Standing inside the Palladium Mall which is the posh part of the Phoenix Mall in Mumbai, at the site of the old Phoenix Mill—a textile mill that became defunct a long time ago, one sees how the retail landscape in India has changed in the short course of 20 years, since liberalization was ushered in 1991 under the Narasimha Rao government. Emporio Armani, Boss, Canali, Chanel, Zegna, Gucci, DKNY, Diesel, Swarovski, Rosenthal, Tag Heuer and other names synonymous with luxury jostle for space as a pianist strikes up relaxed tunes on a grand piano under the soaring ceiling.
At the same time the youth of the transformation is visible. Right next to Chanel and across the aisle from Burberry, right next to the main entrance sits Zara, the fast fashion giant that while hugely successful can hardly be called “luxury”. Wander a little more and you see a Giordano outlet! This is even lower end than Zara and hails from Hong Kong where I remember buying cheap clothes when I lived in Hong Kong some 16 years ago! Clearly, the mystique of luxury and the mystique of “foreign” have become confounded in the burgeoning consumer culture in India. In time, with maturity, perhaps such oddities will disappear. Or, perhaps, in India, Zara and Giordano will become “luxury”. Now that’s a thought.