GUCCI in India

GUCCI To Go With Murjanis In India

Nandini Raghavendra And Vikram Doctor, 8th January 2006

GUCCI to go with Murjanis in India

MUMBAI: The Gucci Group has identified the Murjani brothers as their partners to enter the Indian market. Speaking in an exclusive interview with ET, president, CEO and chairman of the management board of Gucci Group, Robert Polet confirmed the tie-up. “We believe that there is room for our brands in the Indian luxury market and can play a very big role in the future,” said Polet without elaborating further on the retail plans or the exact time frame (“the sooner the better”) or the brands from the group’s portfolio that he would enter the Indian market with.

Yet the Gucci brand is definitely on the list. In all likelihood, Gucci looks like the first luxury brand which will enter the Indian market via high street retail and not within the confines of a five-star hotel. “Hotels are very restrictive,” said Polet citing the example of China where following their first store in ’97, Gucci followed up with the next seven which were all stand-alone stores in malls or on high streets.

The Indian market is not a new one for the 50-year-old Polet who has visited the country in his 26-year stint with FMCG giant Unilever. “I have lots of friends, many of whom I admire a lot too,” said Polet giving names like Keki Dadiseth and AS Ganguly. For Polet, nothing much has changed, whether it was ice-creams (his last worldwide portfolio at Unilever) or selling bags and shoes.

Gucci will tie-up with the Murjani brothers to enter India.

Gucci will tie-up with the Murjani brothers to enter India. In an exclusive interview to ET, Gucci Boss, Group, Robert Polet confirmed that it will enter the country via high street retail and not five-star hotels.

“It is about managing brands and leading people. There are more familiarities than differences. The only big difference is the role of creativity is different and I need to create an environment for creativity to flourish,” said Polet whose biggest challenge was the smooth transition from the era of Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole.

Polet firmly believes that the brand, in this case he emphasises, an 84-year-old one, is not only more important than any one individual but it is the brand that continuity and longevity. Recognising the essence of that brand and keeping true to its DNA is Polet’s vision for the future. And in the one year, much to the ire of his critics, Polet’s presence has contributed to a healthier bottomline.

According to the Gucci Group’s first half results, (Jan 1-June 30, ’05) sales at euro 1350.8m (up 15.9% vs ’04 on a comparable basis), recurring operating income at euro 107.4m (up 76.4% on a reported basis), Polet has come off with flying colours.

Polet’s vision statement of ‘ship in or shape out’ in November ’04 seemed to have worked for the smaller brands who were dragging on their bottom line. Even Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) seems to be on track and should break even soon, though Polet refuses to confirm when.

Though his critics have said his FMCG background has made him put too much emphasis on market research, Polet politely disagrees. “You cannot ask any consumer what they want. All I have begun is an understanding of our consumer’s world, gathering facts, looking at their demographics, collecting all the information to help us better,” said Polet who says that the success has come from reinterpreting of the past in a modern way and making desirable products from those reinterpretation, whether it is the legendary GG logo, the horse, the floral prints, Polet says he has “unleashed the energies and made his people in charge of their own destinies within each of our brands.” The future, though, for Gucci is Asia.

In the next three years, Polet sees at least 60% of Gucci’s retail investment coming into Asia (excepting Japan) and in the third quarter of ’06, Polet will as declared open two flagship stores in Asia. “One is in Ginza in Tokyo and other in Landmark in Hong Kong. It has been eight to nine years since we changed our retail look we need to re-fresh,” said Polet who will then take the new store design across their 250 stores over the globe.

India is where Polet puts a lot of faith too. In its young, educated population. And the way forward is customisation. Whether it is making smaller shoes to fit the Japanese’s tiny feet or adding more pink and jewels on the Gucci bags for the Japanese ladies. “When a lady walks into our store and says, ‘I need that bag’ that spells Gucci’s success. Why has Gucci chosen the Murjani group as Indian partners? “They’re professional, but they also have a strong sense of family value, and that is what is Gucci is about too,” says Polet.

This might seem like a rather odd statement since the Gucci family history is a morass of feuds that laid waste to the business which includes backstabbling (Aldo Gucci, one of the second generation to run the company was convicted of tax evasion by testimony of his son) and outright murder (Maurizio Gucci, the last family member to run the company was killed on the orders of his ex-wife). But Polet means something slightly different: “Family-run companies have a spirit of entrepreneurship, an ability to take risks and decisions that can be hard in a multinational company where everything is run by committee.” Perhaps that explains why Polet made his switch, from selling ice-cream to luxury brands.

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But as pervasive as the Coca-Cola apparel label has become in retail stores around the U.S., Murjani believes the line’s acceptance will be even greater in untapped markets overseas. “By fall, Coca-Cola Clothes will be carried in stores in Japan and the United Kingdom” he said.

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