Zara Dekhna: Inditex Invades India

The Motherland has been invaded by the Spaniards. 

The Inditex Group’s first Zara store opened in India late last week to much hungama. It seems like a late foray, doesn’t it? Luxury brands have been setting up shop from Guragaon to Goa in the last few years, but then again, most things in the Motherland do happen in IST, or Indian Standard Time. 

The 1,800-square-meter space is in the Select CityWalk mall in Saket, South Delhi and will co-exist with brands like Next (England’s answer to Gap – only better), Ed Hardy (I guess bad taste crosses all borders), Esprit, French Connection and fellow Spanish retailer, Mango. All Zara lines will be stocked – Woman, Basic, TRF, Kids and Man. 

 

Two more stores are imminent – another in Delhi’s famed DLF Promenade Vasant Kunj mall, where the retailer will compete against the brands it is, ahem, inspired by – and a third at the Palladium Mall shopping centre in Mumbai. When did the Motherland become such a mall haven? Other major Indian cities also have a Zara in their near future. 

My first experience with the Zara brand – one of many owned by the Inditex Group – was in Madrid about a dozen years ago. I walked in to the Gran Via store and I think angels began to sing. Everything in the store was black, grey, brown, burgundy and green. Was I home? 

A friend was with me and I just remember her saying something about going to the Lladro figurine shop a few doors down. I didn’t even turn my head – just told her to go on without me. It would be a while. (She would smile if she read this story now.) 

I remember picking up a piece, looking at the colour/quality/price and never putting it back down. That one item soon turned into 12, 15, 20. The store was about to close, but the Spanish Sales S.W.A.K. (they were too nice to be a S.W.A.T.) team that came to rescue my numb arm of the mountain of mode told me to relax and take my time. 

It was so difficult to choose. I remember the Zara Woman label being such amazing quality and their suits having multiple options. You could take a long jacket in a grouping and pair it with the slim or wide-legged pants, the short or long skirt and sometimes even a vest. It was manufactured by Inditex, but you could suit it to your style or body type. That is something I never did see in any of the North American stores. 

I walked out with three (yes – tres) large (muy grande) garbage-sized bags full of merch, with the S.W.A.K. team literally blowing me kisses and hugging me as I left. The most expensive single item was a suit jacket at $100. It was one of the best retail experiences I’ve ever had. Those suits were my staples for so many years – with people asking me regularly where I got something that was cut so well and with such great fabric. It was the Madrid Zara – and I just gave away my last piece of that haul in a much-needed spring clean only days ago. Someone else will fall in love with that grey, zip suit jacket like I did and gush over the mint condition they find it in. Good clothes carry good karma with them. 

The next morning, as I entered the tour bus, word of my haul had spread to the group – and each time we passed a Zara in the numerous cities of Spain we visited (and there were lots – like Benettons in Italy!), they said: oh look, there’s a Jyotika (my fellow travellers had named the store after me). 

In recent years, I’ve found less and less but still manage to source a lovely piece or two that carries me through a season or two. 

Inditex has been expanding into Asian countries, starting with Japan in 1999, and more recently, China in 2006 and South Korea in 2008. With the Indian market being as garam as it is right now, it only makes sense for Inditex to get in on the action, and makes more sense for them to partner with the  Tata Group – the resident rulers of everything from cars to luxe hotels and most things in between. 

A sealed deal: Pablo Isla, Inditex’s Deputy Chairman and CEO with Noel N. Tata, Managing Director of Trent Limited, a Tata Enterprise.

Hmmm….Zara goes desi. It’s about time things came full circle. After all, I do buy most of my kurtas at the big Z and they are made in India. 

Checking India off their list, brought Inditex closer to world domination with stores in 77 countries – a feat that’s hard to knock off. 

[Lost in translation: Zara dekhna = Just take a look, hungama = fanfare/chaos, garam = hot, kurtas = tunics, desi = homegrown.]

Images courtesy of Business Week and Inditex respectively.

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