Global firms line up to tap affluent Indians

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 06, 2012 20:01 hrs

Companies from across the world, spanning real estate, tourism, hospitality and retail are betting big on India, despite the slowing economy and the government being slammed by the world media for policy inaction. From hardselling a dream house next to the London Tower Bridge to eyeing tourism and business opportunity at Universal Studios and Disney Destinations; from drawing target customers for Macau casinos to launching travel guides tailored just for the well-heeled in India, global industry majors are rushing in to tap the increasing spending power of the people in this country.

UK’s Berkeley Homes, for instance, is currently doing a roadshow in India to market its prime property — One Tower Bridge — in central London. Close to the iconic Tower Bridge, these 702 sq ft to 1,135 sq ft homes, in one of the project wings, York House, are priced at anything between Rs 7.8 crore and Rs 13.2 crore. Berkeley Homes is currently promoting York House. On the whole, One Tower Bridge has 355 units, ranging from one-bedroom to four-bedroom and penthouses.

“Of the total buyers in the Prime Central London, 3.6 per cent comprise Indians, which is only expected to rise this year”, said Piers Clanford, managing director, Berkeley, explaining why they are here in India. Replying to a question on why the company was wooing Indians during the slowdown, Clanford said people are still relatively wealthy in India compared to other places. “Moreover a lot of Indians work in the UK, so they go for a house there.”

Brand USA, a public-private partnership set up two years ago to boost international travel to America, is bringing a 50-member high-powered delegation to India next week to meet representatives of India Inc and the government for potential business. The visiting team, from 35 companies and organisations such as Empire State Building, Disney Destinations, Caesers Entertainment, Macy’s, Madame Tusaud’s New York, Universal Studios, Sundance Helicopters, and New York Water Taxi, will showcase their business in Brand USA’s first outing in India.

According to Brand USA, its mission is “to grow America’s share of the global travel market.” In doing so, it is aimiing to bring millions of new international visitors, who spend billions of dollars, to the US, creating tens of thousands of new American jobs. An associate of Brand USA pointed out, “India is an extremely important market and cannot be ignored.” Some of the other markets where Brand USA is focused on include China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Coinciding with these developments, Lonely Planet, leading travel guide book and digital media publisher, now part of the BBC Worldwide stable, is going for a launch, specifically targeting the Indian traveller. The 'customised’ travel guides will target Indians who want to holiday abroad. Lonely Planet’s global CEO Matt Goldberg is expected to be here for the new initiative.

In yet another roadshow, mixed-use developer Sands Cotai Central was in India recently to promote its Macau property. Referring to its Macau property as the biggest hospitality project in the world, Sands Cotai said it was developing three hotels next to each other — Conrad, Sheraton and Holiday Inn along with casino and shopping complexes. While there was a drop of eight per cent in the number of visitors from India in January to June 2012, Sands Cotai is now expecting an increase of 25 per cent year on year in the number of visitors from India. “Although the spending has gone down, with an affordable brand like Holiday Inn, Indians will not fall short on options. The connectivity from Thailand to Macau will also give us a boost,” said Brendon Elliot, VP of Sales & Resort Marketing, Venetian Macau — subsidiary of Sands China.

Not just that, international retailers are also taking a serious look at India. American retailer GAP is conducting market research for entering the Indian market in the single brand space, according to international reports. The government allowed up to 100 per cent FDI in single brand retail November last, following which Swedish furniture giant IKEA sent its proposal to set up shop in India and invest Euro 1.5 billion over many years. In the multi-brand space, players like Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour are waiting for the government to ease the rules.

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