Setting up India's first and only luxury B School was a challenge much bigger than I anticipated. However, the journey has been thrilling, exciting and highly enriching with new experiences, new learnings, new interactions with a younger generation every year with fresh generational perspective.
The idea of creating a luxury management focussed B school was first germinated by me during a luxury committe trade meeting at CII many years back. Back then, when I was heading names like Versace, Corneliani and others in India, the biggest common pain point voiced by all other stalwarts present was related to 'Talent' : the lack of it, the frivolous nature of those who were brought in, poor understanding of luxury as well as lack of training and educational facilities for developing the same.
In early 2012, I set up the parent organisation 'Luxury Connect' as a 360 degree luxury services focussed company. Amongst services of business advisory, sourcing and others, the key differentiator was perceived to be the skilling, training and educational vertical. The entire idea was further evaluated via a first ever survey on 'Status of Luxury talent in India', an executive summary of which was carried by Forbes. This survey gave me a clear direction wrt the needs and phases of growth of the educational business, a hitherto untapped area. The learning need emerged to be concentrated across 'Luxury Brand management' & 'Luxury Customer expereince management ' . In addition, a NSDC survey projected the talent needs of the growing luxury industry as 5.3 m people across industry sectors and job roles by 2022. Clearly, the opportunity was ripe.
A quick summary of the phases of evolutionary growth undertaken could be consolidated as follows :
Phase I : During this phase, we focussed on employees who had drifted into the luxury business over the initial few years of luxury in India. Ironically, the need of good quality sales and management professional exploded with the advent of Emporio, New Delhi in 2008, followed by quick successions of The UB City, Bangalore and The Palladium, Mumbai. We partnered with SDA Bocconi of Milan to help create the content and also deliver the courses across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc. Great learning of the subject from an academic perspective made us improvise the model further by adding an optional 30% academic time exposure in Europe. The open workshops of 16 to 40 hours duration, soon got noticed by corporates engaging us to do customised modules for their staff where in mixtures of Brand Management and Customer Experience management were created and delivered basis their industry sector needs. A total of some 2000 odd executives across brands ranging from BMW, Fairmont Hotels, Ferrari, Armani Hotels, Central park resorts, Canali fashions, Bottega Veneta, Jimmy Choo, GMR airports, Delhi Duty free shops etc have undertaken our various modules.
Phase II : As the market size grew, more and more young professionals got attracted to this lucrative industry as a recession proof career opportunity. The phase II envisaged this need phenomenon in anticipation. We soon launched a 'Executive Diploma In Luxury Brand Management' as a six months weekend course of 144 contact hours. This extra exposure was necessitated due to complete non exposure of the target group to luxury products or services. This weekend course was further offered with a 2 weeks immersive, experiential exposure at the International University of Monaco. With three lots of students having completed this course, the program seems to be fancied by many who are struggling with early to mid career crisis.
Phase III : A natural extension of the short track and mid track courses is the full time education. A full time masters level course of 10 months duration was curated, content developed by help of global best practices, professionals and doctorate researchers. A Post Graduate Diploma in Luxury Brand management was launched in 2014 with a small group of five students who are now successfully placed with brands like Lamborghini, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes Benz etc. The next 2 lots are ready to join the trade in early July and early November respectively. Admissions for AUgust intake are in full swing and we hope to achieve a lot more capacity utilisation.
Based on a firm belief of 'Underpromise & Overdeliver', we expect to seek, develop and nurture the best talent across emerging markets to build a talent pool which is at par or beyond the best global talent. No longer should we need to have international brands headed by expat managers in India. Our managers are the best in the world - they just need to be given the correct orientation which is in line with the industry standards.
This journey would not have been where it is today without the firm belief and support of few people in my team, besides of course my family who accepted all my idiocracies, whims, mood swings and kept supporting me to date. Prominent names which warrant a mention here are Rajat Bhattacharya, Campus director; Akshay Gupta, my son & Director Operations, last but not the least, Pramod Barthwal, Head Finance & Accounts.
As they say, the journey has just begun !