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As the lights dim, a young lady of Indian origin with a heavy British accent takes over. The screen lights up with a presentation about a luxury homes project in London that overlooks the Tower Bridge on the Thames. The hostess begins by explaining the tax implications if members of the audience at the Lalit Hotel in central Delhi were to buy any of these apartments priced between Rs 7 crore and Rs 160 crore.
As the lights come on and a wine and cheese spread is opened up, a few in the ballroom have questions; most, though, look convinced by the sales pitch by Berkeley Homes, a London-based property firm. Most of the well-heeled guests who are not sure where to deploy their stash in a slowing economy appear to be ready to delve deeper into this investment avenue. A mid-sized real estate developer who attended the event has signed up for a home, and another person with interests in the hospitality business is in "serious talks".
What Wealth Managers Really Do
Every other evening, chartered accounts and private wealth managers are organising such shindigs to showcase to their clients a piece of luxury-from high-end apartments in London to Porsche cars, Italian luxury men's fashion brand Canali and Jimmy Choo shoes.
"CAs and wealth managers know where the money is. For the luxury firms, we are just another way of bringing out the rich buyer as a slow economy discourages them from heading towards their stores," says Raghu Marwah, managing partner of RN Marwah & Company, a CA firm that organised the get-together for Berkeley Homes.
Last week, American Express invited a bunch of platinum card members to a party with designer Manish Malhotra, where he unveiled his new collection. Amex has done similar events with Jimmy Choo and Porsche.
Citibank recently tied up with a dozen art galleries in Mumbai and invited high net worth clients for an exclusive malt evening. Recently Canali got together with the Wharton Alumni Association to showcase its men's collection; and Berkeley Homes has done similar dos with the London School of Economics (LSE).
Between fiscal 2006 and 2008, when the Indian economy was growing at 9 per cent and over, that period of accelerated growth created a whole new level of affluence in the country. In a recent forecast, Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer estimated that the number of high net worth individuals (HNIs) in India, with assets of $1 million or more, would more than double to 403,000 by 2015.
"When markets soften, brands start to seek collaborations to target their relevant market," says Richa Karpe, director-investments at multi-family office Altamount Capital.
Creating Awareness in the Indian Market
Marketers also see such outings as a way to bring first-time consumers closer to their luxury brands. "It is a good way to introduce the brand to a newer set of people. We can't assume everyone knows about the presence of the brand in India," says Roasie Ahluwalia, general manager at Genesis Luxury, which represents brands such as Canali, Jimmy Choo and Bottega Veneta and has a joint venture with Burberry in India.
The domestic slowdown notwithstanding, India's economy is still one of the fastest growing-at least in relation to the developed world, much of which is struggling to stay afloat. This may be a good opportunity for the country's elite Richie Riches to purchase assets overseas-and for foreign brands to woo the local money bags.
Author: Ravi Teja Sharma
Source: The Economic Times
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