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Indians worship gold unlike anywhere else, says Bvlgari boss

Bvlgari’s group chief executive officer on India’s love for jewellery, expansion plans and how the country inspires the brand’s designs

Jean-Christophe Babin, the group chief executive officer of Bvlgari
Jean-Christophe Babin, the group chief executive officer of Bvlgari

"India is among our top 10 markets, but soon it will be No.3,” claims Jean-Christophe Babin, the group chief executive officer of Bvlgari. “There’s a lot of appetite for high jewellery here. We just need more luxury malls to set up shop.”

This is my second meeting with Babin, and he seems far more confident of the Indian consumer than he did during our first conversation, three years ago. Then, when covid was wreaking havoc across the world, the Italian luxury house had just launched its first India-exclusive jewellery in the form of a reimagined mangalsutra. “India is our big challenge,” he had said then.

Today, Babin is more “bullish” about India. Earlier, this month he was in Mumbai for the launch of Bvlgari’s second store in the country, at the Jio World Plaza in Mumbai (the first boutique is in Delhi’s DLF Emporio mall; the brand retails out of other stores across Metro cities). Before the inauguration, the brand had introduced B.zero1 Kada, an 18 karat yellow gold bracelet inspired by the traditional Indian kada. 

His interest in the Indian luxury consumer isn’t surprising. India’s luxury market is likely to hit $85 billion to $90 billion by 2030—propelled by Gens Y (born between 1981-96), Z (1997-2012) and Alpha (born after 2010) and an expanding upper middle class, according to a 2023 Bain & Co. report. Small wonder then that dozens of international fashion brands, from Balenciaga to Brioni, have entered the country, and the existing hundreds, including Bvlgari, are expanding their offerings.

Also read: Why Bvlgari recreated the ‘mangalsutra’

In an interview with Mint, Babin talks about India’s love for jewellery, how the country inspires the brand’s designs and the need for more luxury malls. Edited excerpts:

Bvlgari first entered India in 2004. Now, you have launched the second standalone boutique in the country. Why the slow expansion?

If landlords had built luxury malls earlier and in more cities, we would have expanded much more and much earlier. In fact, India, in general, would have grown much earlier (in terms of the luxury market). The only reason a country like China is bigger than India in terms of luxury, is that in China, you have many landlords who are willing to build a luxury mall—and that’s something that attracts luxury brands. Just to give an example, in China, 40 cities have at least one luxury mall. In India, there are two. I think India has more potential than China because people here worship gold, which is not the case anywhere else on a such a scale. It’s not because of the GDP that India is behind. It’s just a matter of accessibility.

I see India in a bullish way, as long as we can find locations. We plan to go up to five stores and expand our network of retailers, but ideally I would want to open 10 stores. For instance, we want to open in Hyderabad and Kolkata but, unfortunately, there aren’t any relevant spaces. And it’s surprising because Indians are more than ever desiring luxury.

They want Indian jewellery, and Western jewellery and watches, and they are buying them while travelling to Europe, Dubai or the US. So, we are highly confident about the Indian customer.


Bvlgari’s second store in India, at the Jio World Plaza in Mumbai
Bvlgari’s second store in India, at the Jio World Plaza in Mumbai

What makes you so confident?

Jewellery has been important in India for thousands of years. Today, India is No.1 when it comes to buying gold jewellery. And jewellery is not just a piece of jewellery here. There’s cultural importance attached to it, with people worshipping gold, silver and gems during festivals and on special occasions like weddings. As the population is growing, the appetite for jewellery is also on the rise, making enough room for local and international brands. No other country loves jewellery as much as India.

That’s perhaps the reason for India-inspired pieces like the ‘mangalsutra’ and the ‘kada’?

Of course. These are the kinds of jewellery don’t even exist in Western culture. When you get married in Europe, in China or in Japan, the man doesn’t get any necklace or bracelet. There’s the ring and may be a watch, but that’s it. So, as a Western jeweller, we trying to bring something together that celebrates the Indian tradition. Through these pieces, we also want to show how Roman and Indian jewellery techniques are similar.


Both the cultures are almost equally old and they are among the most ancient goldsmiths on the planet. In terms of mentality, I think Romans and Indians are similar—outspoken, believe in enjoying life. They also like statement pieces. So, it makes sense to fuse Roman and Indian jewellery aesthetics together, and it’s a hit combination.

How often does the India design language inspire Bvlgari designs?

The Roman culture has had influences from across the world. Our rulers were foreigners, not Italians. They were born in Africa, Spain, Turkey. So our jewellery was also influenced by different cultures. That’s why we try to be as inclusive as possible. For example, we introduced a gem cut nine years ago inspired by the shapes of tiles used in Jaipur roofs, which we noticed during a gem sourcing trip. India is always influencing Bvlgari.

What is the shopper looking for in jewellery?

Unisex jewellery, it’s becoming bigger. For India, of course, it’s not something new because men have been wearing big necklaces and kadas for the longest time. But in societies like China, Europe and America, the trend is pretty new and picking up quickly. That’s why the kada won’t just stay in India, it will be globally available. Same trend in watches as well.

Your favourite piece of jewellery?

My wedding ring (shaped like stacked bangles); it’s unisex. I knew about the trend before it even started (laughs).

Also read: Young India's luxury dream




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