather than become less important given the tightening economic situation, the proliferation of these stores across the country is testament to the fact that branding never goes out of style!

Published on April 04, 2013

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