By Ishani Duttagupta, 6th October 2006
FIVE YEARS AGO – Mumbai was not Vijay Murjani’s first choice as a city to move to and make his home.
“I moved to India in late 2001 to set up the Tommy Hilfiger business . The first year went by as a learning process as setting up a structure proved more challenging than we thought. Having said that, by April 2004 we launched the brand through store openings in Delhi and Bangalore and went on to open a further 7 stores over the next a fifiteen months,” says the junior Murjani whose father Mohan Murjani is a legendary figure in NYC’s fashion world having launched Tommy Hilfiger in 1985 and earlier the first women’s designer jeans label with Gloria Vanderbilt in 1976.
Of course today Vijay Murjani has changed his mind and is comfortable as a Mumbaiker. The Murjanis now have plans to launch 6 more leading international brands Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein, French Connection UK, Tumi & Build-a-Bear in India through the licensing and franchising route.
“Today both Mumbai and Delhi are growing and expanding cities with more and more options with respect to entertainment, food and shopping,” says Mr Murjani who considers Mumbai his home today though he’s still a little partial to London where he spent many years. In fact, he currently would not think of shifting to any other international business city such as Dubai or Singapore. “India has something very real about it…why move when everybody is coming here,” he says. And though he has grown up in Hong Kong and the UK and even now travels a lot on business, he and his family are very comfortable having settled down in Mumbai. “When we moved to India back in 2001, relocating was definitely an adjustment for my wife and myself. These days India has become a much more attractive destination for executives, which has helped us in hiring several expats within the group,” he adds.
The fact that the Murjanis see the potential of the luxury & premium market in India obviously adds to the excitement. Having launched India’s leading international designer lifestyle brand, Tommy Hilfiger, which currently has nine free standing stores, the group now plans to bring in Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Calvin Klein, French Connection, Tumi & Build a Bear to the Indian market as well.
“The brands that we are bringing to India will operate in three different segments of the market ie luxury,premium and speciality. With CalvinKlein and French Connection we will add to our premium portfolio while Build-a-Bear is a specialty brand for children, a segment where we see a gap which we hope to address. India has a huge market for luxury women’s footwear, specially in the wedding season, and that’s where Jimmy Choo fits in. Tumi is the worlds most exclusive travel accessory brand, which will be targeted at the ever growing number of Indian executives travelling both domestically and Internationally,” says Mr Murjani.
The group is also planning to add some more luxury brands to its Indian portfolio soon, the names of which Mr Murjani is not ready to announce yet. “Luxury is a very different business…It’s our group’s track record both in developing brands globally, as well as our success with Tommy Hilfiger in India, that gives our partners confidence. A combination of our experience, knowledge and know-how provides a level of comfort, especially when entering a market as important as India for the first time,” says Mr Murjani.
In 1966, the Murjanis transitioned from an apparel manufacturing company to a designer lifestyle brand developing and marketing company in the United States. In 1976 Mohan Murjani was responsible for creating the world’s first designer jean – Gloria Vanderbilt which was designed exclusively to fit the contours of a woman’s body. Today for the Indian market, Vijay Murjani believes that developing luxury retail destinations could become the big ticket for luxury growth. “The biggest problem for luxury brands in India is finding the appropriate real estate. To bridge the big gap between demand and supply we plan to develop and in some cases redevelop destinations which will bring all our luxury brands together in a retail destination. Typically this would mean renting property ranging between 15000 to 20000 square feet which will then be redeveloped to suit our needs. We plan to open such luxury destinations in both Mumbai and Delhi over the next two years.”
The second quarter of 2007 will see the Murjanis launching the new brands in India. The group which is well known globally for its innovative and non-conventional marketing and advertising approach (they were after all the first apparel brand in the world to use the television medium) may also look at building up its own brand in India in future.
For now, Mr Murjani feels that the first mover advantage that the group has in India is so exciting that he doesn’t want to give it up even for Manhattan. “The Indian market is very exciting now and we intend to build our brands and retail platforms beyond Mumbai & Delhi to the rest of India. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now,” he says. Though the Murjanis have had a home in Delhi and Vijay found himself living in a hotel in Mumbai in the early days, he feels that the city has grown on him. “ Delhi is a big retail market, but Mumbai – for me – is like New York,” he says.