This September there was much excitement on Delhi’s posh MG Road, home to some of the biggest designer brands, when a new store opened its doors to the city’s discerning but well-heeled shoppers. While these reveals are usually punctuated by a launch party where celebrities rub shoulders over cocktails and canapes amid much fanfare, guests at this event were literally on their toes, as everyone was afraid of being the proverbial bull in the ring! a china shop! The store in question: the shiny new Spanish luxury porcelain store Lladró, packed with stunning sculptures priced between Rs 8,000 and Rs 2.47 million. Now, that’s not something you’d want to trip and fall over. Opened to celebrate the brand’s 70th anniversary, it is Lladró’s eighth store in India and the second largest in the world. Distributed in 475 square meters. m, is part of the brand’s expansion strategy in India and Asia. “India is a strategic market for us. It ranks third in terms of global sales; the first is Japan, followed by the United States. Five years ago, India accounted for 8 per cent of our global sales; today it’s 11 percent, so it’s a big jump. I mean, we are seeing the Indian market growing very quickly,” says Ana Rodríguez, CEO of Lladró. Lladró’s journey in India began in 2000, with its first store in a suburban shopping center in Mumbai. It now has stores in luxury malls across India, in New Delhi, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. “We manage all of this because we believe that we have to invest directly in the country,” says Rodríguez, who has been executive director of the firm based in Valencia, Spain, since 2017. Globally, the brand has 1,200 points of sale. The new boutique in Delhi is a massive five-story building with three floors dedicated to direct sales, showcasing classic and contemporary porcelain figurines (1), lighting collections and more. The ground floor showcases contemporary creativity under the New Concept line, including pieces designed by international artists, while the second floor highlights the traditional legacy of heritage pieces, and the third floor showcases masterpieces under the Fine Porcelain category, along with a selection of New Classics. Rodríguez says that in the two decades that Lladró has been present in the country, the tastes of its customers have also evolved and the new store reflects that. Globally, it generates 69 percent of its business from heritage concepts such as fine porcelain, classical sculptures and home; 21 percent from new concepts such as designer sculptures, perfumes and jewelry; while 10 percent comes from lighting. “The younger generation greatly appreciates modern collections, which move away from our classics, such as European history and culture or mother and child themes. Maybe in our opinion, India is more conservative than it is,” she states.
However, it is the ‘Spirit of India’ collection, which includes a wide range of deities from the Hindu pantheon, that remains the most popular. Launched in the 2000s with limited editions of Lord Ganesha, Lladró today offers everything from sculptures of Goddess Durga, Lord Balaji and Lord Shrinathji to Radha-Krishna on a swing. The collection also includes the limited edition sculpture with only 299 pieces, of Krishna explaining(1) the dharma to Arjuna on the Mahabharata battlefield, called Gita Saar, which took more than three years to make and is priced at Rs 38.32 lakh. The pandemic made most people become more religious. Consider this: A surge in demand for sculptures of Indian deities contributed to 37 per cent of India’s business growth during the pandemic, with the peak demand coming from Lord Balaji, of which 299 units were launched in 2018. The price of sculpture has increased by 38 percent. cent, from Rs 18.5 lakh to Rs 29.7 lakh since its launch, with only five units left unsold in the world. In 2022, Lladró also launched a limited edition fine porcelain sculpture of Lord Srinathji, which received exceptional response from its Indian customers, retailing 54 units in just four months out of 299 units manufactured. “The Spirit of India collection is popular not only in India but all over the world where there is a Hindu population. It is particularly popular in the United States,” says Rodríguez. As part of Lladró’s strategy, every time they enter a new market, they launch a specific collection for that market to connect with local tastes and traditions. “It’s in our DNA. Much of our success has to do with the way customers emotionally connect with our pieces. Globally, our bestsellers are about topics like mother and child, motherhood – universal feelings that anyone can relate to,” he says. These are the reasons why Lladró maintained its business in India with a growth of 1.5 percent in India even in 2020, when the world had come to a standstill during the pandemic. It rebounded in 2021, with sales up 43 percent from the previous year. Between January (1) and August 2022, Lladró’s business in India grew by 47 percent compared to the same period in 2021, making it the brand’s most successful period. A large number of new customers were also registered in 2022, contributing to 50 percent of total sales. With India remaining a key market for the brand, Rodriguez says it will open more single-brand stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. “We have extensive expansion plans and we want the brand to be better known among young people.” Rodríguez adds that online sales are also becoming important for the company. Globally, 15 percent of its revenue currently comes from the Internet and it plans to increase that figure to 25 percent in the next 5 to 6 years. “Currently, our online presence in India is very limited, less than 5 per cent, but we are investing in it and expanding it starting next year.” The general impression, says Rodríguez, is that porcelain is delicate and should not be purchased online for fear of breaking it. “Porcelain is not that fragile and our packaging involves a lot of engineering to ensure it doesn’t break. During the pandemic, people started shopping online, and once they realized there were no breakages, the trend continued. It is very important for our growth, that is why we will reinforce it,” he explains. The opening of the New Delhi store is part of Lladró’s broader expansion strategy in India and Asia. Over the past two years, the brand has opened new stores in key markets including China, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand. This expansion is aligned with the company’s omnichannel strategy that focuses on strengthening both digital sales channels and physical points of sale. As more and more Indians become home buyers, Lladró hopes to corner a larger proportion of their budget on home décor. Who knows, the next time you visit a housewarming party, you might see a Spanish-made Ganesha smiling at you.