THE IN­DIAN LUX­URY LANDSCAPE IS EX­PE­RI­ENC­ING STRONG EVO­LU­TION­ARY UN­DER­CUR­RENTS

Images Retail - - CONTENTS - – By Shubhra Saini

La Martina bets big on dig­i­tal, sports mar­ket­ing strate­gies to drive con­sumer en­gage­ment.

Ar­gentina-based lux­ury brand La Martina – a polo life­style com­pany known for its ap­parel, tech­ni­cal equip­ment and ac­ces­sories – started its In­dia oper­a­tions in 2014 with the launch of its maiden store in the cap­i­tal’s most cov­eted lux­ury mall, DLF Em­po­rio. La Martina in In­dia has diver­si­fied the brand to add gen­eral fash­ion prod­ucts for ladies, men and kids. Eliana Koulas, Di­rec­tor of Luxus Re­tail, the In­dian fran­chisee for La Mau­rtina, finds colos­sal po­ten­tial for the brand in the coun­try. Talking to IMAGES Re­tail, Koulas points out that La Martina falls in af­ford­able lux­ury seg­ment and says that the brand doesn’t have any di­rect com­peti­tors in In­dia.

Tell us about the history of the com­pany and pro­file.

La Martina is a deeply au­then­tic brand. Its style was born on the Polo fields. From the be­gin­ning, the vi­sion was to cre­ate an Ar­gen­tine brand that could ex­pand in­ter­na­tion­ally closely linked to Polo and share sport­ing val­ues such as sac­ri­fice, el­e­gance, lux­ury and skills which con­sti­tute the DNA of La Martina. To achieve this pur­pose, La Martina spread its pas­sion around the world, fos­ter­ing the de­vel­op­ment of Polo in every coun­try around the world mak­ing the brand the of­fi­cial sup­plier of the most pres­ti­gious Polo events in­clud­ing com­pe­ti­tions in Saint Tropez, Miami and Sylt and in some of the most tra­di­tional and renowned univer­si­ties of the world – Har­vard, Yale, Ox­ford and Cam­bridge, with the ad­di­tion of a num­ber of other as­so­ci­a­tions and in­sti­tu­tions.

How big is the mar­ket for the prod­ucts of La Martina in In­dia and what is the growth rate?

While the In­dian psy­che is driven to­wards value lux­ury and dis­count­ing, there is a fine line be­tween what the In­dia con­sumer as­pires for and the price he is will­ing to pay for this as­pi­ra­tion. In­di­ans are in­stinc­tively value-laden and would think twice be­fore splurg­ing on lux­ury items. We have ob­served that they don’t nec­es­sar­ily buy into ran­dom pur­chases where there’s no re­peat pur­chase be­hav­ior hap­pen­ing,

although, this is start­ing to change as more and more brands be­come avail­able in the mar­ket. For­tu­nately for us, we are in the af­ford­able lux­ury seg­ment and don’t have any di­rect com­peti­tors in In­dia, which means colos­sal po­ten­tial for our brand. Polo Ralph Lau­ren and Eti­queta Ne­gra ride on the same traditions.

Our an­nual growth has been con­tin­u­ously grow­ing at a pace of 20-25 per­cent per an­num.

What is your reach in terms of the to­tal num­ber of out­lets and cities? How many foot­falls do you get each month? How many of your stores are fran­chise stores?

We have a to­tal of two out­lets in In­dia – one in Delhi and one in Hyderabad. Delhi is the main flag­ship an­chor. Both th­ese stores are cur­rently fran­chised. We get ap­prox­i­mately 400 foot­falls in a month.

What are the fac­tors pro­pel­ling the in­dus­try’s growth?

This is a good ques­tion since many brands have had a lot of stops and starts in be­tween. Oth­ers have en­tered and ex­ited the coun­try very quickly for var­i­ous rea­sons. Whether it was a pre­ma­ture brand en­try, or poorly han­dled lo­cal op­er­a­tion there have been many such ex­am­ples since the 2007 lux­ury boom. But in an over­all larger con­text, lux­ury has been grow­ing con­tin­u­ously for the past sev­eral years. What is pow­er­ing this growth is a mas­sive in­crease in con­sump­tion, ur­ban­iza­tion and eco­nomic lever­age. While high net-worth in­di­vid­u­als will grow, a lot of wealth will get cre­ated in In­dia too.

To win in In­dia you need to be rel­e­vant to the peo­ple of the coun­try. Gen­er­ally, brands see some sort of op­por­tu­nity, be it a con­sumer op­por­tu­nity or other­wise, but they are not rel­e­vant to what peo­ple re­ally need. Rel­e­vance will ul­ti­mately pave suc­cess for the brand.

The pres­ence of in­ter­na­tional brands has fur­ther in­creased due to the level of com­pe­ti­tion for big do­mes­tic brands, which has been ev­i­dent over the last four to five years. Do­mes­tic play­ers are us­ing big bud­get ad­ver­tis­ing (some­thing most lux­ury brands do not have much lever­age in In­dia due to bud­get re­straints), us­ing ATL, and BTL mar­ket­ing. Bol­ly­wood and sports celebri­ties are also play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant role in the over­all do­mes­tic brand strat­egy, which has changed the power of branding. Stars are lend­ing their names to pro­mote lo­cal brand mes­sages, which have a widespread ef­fect es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia plat­forms like Face­book, Twit­ter or In­sta­gram.

What are some of the trends you have been wit­ness­ing in your in­dus­try in In­dia over the past few years?

In­dia has been in­spir­ing the lux­ury and fash­ion in­dus­try for years and has been a source of in­spi­ra­tion for the rest of the world for decades. Par­al­lelly, it is cur­rently pass­ing through a win­dow of de­mo­graphic tran­si­tion, which is rare. 72 per­cent of our pop­u­la­tion is be­low the age of 32 and rarely has this hap­pened in the history of the world when you have a very young pop­u­la­tion, when you pass through this win­dow of de­mo­graphic tran­si­tion that the lux­ury mar­ket does not grow. In the case of In­dia, the pop­u­la­tion in In­dia is get­ting younger and will keep get­ting young till 2040, and there­fore the scope of the lux­ury mar­ket will keep go­ing up.

This is a huge growth op­por­tu­nity for new play­ers en­ter­ing the mar­ket where they have the chance for an early brand seed­ing. It re­quires mam­moth pa­tience and fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment in or­der to thrive and sur­vive in the lux­ury busi­ness with a min­i­mum of three to five years to start mak­ing prof­its. I think we need to look at this from a long-term per­spec­tive of a two-decade mar­ket.

We do ex­pect growth tra­jec­tory in some new mall de­vel­op­ments over the next two years across Delhi and Mum­bai to help ease the real estate prob­lem. This is presently a ma­jor con­cern, since there are not enough real estate play­ers to of­fer the right des­ti­na­tion.

What is your mar­ket po­si­tion­ing and cus­tomer pro­file?

The In­dian lux­ury landscape is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing strong evo­lu­tion­ary un­der­cur­rents that are re­defin­ing the con­sumer pro­file and how lux­ury play­ers op­er­ate in this do­main. La Martina is truly a global name known as Polo’s lux­ury tech­ni­cal and life­style brand with a port­fo­lio of

La Martina’s style was born on the Polo fields. From the be­gin­ning, the vi­sion was to cre­ate an Ar­gen­tine brand that could ex­pand in­ter­na­tion­ally closely linked to Polo and share sport­ing val­ues such as sac­ri­fice, el­e­gance, lux­ury and skills which con­sti­tute the DNA of La Martina.

stun­ning and highly de­sir­able col­lec­tions thanks to the brand’s abil­ity to com­bine style with per­for­mance in­fus­ing its key fo­cus on Bri­tish tai­lor­ing. Our main global target au­di­ence is peo­ple who have a pas­sion for beau­ti­ful things, which en­hance their way of liv­ing. Th­ese pa­trons are brand con­scious, and in some cases, have strong brand loy­al­ties. In ab­so­lute terms, they are un­afraid to spend and are highly in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic be it on high qual­ity homes, food, cloth­ing, or lux­u­ries. They are also find­ing new ways to splurge, such as on buy­ing art and ar­ti­facts or travel ex­pe­ri­ences.

Our global au­di­ence is pre­dom­i­nantly men as we are a polo in­spired brand (since more men are drawn to the sport than women). How­ever, this ra­tio is rapidly chang­ing and we see more and more women in­volved in the sport. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, we have also wit­nessed the pur­chas­ing power of women ris­ing in In­dia, where they seek col­lab­o­ra­tive opin­ions and col­lec­tive in­flu­encers such as so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment and other dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences to fi­nal­ize their pur­chase de­ci­sions. We will see more and more mo­bile and In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion on the in­crease this year, which will be the driv­ing force of this growth change.

Please pro­vide de­tails about the prod­uct range and ser­vices avail­able at your stores.

We place heavy em­pha­sis on qual­ity and ded­i­ca­tion in of­fer­ing the very best of prod­ucts within the sport of Polo, which rep­re­sents a whole way of liv­ing, cul­ture and life­style. Our prod­uct pool of­fer­ing com­prises of menswear, women’s wear, shoes, leather goods and small ac­ces­sories such as scarves, sun­glasses and fra­grances. We also have cus­tom-made / made-to­order Polo rid­ing boots and sad­dles – all made in Ar­gentina. A cru­cial part of our busi­ness of­fer­ing in In­dia is ex­tend­ing pri­vate ap­point­ments at our cus­tomer’s res­i­dence or of­fice. There is a huge chunk of the target au­di­ence who do not have the time or reach to visit the store and hav­ing the lux­ury of a well-cu­rated prod­uct se­lec­tion, per­son­ally styled by us is a pro­pel­ling part of their de­ci­sion-mak­ing process as well as over­all brand ex­pe­ri­ence.

What is the price range of your prod­ucts? Which price band is the most pop­u­lar with cus­tomers?

Our prices range from Rs 3000 for a silk pocket square and can go up to goes up to Rs 100,000 for a jacket. Our most pop­u­lar price band is Rs 13,000 for our medium range po­los and shirts.

This fits into the ‘af­ford­able lux­ury’ cat­e­gory. Pric­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion are amongst the key chal­lenges where lux­ury goods in In­dia are gen­er­ally over 30 per­cent more ex­pen­sive than other ma­jor mar­kets – af­ter in­clud­ing du­ties and taxes. In or­der to keep a global ap­proach and main­tain the im­pact of the brand im­age, we aim to re­tain our pric­ing fairly equal to the rest of the world.

What kinds of items sell the most at your stores?

The polo T-shirt has been and will al­ways re­main our high­est best seller due to its high-de­tailed con­struc­tion and true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a Polo-in­spired prod­uct. A cus­tomer feels the in­stant con­nec­tion to the world of Polo. Both women and men alike value and ap­pre­ci­ate our T-shirt seg­ment. How­ever, our men’s shirts are far more de­tailed ver­sus women’s. Glob­ally we have wit­nessed women steer­ing away from the ‘badge brand syn­drome’ and mov­ing to­wards sim­pler prod­ucts with lesser lo­gos. The quiet min­i­mal­ist rev­o­lu­tion in

In­dia is trend­ing par­tic­u­larly with our male cus­tomers, which is the new In­dia Mod­ern Man. He doesn’t like os­ten­ta­tious branding and wants to down­play the brands his wears, with a stroke of sub­tlety.

What is the lo­ca­tion strat­egy for your stores – malls or high street and why?

The ideal space for a flag­ship store is ap­prox­i­mately 1000 sq. ft. as this min­i­mizes the in­vest­ment risk and the brand gets to show­case their prod­uct range in a more fo­cused way. How­ever, our Delhi flag­ship is 1800 sq. ft. (al­most dou­ble of the av­er­age size store ex­pec­ta­tion) due to lack of avail­able re­tail space. Since we didn’t have a choice, we de­cided made a con­scious choice to max­i­mize the op­por­tu­nity and cre­ate a colos­sal im­pact for the brand.

Cur­rently we have 2 EBOS in New Delhi and Hyderabad, which are vi­tal build­ing blocks for the brand. The Delhi flag­ship store is in a mall for­mat, whilst the Hyderabad store is on a high street. It was a nat­u­ral choice po­si­tion­ing Hyderabad on a high street lo­ca­tion and while scout­ing for prime lo­ca­tions we re­al­ized there was no prime lux­ury des­ti­na­tions hous­ing lux­ury brands in this mar­ket. Jubliee Hills had a denser and more con­cen­trated catch­ment for our La Martina target au­di­ence which was ideal.

Our neigh­bours are Bentley Cars, and Bentley Fur­ni­ture

– a per­fect align­ment of brand val­ues com­pris­ing of el­e­gance, lux­ury and skill which we both share.

The ideal space for a flag­ship store is ap­prox­i­mately 1000 sq. ft. as this min­i­mizes the in­vest­ment risk and the brand gets to show­case their prod­uct range in a more fo­cused way.

Even though the high street cul­ture isn’t trend­ing in In­dia as much as in the West, I think many suc­cess­ful high street mod­els like the Her­mes Mai­son – lo­cated at the Fort in Mum­bai – or Zara’s new­est icon es­tab­lished in a 110year old her­itage build­ing, sprawled across 51,000 sq. ft. in South Mum­bai, are promis­ing ex­am­ples of where the fu­ture is head­ing for high street re­tail trends in In­dia. As of now, we don’t have any MBO for­mats for La Martina in In­dia. Our fo­cus was ini­tially to cre­ate brand salience and strong brand re­call only through the EBO chan­nel. But cur­rently we are re­cal­i­brat­ing our busi­ness model seek­ing other MBO chan­nels to widen our In­dian pres­ence.

Do you have a cus­tomer loy­alty pro­gram?

We don’t have a global cus­tomer loy­alty pro­gram in place; how­ever, we fre­quently of­fer spe­cial loy­alty pro­mos for our VIP clien­tele.

What is your mar­ket­ing strat­egy? What im­pact do th­ese have on your busi­ness?

The In­dian lux­ury landscape is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing strong evo­lu­tion­ary un­der­cur­rents that are re­defin­ing the con­sumer pro­file and how lux­ury play­ers op­er­ate in this do­main. Our main global target au­di­ence is pre­dom­i­nantly men as we are a polo in­spired brand (since more men are drawn to the sport than women are). How­ever, this ra­tio is rapidly chang­ing and we see more and more women in­volved in the sport. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, we have also wit­nessed a rise in women’s pur­chas­ing power In­dia, where they seek col­lab­o­ra­tive opin­ions and col­lec­tive in­flu­encers such as so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment and other dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ences to fi­nal­ize their pur­chase de­ci­sions. We will see more and more mo­bile and In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion on the in­crease this year, which will be the driv­ing force of this growth change. There is a global dig­i­tal strat­egy and sports mar­ket­ing strat­egy in place, which is La Martina’s new driv­ing force in cus­tomer en­gage­ment and out­reach for 2017. Our fo­cus this year is transcending the old, and mov­ing to­wards an era of dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion and new cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences. We be­lieve that ex­pe­ri­ence is the new brand of to­day.

What is your ex­pan­sion strat­egy? Are you look­ing at other re­gions of In­dia?

Our mar­ket con­cen­tra­tion has al­ways been Delhi; how­ever, the idea was to widen our brand reach to newer au­di­ences, and we suc­cess­fully did this with our store in Hyderabad that was launched in Novem­ber 2015. Due to the lack of good real estate op­tions and in­suf­fi­cient real estate play­ers of­fer­ing the right des­ti­na­tion, we have held back on open­ing a third flag­ship store in any an­other prime metro city till prime real estate space be­comes avail­able.

Are you look­ing for fran­chise stores too? If yes, what kind of fran­chisees are you look­ing for, and where in In­dia?

We are cur­rently the mas­ter fran­chise in In­dia and not sub-fran­chis­ing to other par­ties.

Are there any in­ter­est­ing con­cepts or in­no­va­tions you have in­tro­duced at your stores?

La Martina is in a con­stant process of tech­no­log­i­cal re­search, pur­su­ing lead­er­ship in in­no­va­tion.

One of the ar­eas in which we spe­cial­ize is the safety of Polo equip­ment. Al­ways con­sid­er­ing the de­mands of the pro­fes­sional Polo player and in­ter­pret­ing their needs, La Martina man­ages to achieve evo­lu­tion with­out dis­re­gard­ing de­sign.

BOOTS – We have de­vel­oped a new con­cept in high tech Polo boots and kneepads. They are hand­made out of five dif­fer­ent lay­ers of leather, pro­vid­ing ex­tra pro­tec­tion and com­fort, af­ter a thor­ough process of re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

HEL­METS – La Martina has cre­ated a hel­met that meets the su­pe­rior tech­no­log­i­cal de­mands of a pro­fes­sional polo player. The re­sult is the Pro Evo­lu­tion Se­ries Hel­met© made of three lay­ers of dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als: Kevlar, car­bon fiber and closed cell foam. Th­ese lay­ers dis­perse shock en­ergy, of­fer­ing in­creased se­cu­rity to the polo player be­cause they are so much more light and re­sis­tant than tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als. Com­fort was fur­ther en­hanced by the Three-way Strap Sys­tem© that of­fers a snug fit, in­spired by the har­nesses used in other phys­i­cal de­mand­ing sports such as moun­taineer­ing. We are al­ways at the fore­front of in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy and trans­late this even in our fash­ion cloth­ing lines.

How fo­cused are you on e-com­merce and what is your e-com­merce strat­egy? What per­cent­age of your rev­enues comes from e-com­merce cur­rently, and what rev­enue tar­gets do you have from e-com­merce over the next few years?

The dig­i­tal on­line in­flu­ence is cur­rently not so much used for com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity but more to con­nect bet­ter with our con­sumers and re­in­force the phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence at every level. Un­til re­cently, a lot of in­ter­na­tional brands held back go­ing the dig­i­tal route as it would elim­i­nate the phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. How­ever, we are wit­ness­ing that this is en­abling cus­tomers to pur­chase more if we give them an on­line op­por­tu­nity. The in­ter­na­tional play­ers of­ten have a vari­a­tion in their prod­uct of­fer­ing and price point ver­sus the lo­cal play­ers, as some prod­ucts are mar­ket spe­cific. Hence, we do not see any com­pe­ti­tion in this seg­ment. We are im­ple­ment­ing our own e-com­merce web­site for La Martina spe­cific to In­dia, which will now fa­cil­i­tate on­line shop­ping tar­geted to reach cus­tomers all over In­dia via a lo­cal plat­form. This will be a re­tail of­fer­ing with a huge prod­uct range. We see this a new turn­ing point for the on­line In­dian lux­ury brand space and hope to be pi­o­neer­ing it.

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