Robb Report UK’s editor-in-chief, James Collard, joins an esteemed panel to discuss Indian luxury – past, present and future

Luxury industry insiders from across India and further afield gathered in New Delhi on Friday for a symposium on luxury sponsored by the Taj Group of Hotels, Resorts and Safaris – the first such gathering. That it’s the first comes as something of a surprise, given that Taj is synonymous with Indian luxury in the minds of many travellers – ever since Sir Jametji Tata opened his famous hotel on Bombay’s Apollo Bund in 1903. It certainly makes sense that what’s surely India’s oldest and best known luxury brand should have hosted the symposium (which was organised by the Luxury League, an organisation designed to foster and promote Indian luxury, along the lines of France’s Comité Colbert). 

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Speakers discussed Indian luxury – past, present and future. Past? A reminder that historically, Indian luxury was considerably in advance of the West, reaching its high point, according to historian Anita Baig, under the Mughals in the 17th century, while the Maharajas were famous patrons of luxury, both home-grown and European, right up to the Princely States accession to the Republic of India seventy years ago this year. Present? Hotel groups such as Taj and Oberoi are globally recognised brands; Indian textiles and rugs are highly prized, while the jewellery is superb, from Jaipur’s celebrated Gem Palace to the new kid on the luxury block Nirav Modi, which opened a store on London’s Bond Street last year. The future? The Luxury League aims to champion India’s highly skilled artisans, some of whom live on the breadline, by connecting them more effectively with Western consumers and the vast and growing market that is India’s aspiring middle classes.

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Robb Report joined a panel discussion on experiential luxury with Taj’s Chinmai Sharma and Vanity Fair’s Victoria Mather, the doyenne of travel journalists. ‘India has a head start with luxury,’ said James Collard, Robb Report UK’s editor in chief, ‘as it has incredible craftspeople who can still make wonderful things. It has great service – delivered with warmth. It has glamour. And many of us in the West believe that India has something to teach us – which means we’re always open to something inspiring coming out of India.’