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Buying luxury goods? Are they good enough?
Archana Jahagirdar in New Delhi
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December 15, 2007

Affluent Indians are taking to luxury like a baby does to mother's milk. Luxury goods companies entering the Indian market with modest sales targets are surprised that those targets were met faster (the luxury handbag segment, for instance) than they could have possibly imagined.

All good so far. The country has been deprived for so long of even basic amenities that the first possible opportunity to splurge has been taken up enthusiastically by Indians.

To spend a small fortune on a minuscule handbag that may become dated even before you have a chance to pay the bill is a personal decision.

But what is appalling is what is being sold in the name of luxury not just in India (all luxury goods companies claim that the product lines are the same) but worldwide.

Luxury to me means the best possible materials being used along with great design and manufacturing processes to put together a product. That alone can be the reason for those hefty price tags. A product of such excellence that it deserves every bit of money spent on it. And the label that gets tacked on these products promise that or should at least promise that much.

But that doesn't seem to be the case. A top Indian fashion designer and a large retailer have both made this point about luxury brands that are selling us pap really and charging exorbitant rates for it.

You could dismiss them for being jealous of the financial muscle these big luxury brands bring along with them. Recently however, a senior person from a luxury brand did admit that far too often the luxury tag is being put on products that are just cheaply produced with one aim: keep costs down to a minimum.

Keeping manufacturing costs down is an important business principle but can't be the governing one in the luxury space. It might suit Wal-Mart or other retailers and brands whose USP is low-pricing but the principal aim of the luxury business should be to provide the highest quality in every respect.

When the luxury business and many of the big brands started, they did stick to this and that is how they became big and their products iconic. Somewhere along the way, maybe to try and satisfy luxury's hungry consumers, that attention to detail and excellence has been sacrificed at the altar of mass production. My advice to the Indian luxury consumer: demand the best before you pay an arm and a leg for junk.

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