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Spreading affluence, fancier retail outlets, availability of global brands and a new disease called Technolust combine to flood the Great Indian Bazaar with the hottest products available. From the millionaire to the 250 million strong middle class, everyone is indulging in retail therapy.

Spreading affluence, fancier retail outlets, availability of global brands and a new disease called Technolust combine to flood the Great Indian Bazaar with the hottest products available. From the millionaire to the 250 million strong middle class, everyone is indulging in retail therapy.

Here’s the thing. A couple of years ago, if Mr and Mrs Gupta stepped out to make a statement, he would be decked out in his Hugo Boss suit, a Bvlgari watch, Tag Heuer shades, a Nokia communicator, and Ferragamo shoes. She would be resplendent in Prada, sporting a Louis Vuitton bag, Chanel shades, Dior jewellery and Jimmy Choo stilettos. They would have been in a minuscule minority, confident of their exclusivity. Not so now.

The spread of affluence means that Brand bling has been democratised. Go to a Big Indian Wedding, where the upper and middle class rubs padded shoulders with the seriously rich, and everyone seems to be sporting expensive designer bags, shoes, jewellery, attire and cellphones. It’s getting tougher to tell the wealthy from the wannabes.

Affluence and availability are the key. Eight years ago, only one of the brands the Gupta’s sported Louis Vuitton was available in India. Today, they have all set up shop in India. Jimmy Choo is coming soon to a retail outlet near you as are Dior and Hermes. Others awaiting official FDI clearance include Gucci, Calvin Klein, La Pearla, Tod, D and Tumi, the luxury luggage makers. DLF is in talks to bring in Armani, while Arvind will do the same for Polo Ralph Lauren.

The impact of India’s continuing economic growth is clearly creating a sustainable market for such brands (see luxury box).

What’s pushing the frenzied consumer spend is that top global brands are launching their products in India almost simultaneously with global markets. Barely a week after introducing new versions of the iPod in the US, Apple brought them to India, while Nokia’s revolutionary Prism models debuted here. Samsung’s breakthrough Rs 24 lakh 70 inch HDTV hit the Indian market on September 8, the same day as the rest of the world.

The proliferation of brands and availability has also meant that prices are constantly going south. Mobile phones as a genre are more affordable, with new models being launched almost every week. The social buzz, of course, is around Apple’s , which is still to be officially launched in India but is already available in an ‘unlocked’ version on various online sites. Some functions do not work here but it can make and receive calls and SMS, which is why it’s currently the hottest accessory to own.

The ownership obsession shows that India, like the rest of the world, has succumbed to what psychologists call Technolust, the irresistible desire to possess the latest trendy gadget,
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no matter what the cost or its utility value. There’s a larger issue involved. The cellphone is no longer a technology tool and mobile communicator; it’s equally a style statement and extension of individual personality, as are most gadgets these days. The result is excess.

Most corporate types now carry two phones, the ubiquitous Blackberry that connects you to your e mail account, and another, equally expensive one, just to protect their individuality. Our kids are even more prone to technolust. It’s rare to see them without iPod earphones lodged in their ears while pecking away on their cellphones, laptops or Playstations.

The lure of technology and the amazing advances in the digital domain have made today’s gadgets and gizmos virtually irresistible and the cost almost inconsequential. The bottom line, however, is that Indians have got over their ‘imported’ hangover, largely because most of the brands are available here and that too the very latest.

What’s more interesting is that a large percentage of buyers of luxury goods, from Mercedes cars to designer jeweller and expensive gadgets, handheld or home products, are from the non metro cities located mainly in the north and west of the country. Residents of cities like Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Gurgaon, Lucknow, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Pune and Nagpur spend more on luxury goods than those in Mumbai or Bangalore, according to the Knowledge Company’s report on Luxury Trends in India.

Brands depend mainly on two hooks: the reputation of the manufacturer and the social status quotient, which is why some have acquired a more iconic image than others. The lines, however, are getting increasingly blurred. Armani and Versace no longer dominate wardrobes as they once did and the same holds true for most other brands. Yet, whatever cutting edge cool that make them the must have product of the moment. Here’s our definitive guide to what’s really hot in the India bazaar.

Ferrari F430 ScuderiaFerrari’s expertise at the fore with sheer luxurious style. This prancing horse is for Ferrari’s most committed customers and was unveiled by Michael Schumacher at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The Scuderia is a stripped down version of the 360 Challenge Stradale and weighs 100 kg less. With 510 BHP, you’ll hit 62 mph in under three and a half seconds, while the gear changes take less than 60 milliseconds. It combines the Formula 1 ‘F1 Trac’ traction for heightened stability. This one is an ultimate dream machine.

Price:150,000 (Rs 1.2 crore without import duty)

Aston Martin Rapide

Rapide Force

At a speed of 180 mph, the Rapide thrills. Its 6 litre V 12 engine has the same configuration as the original Lagonda Rapide built in 1961. The Rapide is being seen as Aston Martin’s new challenge to the Bentley’s Flying Spur, Maserati’s Quattroporte and Porsche’s Panamera. Practicality and power are the Rapide’s signature qualities. The Rapide is based on Aston Martin’s VH high strength, low mass architecture.

Price: $200,000 (Rs 79 lakh without import duty)


Let there be light

The Vaio TZ, including the battery, weighs just 1,200 gm, making it a lot lighter than other laptops. It provides the luxury of free and easy mobility with full capability. Comes in a chic design. The 11.1 inch, 4.7 mm slim display comes equipped with a motion eye webcam. Has 1 GB of main memory (upgradable to 2 GB), an Intel Centrino Duo processor with a 100 GB HDD. High tech user friendly features include the new Windows Vista Business operating software. The body is made of tough and advanced carbon fibre.

This one lives up to Bose’s tradition. The system produces rich stereo sound from a small enclosure. Is equipped with a CD player which offers the facility to skip, scan, repeat and continue playing your favourite music. Comes with five preset AM and FM channels which allows easy access to your favourite radio stations. The credit card sized remote control allows you to control the music system from across the room. Its compact and moulded inset allows you to take music wherever you go.
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