There was a time when India was the luxury shopping mall of the world for raw material and impeccable finished products – the gems and the silks that sent a thrill up the spines of the world’s kings and queens. Now, in the 21st century, while India is primarily known as a hungry market for international luxury goods, it turns out that we are also in the running for the top purchaser of raw material for use in fashion manufacturing.
UK-based gemstone mining giant Gemfields – with mines across Zambia and Mozambique – has observed a 50 per cent year-on-year growth for its gems from Indian designers and jewellery manufacturers in the past four years. “And that’s why we are here,” said CEO Ian Harebottle at a press event to display a travelling jewellery exhibition in New Delhi last month and to announce its takeover of famed Russian luxury brand Faberge. Gemfields, which currently supplies 20 per cent of the world’s emeralds and 40 per cent of the world’s amethysts, is on an aggressive industry drive to seal its links in the Indian jewellery-manufacturing and gem-cutting market – which, says Rupak Sen, regional marketing director – Asia, “accounts for 90 per cent of Gemfields’ sales.” Once the raw gems reach Indian shores, he explains, they are cut and polished here, and 40 per cent are exported worldwide with the rest remaining in India for local consumption.
A similar happy state of affairs is seen in diamond imports – which despite being a more mature market, is still seeing a steady growth in the country, says Sen. Dominic Brand, worldwide marketing director of Forevermark, the leading diamond brand from the South African De Beers group, estimates that India will become a key strategic market for its diamonds and will contribute to 20 per cent of Forevermark’s global sales over the next few years (it is currently at 10 per cent, third in line after the US and China).
Besides jewellery, the flourishing apparel market too is lapping up foreign offerings. Woolmark, the Australian industry body for wool production and export, has been working with Indian textile manufacturers for over five decades now, and things couldn’t be better. According to Patrick Suckling, Australian high commissioner to India, India is the second largest market for Australian wool (after China), and India’s top imports of wool come from Australia. Due to the ecologically sustainable nature and extreme malleability of the material, it’s a great choice for fabric of all seasons, says Indian designer Rahul Mishra, who is one of 10 regional finalists for Woolmark’s annual prize, held in five regions worldwide.
It’s an encouraging sign for the Indian luxury industry that the country is burgeoning into a hub of not just eager buyers of established brands but also creators and manufacturers of the world’s finest luxury goods. This will definitely lead to greater investor confidence and encourage new startups in times to come.
First published in the May 2013 issue of Atelier