Italian jewellery brand Bulgari, which was acquired by French luxury group Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) in 2011, has re-entered the Indian market, unveiling a store at Delhi’s DLF Emporio mall on Thursday.
Bulgari had first entered India in 2004, but exited in 2011 due to problems with its then local partner and a “sluggish market”, as CEO Jean-Christophe Babin told FE.
Babin, who took over as chief executive last year after a successful stint at Tag Heuer, a watch brand under the LVMH stable, says he sees strong potential in the Indian market, especially for jewellery. Known for its coloured gemstones, Bulgari jewellery is quite compatible with Indian tastes. All product categories are available at the Delhi store, including jewellery, watches, accessories and fragrances.
The brand has now tied up with Luxco India Retail to enter the country, and Babin say he sees no problems with this partnership, having worked with the people for over 20 years. “It’s not easy to work with franchisees, as we were doing in the past couple of years. We could only sell watches and fragrances through them, as they did not have the cash reserves for jewellery,” he said.
A Bulgari Serpenti necklace of gold and diamonds could cost around Rs 4 crore.
However, Babin rues that India has very few locations that can house premium luxury brands. “People who buy Bulgari will not like to shop in a crowded, noisy mall. Right now India has maybe two-three malls that house only luxury brands, in Bangalore and Mumbai, besides Delhi.
Moreover, it’s difficult to find a vacant slot in these malls,” he told FE.
He sees a potential of about 10 Bulgari stores in India in the future. Interestingly, China, which is its foremost market, has 25 boutiques, Japan has over 21 and the US also has about 25 stores. He also sees no immediate possibility for a Bulgari hotel to open here. “A Bulgari hotel is ‘top of the top’. We would require an area of at least 20,000 sq m for a Bulgari hotel that has a maximum of a hundred rooms. It’s a special concept, and if it were to materialise in India, it could only be in Delhi or Mumbai,” he said.
New Bulgari hotels are slated to come up in Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai in the coming years.
As for his role in the company, Babin sees himself “just filling the gaps”, despite turning around Tag Heuer during his stint there.
Babin terms this spree of opening new stores worldwide (Toronto last week and Delhi on Thursday) also as part of filling the gaps.
By Ivinder Gill