Dinaz Madhukar talks luxury as DLF Emporio turns 10

It is not the office you think someone in the luxury business will have: it is in the basement, with no natural light or frills. In fact, it is rather functional, fuss-free and, just like you can tell a woman from her handbag (there is a grey hold-all on the desk next to her), it is the way Dinaz Madhukar seems herself. Her fall-back favourite is not a brand known specifically for bags. “Giorgio Armani has these big bags that my laptop fit in. It’s got enough compartments. I don’t like those small, cute ones in which you can barely fit in your phone and keys.” She laughs out loud, a throaty, full-blown laugh, her easy manner and slightly nasal voice putting you at ease.

After spending 25 years in the hotel business across several cities, including Chennai (three years at the Taj Connemara), Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Dinaz joined DLF in 2010, where she says she brought hospitality to retail that “always has a commercial connotation — there’s a price, purchase”. With more hoteliers moving into the space, luxury retail (at both Emporio and Chanakya) has now begun the shift from “customers” to “guests”. “You start thinking ‘How do we bring them back? How do we involve them?’.” It’s about relationships, even with the tenants, she says. Edited excerpts from an interview, as the luxury brand turns 10.

DLF’s greatest achievements over the past 10 years?

Getting Louis Vuitton on board is the biggest thing when a brand is entering luxury retail the very first time. They set the tone for the rest of the brands to come in. Then, almost simultaneously, when we got Indian designers on board. The next landmark was when we opened Set’z a year later. A fine-dining, multi-cuisine standalone was a first for Delhi. For us, our food and beverage brand becomes the footfall driver for the mall. A huge achievement is that none of our key players exited, to the extent that we had to ask some of the brands if they could reduce space and give it back to us, because we’d like to introduce new brands. So we took some space back from Giorgio Armani and Versace — that’s how we were able to get in Bvlgari. Even now, we were able to convince Ferragamo to give us some space, to accommodate Polo Ralph Lauren coming in.

Dinaz Madhukar talks luxury as DLF Emporio turns 10

How would you compare DLF Emporio or The Chanakya with other luxury malls in India?

It was the first organised formatted retail luxury space that moved away from five-star hotels and was pure luxury. It was not combined with office space. It was an amalgamation of some of the best international brands as well as Indian designers. The third unique factor was that you had true luxury not only in the brands but in the ambience — in the concierge service that offers hands-free shopping and currency exchange, or stylists on call.

Is luxury still bought through our so-called parallel economy, with cash?

Unfortunately, I won’t be the right person to comment on it because we don’t own the brands. But I don’t think it’s true any more. That’s why there’s a demand for an ATM again. We opened the first designer ATM — Tarun Tahiliani had designed it. But it wasn’t used much. Things have changed now and brands are asking for one.

What has your strategy been on making decisions on space?

We have always consciously made sure we have a percentage representation of everything: apparel, accessories, food and beverage. It helps to have ratios so you don’t overpower any category. It works well, because the international brands take larger-format stores, the Indian brands take smaller-format stores, so you can accommodate a lot more Indian brands. Then we also decided to have a distinction between couture and prêt. You need both representations — couture on the second floor, but you also have the third floor that focuses on prêt.

Dinaz Madhukar talks luxury as DLF Emporio turns 10

How different is the luxury customer abroad?

Abroad, the customer tends to gravitate towards certain brands. It also comes with years of maturity of the luxury customer. So you know this is a Giorgio Armani person or a Tom Ford man, because there are certain sensibilities you’re used to. If you enter the mall you’ll mainly see women, but shopping is 51% men and 49% women here. As Indians, we are very comfortable in our skin and don’t have to be branded from head to toe. So you could sit in luxury and still look at Zara for day-to-day wear, or to Fabindia, Good Earth or Nicobar.

How long before the Indian market is mature?

In India, luxury has always been synonymous with the maharajas — all those stories you hear about them using the Rolls Royce to get garbage picked up. But when India started on this formalised journey, there was a perception that it was going to be the next China. The reality is that it is a little more mature as a market. So it’s never going to have an exponential growth; it’s always going to have a steady one: 12%-15%.

Where is luxury at globally?

It is now becoming inclusive. It used to be only about heritage brands, but you see newer brands coming. There’s been so much turmoil worldwide with exponential markets slumping that they’re looking at newer markets evolving: Africa has come out strongly, India has been a steady-growth market. Sustainability and technology are two new things people are looking at. So Mont Blanc coming out with their smartwatches is one. It’s also experiences. It’s Burberry doing their fashion shows live across so many segments.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 9:06:11 AM |

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