Bulgari set for India return
wealthy Indians, said people familiar with the brand’s plans who declined to be named.
The brand’s launch comes after it received approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in July to set up single-brand retail stores through a joint venture with New Delhi-based Luxco India Retail Pvt. Ltd.
Bulgari, known for its jewellery designs, watches, perfumes and accessories, promised an initial investment of about Rs.2.67 crore to roll out operations in India, the second largest consumer of gold in the world.
To be sure, Bulgari sought the government’s permission to open boutiques in 2013. “Things moved a bit slowly, but now they are ready to launch their store,” a person familiar with the launch said on condition of anonymity.
In 2011, LVMH, the world’s largest luxury group headed by French billionaire Bernard Arnault, bought the Italian jeweller famous for dressing iconic Hollywood film stars in a $5.2 billion (around Rs.31,930 crore today) deal.
The firm’s entry will further strengthen LVMH’s position in India, adding to its stable of luxury labels such as Louis Vuitton, famous for its bags, and Christian Dior watches.
Luxury shopping may be at a nascent stage here, but Indian consumers are willing to trade up to foreign brands. Luxury experts say there are several domestic brands in the high-end jewellery segment and it is a well-serviced market.
“Bulgari will be part of a highly competitive and discerning jewellery market,” said Saba Ali, senior associate at Altagamma Foundation, a conglomerate of several high-end Italian firms with brands that include Fendi and Versace.
Bulgari first made an entry into India in 2004 with a silent partner through stores in Delhi and Mumbai. It exited the country in 2011 only to seek the government’s permission to open stand-alone stores.
The Indian luxury market stands at $14 billion, according to Boston Consulting Group. It is split across conventional luxury at 30%, services at 40% and devices (cars, yachts and gadgets) at 30%. It is largely similar in composition to the global $1.7 trillion market, the consultancy said in a recent report.
At the recently concluded Mint Luxury Conference in Mumbai, representatives of large luxury houses said regulatory and infrastructure constraints are likely to restrict growth of luxury goods and services in the country.
“There are 17 Italian luxury brands in India now and that number has remained unchanged since 2005,” Armando Branchini, vice-chairman of Altagamma Foundation, said at the conference.
Watch and jewellery retailers have benefited from growing aspirations and higher disposable incomes of Indian consumers. The Indian shopper’s propensity to spend on watches has over the past 12 months pushed brands such as the Swatch Group to seek government’s permission to open single-brand stores.
Originating in Rome, Bulgari was founded as a jewellery shop in 1884 by Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari. It is popular for selling bold jewellery designs that use precious stones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires.