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India could easily be one of our top 10 markets in the next five years: Bulgari CEO

Bulgari launches its new exclusive-to-India design, the B.zero1 Kada Bracelet, inspired by the Indian traditional 'Kada', today. Jean-Christophe Babin speaks to Forbes India about its India plans

Naini Thaker
Published: Jan 16, 2024 04:31:23 PM IST
Updated: Jan 16, 2024 05:40:11 PM IST

India could easily be one of our top 10 markets in the next five years: Bulgari CEOJean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari, CEO 

Global luxury brand Bulgari has launched the ‘B.zero1 Kada Bracelet’, which pays tribute to the ‘kada’, a traditional Indian bangle. This exclusive-to-India design is crafted in yellow gold and is an ode to India’s long-standing cultural affinity with precious metals and stones.

The bracelet has a statement design that represents a concept of moment, circularity and light through a spiral design. “The B.zero1 Kada bracelet is a jewel that embodies contemporary design and tradition at the same time, maintaining the consistency of the past reinterpreted in a contemporary form and with the same spirit of India, of yesterday and today,” says Jean-Christophe Babin, Bulgari CEO. Actor Ayushmann Khurrana has been roped in as ambassador for the bracelet.

The launch of the bracelet comes two years after the Bulgari mangalsutra was introduced, with Priyanka Chopra Jonas as its brand ambassador. Forbes India speaks to Babin about how the Indian market is different, Bulgari’s expansion plans in India and more. Edited excerpts:

Q. We've seen the Bulgari mangalsutra, and now the Kada. What makes India a strong market for the brand?

The Bulgari mangalsutra with Priyanka Chopra Jonas was a big innovation for the brand as we were pioneering in India, to crack the market. The Kada bracelet came from the same philosophy as the mangalsutra. It is made in yellow gold with a masculine statement and sturdy design deeply rooted into Indian traditions. The launch also shows our long-term commitment to India, which wasn’t a one-off with the mangalsutra. We realised very early on that you cannot treat India like any other market, since jewellery is rooted in its tradition. So far, Western luxury jewellery brands have not had major success in India.

Q. Why haven’t global luxury jewellery brands seen much success in India?

Usually, global jewellers are trying to impose their collections worldwide, expecting it work everywhere in the same way. But India has maintained its strong traditions in this globalised world. This is important to note because jewellery often corresponds to various turning points in life, such as mangalsutra for weddings. Hence, it is necessary for any global jeweller to acknowledge this, like Bulgari has done with its own interpretation of the mangalsutra and now the kada bracelet. This is why people buy Bulgari, because we understand and integrate local traditions that resonate in multiple markets.

Also read: Can Bvlgari succeed in India in its second coming?

This launch is part of our ambitious strategy, where we want to be the leading Western jeweller in India. I truly believe that India is the ‘Italy of Asia’, because of its way of life, culture and sophistication with a great deal of approachability.

India could easily be one of our top 10 markets in the next five years: Bulgari CEOThe B.zero1 Kada Bracelet is an exclusive-to-India creation crafted in dazzling yellow gold, and an enchanting ode to India's long-standing cultural affinity with precious metals and stones. It also represents the “modern India”, a confluence of deeply rooted traditions and contemporary, global perspectives.

Q. Bulgari’s jewellery and watches seem to be the most popular amongst Indians. What other segments might be potential growth drivers for the brand?

There is opportunity for our bags, since they are very different from our competitors. We end up selling bold colours, which many of our competitors don’t. Our bags always have colour, along with exotic skins and a lot of metal work. For instance, the Serpenti collection with the iconic Bulgari snake head is extremely popular for its statement design.

Most luxury brands are recognised by their logos. But Bulgari uses the snake as a symbol to universally represent the brand. Our designs, for leather goods like with jewellery, are not only fashionable and trendy, but also timeless, which is always a paradox in the world of fashion but we have managed to find the right balance. So, I strongly believe, bags will be extremely popular among the Indian crowd.

Also read: Covid-19 sped up existing trends in the luxury market: Bvlgari Group CEO

Q. What are your expansion plans for the Indian market?

If we want to become the leading global jeweller in India, we have to open many more ‘emotional’ boutiques. Right now, we have two, soon we will have three to four in most of the metros. For smaller cities, we could have franchise boutiques, along with a local player who knows the local clientele better.

We are not only a jewellery brand but also a watchmaker, among other segments such as bags and perfumes. So, apart from the monobrand stores, we are also looking to expand among the network of multi-brand watch retailers, especially for men. At the same time, we are also streamlining our perfume network to make sure that perfumes are presented in an environment that adds to the brand in India.

We don't have a hotel yet in India, but hopefully one day we should have one because a hotel is the epitome of what every single luxury brand stands for. With a hotel you can really deep dive into the brand, not for one hour like in a boutique, but for one weekend or for a few nights.

We are a global Italian brand paying special attention to India. If we pay respect to Indian traditions, leverage its icons properly and understand local designs well, India for us could easily enter our top 10 markets in the next five years, and the top five in the next 10 years.

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