PARIS — Louis Vuitton, one of the world’s biggest luxury brands, has marched into one of the world’s most populous countries, India — and others aren’t far behind.

Officially inaugurated Friday, the 1,300-square-foot unit on the main floor of the Oberoi hotel in New Delhi brings to 298 the number of Vuitton stores worldwide.

Vuitton said the Indian market is attractive not only for its growing wealth, but for the importance of travel in its history and culture. After all, Indian Railways employs some 2 million people and transports up to 10 million a day. Despite an average income per person of about $2,400 in 1999, Vuitton president Yves Carcelle describes the potential in India as "immense," especially as the market opens up to foreign commerce. He said he envisions opening more Indian locations in the coming years, but set no timetable.

Fast emerging as the next frontier for European luxury firms, India will soon sprout boutiques bearing the banners Bulgari, Hugo Boss and others. Roughly six times bigger than France in surface area, India is home to more than 1 billion people.

Vuitton sells its products in 51 countries, operating 44 units in Japan, 16 in South Korea and seven in China. New markets included Holland and Russia.

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