Luxe Chats: Dinaz Madhukar on luxury retail in India

As Senior Vice President of DLF Luxury Retail and Hospitality, Dinaz Madhukar wears many hats. When she’s not overseeing the operations at India’s premier luxury retail hub, DLF Emporio, Dinaz is attending to the inevitable teething problems at DLF’s latest venture, The Chanakya. And while she’s at it, she spearheads a bevy of interesting marketing initiatives to drive home the idea that DLF Emporio, and its newborn sibling The Chanakya, are the undisputed leaders of luxury retail in India.

I caught up with Dinaz recently to take stock of the current state of affairs in the segment and to gain some perspective on The Chanakya’s offering.

Tell me a bit about your new project, The Chanakya, is there going to be a repetition of the stores at DLF Emporio?

We are making sure that the offering is going to be very different. We don’t want to eat into our own offering so we’ve consciously kept the two very different. Indian couture designers are going to remain at DLF Emporio because the new mall has limited space. Besides our anchor brand, Hermès, we also have a few brands entering India for the first time. The lower ground floor has a very interesting food concept — fine food and food retail. In terms of sheer size, it is two-thirds the size of DLF Emporio, yet it has cinemas and a huge food retail area. There will be two floors of pure luxury retail and one floor dedicated to the bridge-to-luxury section. We will have interesting brands like Ted Baker, denim by The Arvind Group as well as Nicobar. I have to say this – we are not really calling it a mall, it’s more like a private club to which you are invited. It’s that intimate, with an almost gallery-like feel to it. When you see the mall in its entirety, it is a completely experiential space.


The Chanakya, your latest flagship property has just opened. It has been a very bold move, given the current economic climate for luxury in India. What do you have to say?
June 2017 was one of the best months for the mall. July was alright because people were skeptical about how GST would impact them, including the brands themselves. Everybody knows that they are going to get the benefit of the GST eventually in terms of rollback credit, but initially there is bound to be a cash flow issue, because you’re paying upfront and are yet to get your credit back. Now everyone is back to normal. These things affect us temporarily but things always get back on track in the luxury sector.

With the arrival of The Chanakya, where is DLF Emporio at, these days?
At DLF Emporio, we’ve completed 9 years and the mall continues to be relevant and people’s first choice when it comes to luxury retail. Brands still want to enter Emporio when they arrive in India. We continue to be a big draw for international brands. Interestingly enough, we are catering to a lot of out-of-towners from around Delhi who come in to shop for a day. That’s why our luggage drop concierge service is so popular among people who want to fly in, shop and fly out.


As one of the key opinion leaders in India’s luxury industry, what are your thoughts on the current state of affairs of luxury in India?

I think all the challenges are behind us. Last year was very interesting, it started with demonetisation, then the 3 lakh limit, then the 2 lakh limit, then the PAN Card business It impacted everybody initially because there was a wait and watch approach from people but now we’re back to business. Last year, I saw a dip in the month of November (with demonetisation) but the other months were great. There was an uncertainty in things and the last of them was the GST implementation. I don’t think there are any more rules coming out so there’s going to be a stability that comes in and it can only get better.

Do you think the government can put into place policies or certain steps to give the luxury industry a bit of a push?

Every industry wants that. Luxury, in particular, has been impacted the most because of policy changes, but luxury will also benefit the most, in my opinion. Most international brands follow strict worldwide policies anyway, so there’s no question of not showing sales, or fudging numbers. With the major hurdles out of the way now, things will only get better. Brands are also re-looking at India. India seems to be showing a bright spark. Disposable income is growing, the middle class is growing, and with more people out there, luxury will steadily grow.
We then proceed to talk about DLF Emporio’s biggest annual properties — Couture Weddings — its recently-concluded massive wedding show a collaboration between designers, celebrity stylists, jewellers and other wedding service providers. Here’s what she has to say.

With such an aggressive wedding market, how are you marketing DLF Emporio’s wedding portfolio differently to stand out from the rest?
I think we are predecessors in this segment, we started the wedding show six years ago. The 2017 edition was our sixth and we decided to bring in celebrity stylists. The reason why we are different is because we are sticking to our core competence. We have a range of international brands and Indian couture designers, we can give a whole package. You can get your trousseau luggage from Vuitton, for example, and gifting options from all our other brands. Our Indian designers coexist with jewellery brands and the international brands, so it is a complete package.


From a business point of view you think that makes more sense?
Absolutely because we are here to support our in-house brands. Therefore, when the brands do better. We do better. And so when we do something like this, it benefits the brands directly. They get to showcase what’s happening and each one is competing. We cannot give you a competition-free environment because that’s not the right environment. Because consumers seek variety. Here you have your entire collection, you have many stores, you have your changing rooms so the customer has the opportunity to interact with a stylist. we are giving you the opportunity to interact directly with the designers here.


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