Luxury is an ego trip: Mahul Brahma

Luxury is an ego trip: Mahul Brahma

CEO Magazine catches up with author and luxury commentator Mahul Brahma on his book Decoding Luxe

Not humility but ego creates brands, makes them reach the stars, according to Decoding Luxe, a first-of-its-kind book on luxury brands. It is all about being special or exclusive, to be someone who is not ordinary. Of being able to dazzle or luxe. Of being able to stand out in the crowd. This razzle-dazzle industry thrives on ego.

Select excerpts of the interview: 

Why a book on luxury? What does luxury mean to you?

Let me ask you a simple question: What is luxury? No matter how obvious the question might seem, it demands some contemplation. What does luxury mean to you? Expensive? Exorbitant? Unaffordable? The word luxury has its origin in 'luxe', which means 'dazzle'. So technically, anything that dazzles you is luxury and it is this dazzle that commands the premium. Whether you call that dazzle 'brand equity' or 'razzle dazzle' is completely your call.

It is sad that the literature on luxury is very limited, globally, and writers have mostly focused on cataloguing luxury products and showcasing them. There was an urgent need to narrate a wonderful tale of luxe — capturing this wonderful dazzle in a holistic way, unveiling its various facets.  My columns on luxury have been a great avenue for narrating the untold luxury story. However, I was not able to paint a holistic, all-encompassing picture of luxe. I felt the need to pen a book that captures the essence of luxury and its long-standing romance with India.

This book is a result of that quest on which I had embarked on, two decades ago. It has been a great adventure and I want more and more people to set sail.

How is your book Decoding Luxe different from other books in this luxury space?

Decoding Luxe essentially explores various facets of luxury brands, which used to be a niche market, but only till some time back. As the realms of luxury and affordability fuse with common people, this book takes a strategic, behavioural, historical, experiential, demographical, psychological, dynamic, mechanical, and also a philosophical look at what constitutes luxe or dazzle.

It is a must-have for all stakeholders of luxury brands – owner, custodian, retailer, connoisseur as well as student – helping them understand and formulate, with a historical perspective, an effective strategy for conceiving, positioning, placing, promoting and pricing these luxury products. However, this book is not at all about product reviews, which is what is largely considered as luxury writing in India and abroad.

Do you think luxury counterfeit is growing market? Has online presence has helped the counterfeit market grow?

Growing at a compounded annual growth rate of almost 40-45 percent, the counterfeit luxury products market in India is likely to more than double to INR 5,600 crore from the current level of about INR 2,500 crore. A reason why the market of luxury fakes is growing at such a fast pace is the advent of e-commerce platforms selling them at lucrative prices. Web shopping portals account for over 25 percent of the fake luxury goods market in India. The size of the counterfeit luxury industry in India is currently about 5 percent of the overall market size of India's luxury industry which currently is worth over $14 billion. With a share of about 7 percent, fake luxury products account for over $22 billion of the global luxury industry worth about $320 billion.

Luxury counterfeits are not a new phenomenon, but with technological advances and sophisticated new ways to reach consumers, the business is increasing rapidly.

You have said that the e-commerce in luxury will not work. Why so?

The reason behind the success of e-commerce in India is our love for price-sensitivity. We love discounts, we love value for our money. The entire machinery of e-commerce or e-retail runs on unrealistic deals and discounts. And this is where the meeting of hearts between e-commerce and luxury doesn't happen. So let us understand the premises on which luxury buying is based in India.

Luxe is a purely experiential phenomenon as it is heavily dependent on how your senses perceive something. If your senses feel dazzled, you are convinced to shell out that premium for a luxury brand. The entire shopping experience wherein you try a great pair of shoes or a lovely shirt and look at the mirror and then decide whether you should buy it or try another one can't ever be replicated by an image of the same product, even with a 360-degree view.  It is next to impossible to excite and convince our senses via a laptop, tab or mobile screen.

And that is why the e-commerce companies try the same strategy of heavy discounts that they try for premium products. Unfortunately, this story of crazy discounts opens another can of worms — the world of luxury counterfeits that are sold online.

About the author:

Mahul Brahma is a luxury commentator and columnist. He also heads corporate communications and branding for a Tata group company mjunction. He has been a senior journalist for a decade with Economic Times, CNBC TV18, Reuters and India partner of NYT. His debut film was screened at Cannes Film Festival.

Twitter: @mahulbrahma

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