Made in India. That’s a phrase I associate with Shweta Shetty dancing around with half-clad Indian men. Back in its day (1998) at the height of “Indi-pop”, the label seemed something to be proud of. Today, however, it’s all but lost its sheen. Even among NRIs, the common view (and yes I’m guilty of it) seems to be: why spend $x on something when I can get it tailored back home for a fraction of the price? Stingy? Perhaps. But Russell Peters does have a point. We Indians are notoriously good at keeping our money in our wallets.
That hasn’t stopped Saloni Lodha. The Indian-born London-based designer “has great faith in the Made-in-India idea”. Indeed, it’s her unique selling point. And she couldn’t have had better timing. With the need for novelty in an already saturated market, even fashion super-brands like Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Laboutin are bringing Indian influences into their lines. It’s a sign of an industry in flux, and reflects more of a willingness to pay a premium for authentic handcrafted goods. I think part of the reason for Lodha’s success is the fact that the label isn’t quite as ubiquitous as “Made in China” (understandably then, the butt of many jokes- “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth... and the rest was Made in China”). To foreign eyes, the whole concept of Made in India still retains a sense of wonder, and mystique. There’s always been an underlying fascination with Indian culture, widely perceived as exotic and unique. With Indian crafts being touted as a luxury concept, it’s not just bohemians and backpackers falling for our stuff anymore.
Following her success overseas, Lodha has turned her sights back home. But before we bring out the fanfare and trumpets, the question is- will the same rules apply? The way I see it, tapping into the Indian market is a whole other ball-game. A different mindset and spending patterns make India a tough nut to crack. Despite outlets for luxury brands being on the rise, India accounts for a mere half percent of the global luxury market (1). When you compare that with say Japan or the US (41 and 17 per cent respectively), it puts things into perspective.
As a child, I remember going to all those Trade Fairs in Delhi, impatient women hustling and bustling about, determinedly bargaining right down to the last hundred rupees. It’s ingrained in us. While no doubt a status symbol for some (think Aunties and the perennial soap opera Mother-in-Law), for the majority, luxury brands remain low on the priority list. India for us is about good quality, well-priced items. And yes, we’re willing to fight for that price. Lodha’s up against much more here: she’s battling with perceptions firmly entrenched in us. Maybe she’d have better luck in China where even an entry-level secretary wouldn’t be seen without a Louis Vuitton bag.
Photo credit: mashable.com