Bling to the Power of


Bling to the Power of

Last Wednesday, the Austrian Ambassador’s residence in Delhi burnt with the glow of crystals and India’s shining, who raised a toast-and-a-few to a decade of dazzle. It had taken a week to recreate parts of the Swarovski World, located off Innsbruck in Austria. Crystal World, Delhi, was the reflection of our love for shimmer scattered in a million pieces of crystal. There were innovative installations — an upturned gown interpreted as a chandelier for one — jewellery collections and moving images. The centrepiece was a revolving stage, on which stood a dozen odd mannequins dressed in every label that makes a business out of shimmer. Garments by the have been-done thats of the fashion industry: Tarun Tahiliani, JJ Valaya, Rohit Bal and others were joined by saris from Nalli and Pashma and such. Some lovely; others plain garish. A fashion show followed, displaying all big collaborations of the company in India.

Whether you like flash or not, Swarovski’s marketing strategy is ingenious in a country naturally inclined to embellishment. The company’s India director, Sanjay Sharma’s pragmatic approach has worked. In a former interview, he told this correspondent, that he first wooed the creamy layer because copying the rich and the famous is a trend in India. The unoriginal start-up plan was multiplied and cast as a net to bait stakeholders in small and big cities. If associations with designers making wedding couture were the first stops, the last but not the least are with Kanjeevaram sari weavers. Between these two extremes are entrepreneurs converted for a B2B (business to business) tapestry. From the “Man of the Match” and “Man of the Tournament” trophies of the 2011 World Cup to idols of Radha-Krishna made in Vrindavan; from chandeliers and bathroom tiles to sports shoes, golf tournament trophies, news channel awards or mastheads of luxury magazines, the crystal rain was heavy. The company introduced online design competitions for fashion students and took winners on learning trips to Austria. Sharma dwelt upon cultural complexities to draw his matrix. “It was about dropping a penny in India which has a long history of adornment,” he had said. “We are here to add on, not to take away,” he would explain. “Instead of 2D embroidery, why not 3D crystals?” asked Sharma.

Before we give Sharma all the credit, let’s not forget that ten years ago, India needed a tacit tool to turn around its look. The economy was opening up and old moneyed families were tired of jadau jewellery, Persian carpets, toosh shawls and the finest saffron. They craved for something flashier. On the other hand, the nouveau riche turned consumption into competition. “Mine is bigger than yours” and “mine is shinier than yours” were the rules of the game. If Louis Vuitton swooped down on the arrivistes, with its visible logo of industrial fashion, Swarovski seeped in, colonising even the street vendor into a google-eyed slave of stick-on glitter.

Now that clouds loom over what was formerly called India’s “shining” geography of mind and matter, will Swarovski continue to enthrall us? Let’s not be so sure. The principle of plateau in marketing could kick in and India may need a new tool to tell another story.