In conjunction with every known barrier, our traditional middle-class morality is responsible for restricting the potential of our luxury market. When eliminated, the true potential of this sector is likely to be realised with benefits accruing to the economy and customer, apart from enhancing India’s stature as a premium consumption market. As a critical starting point, we must re-position Luxury not as sinful indulgence but instead as a deserving destination, the outcome of education and hard work.
The first myth to be busted is that the luxury brand owner is a generationally wealthy person making extraordinary profits with limited effort, a business of entitlement and not of hard-nosed execution. Truthfully today, most brands in this area are professionally owned and managed with corporate and manufacturing hierarchies that are as diverse as mass industries. It is more likely that the owner of a pan masala or a packaged food brand is way wealthier than the maker of gourmet fashion, due to the sheer scale of base-level consumer products. The luxury sector generates employment for the economically underprivileged folks just like any other peer and to top it all, is a potent source for resurrecting artisanal crafts. When buying luxury, we are contributing to a socio-economic funnel that is truly mainstream and productive, as opposed to simply adding rupees to the formidable wealth of a new-age Aristotle Onassis.
Then comes the sticky issue of Indian values and how the consistent consumption of stylish excess, beyond the necessity, is damaging for our ethical fabric. Quite to the contrary, a sensible stream of luxury consumption is the perfect top-up to the high-integrity foundation of our upbringing and culture. It must thus be positioned as an outcome of sincere labour, at school and the workplace, yet another excellent reason for focussing on an exceptional career and staying true to the course. Driving a top-end luxury car, flying first-class or indulging in a gourmet handbag is the aspirational face of achievement, to be enjoyed in parallel with the fulfilment of duties and not in a conservative linear sequence. I believe strongly consuming luxury is a powerful stress-buster, a delightful way to balance rigour with fulfilment, for the enormous satisfaction it brings to self and family.
Equally importantly, its demonstration can be powerful motivation for others in an earlier rung of the journey to pursue greater glories and fulfil their truest potential, as professionals and consumers. The sheer presence of a desirable but demanding destination persuading us to not get stuck on an optimal plane, a deficiency in our orthodox value base where simple living becomes an alibi for under-achievement. For children this must be presented as a powerful inducement for achievement, a strategy of regulated exposure as opposed to deliberate denial, so that they realise that this where hard work can take them. As opposed to entitlement, which is where our socio-cultural foundation kicks in to ensure none of what they experience can be taken for granted. It is thus valuable to introduce the next generation to luxury experiences as much as possible, a sniff of the peak a powerful booster for excelling in their muse, increasingly chosen and not imposed.
All of the above is certainly not a call for living beyond the means, as the practice of responsible savings must be ruthlessly retained, but instead about investing in indulgent experiences powered by ever-increasing disposable incomes. Which results in unleashing happiness and joy in our busy lives, in the best interests of self and family. As individuals and families, we feel delighted when jointly enjoying a premium holiday, gourmet meal or a top-end car ride; a powerful source of unification in relationships as couples and with children. The sheer delight of shared consumption softening unavoidable problems and becoming a defensible reason for putting in extraordinary efforts needed to sustain modern relationships.
I would strongly recommend that the nodal body for luxury marketing in India comes out with a public service campaign on the positive power of such consumption, busting the popular myths as discussed above. It must highlight its role as a genuine societal amplifier, a source of motivation, happiness and integration, for every category of individual. Ambassadors for this programme must be the ‘Un-entitled Achiever’ category, including Virat Kohli, Ranveer Singh, start-up and corporate successes; clearly connecting the cyclical relationship between hard work and premium enjoyment as well as economic growth. Luxury marketers must take cues from this larger endeavour to provide easier and graded access to their wares, so that many more can assuredly be part of this aspirational club, thankfully way more inclusive than exclusive in these ambitious times. In India we are taught by others how to strive but it is time we must teach ourselves how to enjoy.
(Shivaji Dasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: email@example.com)
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