NEW DELHI — Markus Langes-Swarovski’s return to India after 14 years is symbolic — 14 years is considered a number in Indian epics when heros return, are worshipped, adulated and epitomized.
Langes-Swarovski, an heir to the Swarovski empire and spokesman for the board, found a small level of such adulation and celebration here recently as the Austrian Embassy set out a grand garden fair for him, despite a winter evening. Twelve of India’s foremost fashion designers displayed their unique visions of Swarovski crystal.
He took it all in stride, with his wife Julia Langes-Swarovski, looking regal in a Tarun Tahiliani drape akin to a sari, with subtle Swarovski crystal and an intricately decorated sari blouse. Markus Langes-Swarovski laughed about the fact that 14 years ago he was a judge at a Miss India contest before he was formally working at Swarovski. The other judges were Carolina Herrera and famous Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra, now a Bollywood actress and a star, was the winner. “So I can say I had a part in shaping Indian culture already, or being part of it at least,” he said lightly.
But he later told WWD that the company had by no means a lighthearted approach to India, which is one of the top three target markets for the Austrian brand.
His visit, with a high-level management team, was to begin a long, hard look at the market, he said.
“This visit basically confirmed all the assessments that we have made about India,” Langes-Swarovski explained at the company’s office in Gurgaon, where the door handles glitter with crystals. He suggested that seven years was a ballpark operational time frame for the growth he envisioned in India.
Other fast-growing and targeted markets for Swarovski include Brazil and Mexico, he said, while China is already a “mature market” since Swarovski has been growing there since the Sixties. “We do believe that through innovation we can grow also in the mature markets and we do so in some instances. But overall, we love to dive into Indian culture much stronger,” he observed.
The big moment for India is coming up — Swarovski will launch an India-inspired jewelry line in the coming months.
“We’re trying to extend our own collections with an Indian-inspired fine jewelry line under the Swarovski brand. It’s a very important lever for the market here because of its richness and very particular style — in fact, it is a universe of different styles under one country, more of a continent than a country.”
He said that this jewelry line would help grow the concept that Swarovski routinely fosters through the professional segment, working closely to meet the needs of local customers and designers.
The Austrian brand has been in India through a company-owned entity since 2001. Although the Indian market is still a relatively small part of the 3.08 billion euro (or $4.25 billion at current exchange) company, it has had strong growth. There are more than 73 Swarovski stores in India — a mix of stand-alone and multibrand outlets, with a large-format store at New Delhi airport’s Terminal 3. While cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore are still the focus, the smaller cities are being considered as well.
Separately, Swarovski’s professional division has also been doing well. “We have had some great collaborations, which were very intense, and we were loud about it and we got a little bit more quiet in the last years, and now we start to broadcast and celebrate again in a more bold way,” Langes-Swarovski said. One of the Indian designers that the brand has worked with extensively has been Manish Arora.
Swarovski retails in more than 170 countries, with more than 1,100 stores in Europe and 470 in North and South America.