Sunday, March 25, 2007

Europe Impressions:2007: more...

Driving past many cities and observing airports everywhere, I found that all the advertising and communication in Europe is highly 'functional'. They don't show a 'happy family' for everything from soap to car. Finally consumers have understood that soap is a soap is a soap. It can do nothing to entice a boyfriend or to make a girl a beauty queen. Care for skin and removing the dirt is the work that is expected out of it...that is it. There are no long and boring stories to be told there. I see this trend coming in some of the product categories in India as well.

Stationery shops are my place of interest when I go to Europe. Though Pune also has exclusive super stores of stationery and one can find exclusive stuff here as well. But the kind of deep-ranging that can be seen in each product category is usually absent in India. I can see 5 different coloured corrguated papers. The regular brown paper my son uses to cover his notebooks is also available in several colours and exotic finishes like silver.....this ordinary craft paper has been turned into an object of desire. While sharpners and erasers have taken on a chinese look because of obvious reasons, notebooks, papers, high-end pens etc. have still retained the European flavour. I was delighted that Chinese onslought has not taken a toll there and quality is still respected.

Europe Impressions:2007: March Brands, People, Design and more

I visited Europe 5th time this March, with all together new eyes. Agenda this time was to be there as a speaker for Insight India 07, the event that I ogranised with Genevieve of Style Vision and Axel Olessen from CIFS. But I combined this with a family outing to meet the Dutch and Austrian friends and thier families as well. It turned out to be a good idea that though in the short stay of seven days covering 4 cities, we had to skip entire Amsterdam city including Van-Gogh museam. Insights into the European living was tremendous this time where we met a young couple just starting their life, a well settled modern family with 3 kids and a family living with 3 generations together...it was all that a designer-trend-reader would look for.

I also took a tour of Stroget, the shopping street of Copenhagen with Genevieve. Luxury brand have come to a saturation of innovation. The accessories at Gucci or Louis Vuitton look drab and unexciting apart from the price tag and the brand equity they carry. A walk to Zara showroom was revealing. I had studied the rise of Zara and other new age companies like Skype a few days back. Zara is run by a spanish family and they change thier clothing products every 3 weeks. It is based on a strong local supply-chain (unlike IKEA which has a global cupply-chain). Zara offers affordable middle-end fashion garments with the tweak of 'new every time' one visits the showroom. At the same time, Zara sits next to Louis Vuitton and does not fill its showroom as if everything is under discount. I like the model and the feel. Visit to Ikea in Amsterdam (this was second time I visited IKEA...first was way back in 2000) was revealing too. The price tags on products suddenly appeared accesssible for an Indian buyer. A small wooden chair or stool that would cost Rs 4000 in India to make, were selling for for Rs 1500. IKEA has already announced thier plans to enter India. I won;t be surprised if Indian homes would be IKEAised and would lose the local identity. Even if local carpenters copy IKEA catalogues and make the furniture they surely introduce the 'stronger colours' or some 'decorative elements' on their own. Now that director of communication for IKEA attended our event (Insight India 2007), I see some ground breaking work by IKEA on Indian market (both on Product Design as well as Communication front).

Axel Olessen, the managing director of Copenhagen Insititute of Future Studies observed that not many Scandenavian companies had participated in our event because they are currently focused on China. According to him, Danish people are 'traders' and have a 'herd' mentality. Only some of them have noticed the changes in India and they are two years away from the Indian market. Copenhagen did appear to have the design consciousness more than Vienna or London etc. From telephone booth, trains, hoardings and day-to-day items did have a touch of thought. But then, it had no history of a city that usually glues me to a city. The kind of 'ancient air', Paris, Londond, Salzburg or Vienna exude, was totally missing from Copenhagen. It appeared to be a modern kid brought-up in luxury and good manners but rootless in culture. There was some sort of disdain for cultural harmony anyway...I felt (talking to Jessica and Genevieve and experiences from Sonali).

Living in Europe is costly? Stan bought a sort of row house with area approximately 3000 sq ft. with a garden attached, in Amersfoort. A sort fo luxury home when we think of Mumbai, Delhi or Pune, all 360,000 Euros. Any decent row-house in Indian cities would cost 1.5 crore rupees anyways. I took a taxi in Vienna from Barbara's home to Airport which is around 15 km distance. The taxi was a luxurious Merc and the charges- Euro 27 (i.e. Rupees 1600). I don't think we can get a Mercedez Benz for Rs. 1600 in Mumbai.... Mobile phones, cameras and refrigenrators and computers....cost the same in India and Europe....so where is the difference? A glass of water cost nothing in India (literally) compared to Rs.100 in Europe. One can get a decent one time food for Rs. 100 in India while you need to spend Rs. 1000. So food is extremely costly. Prakash had a good observation...wherever human touch is involved, things would be super costly in Europe...so true... a haircut would cost a bomb in Europe while it costs nothing in India...should we talk about massage? :)

more to come....lest I