Author of the 2018 bestseller Compassion Inc. and Founder & CEO of Insignia Worldwide, Gaurav Sinha is a philosopher, entrepreneur and philanthropist who believes that good business and the luxuries in life should have a solid ethical foundation.
How do you think the luxury consumer has changed?
True connoisseurs of luxury are becoming more inquisitive and conscious of a brand’s higher purpose and ethical posture. Refined craftsmanship and human ingenuity is not enough, I believe we will see the rise of Altruistic Aesthetes, as stated in my book Compassion Inc., these are people looking for beautiful goods and experiences but also want to create positive impact through the choices they make.
The concept of luxury is heavily dependent on the culture of the person who defines it. In your life and travels, do you encounter differences in meaning?
The purest form of luxury is based on universal values and transcends culture, gender or age. These are irrefutable truths that are woven into the tapestry of all cultures. The big factor is contextual financial circumstances for consumers. What’s ordinary for some, might be extraordinary for others. In the slums of Africa and India clean water is a luxury, while many on the gilded boulevards of European cities fashionably rehydrate on the most expensive imported brands of artisanal mineral water.
“The purest form of luxury is based on universal values and transcends culture, gender or age.”
Which qualities would you say are the vital foundations of an authentic luxury product, service or experience?
Honesty. We live in deficit times and we are deprived of truth, transparency and trust. We don’t trust our government, our banks, our doctors or the media. What we need to see more of are honest brand narratives, where good human values define their business values. Brand distinction is curated through authentic, original and meaningful connections.
When you conceive and create a luxury product or service – what essential elements must be present?
As an agency, we believe in defining a superlative proposition or brand essence, not a comparative one. This is discovered through immersive engagement with our clients. Provenance is key to luxury and deep rooted values are critical to success.
How does your business view the range of growth opportunities within the emerging field of “sustainable luxury?”
Both sustainability and luxury are prostituted words in the realms of marketing and brands need to be very careful about how they use these in context to the promises they make to their consumers. I have presented a new definition of USPs in my book which elevates the discourse of strategy by embracing Universally Sustainable Principles as the lens through which brands should cultivate their culture, with a purpose that transcends profits alone.
“We need to see more honest brand narratives, where good human values define their business values.”
Luxury can seem contradictory – the rarity of a desirable product is part of its appeal, and yet luxury is becoming more accessible – how do you view this delicate balance and the democratisation of luxury?
There is hyper-fragmentation amongst most brands categories now. I personally dislike the term ‘disruption’ too as its used with limited cognitive resonance now; everyone claims to be disruptive. We are witnessing an era of disaggregation where boundaries are blurred and luxury brands are becoming inclusive, not exclusive. This democratisation is confusing customers too because of tensions between scarcity and access – luxury brands now have ‘family brands’ to cater to different consumer segments and those who stand firm on values and essence will be the ones that survive the commoditisation of luxury.
What are the main challenges of luxury brands at this time?
Their inability to nurture human engagement is going to be their downfall. The frontline of luxury experiences or goods is managed by people and luxury brands should be the vanguards of human empowerment. This will require bold and brave measures where boardrooms talk about giving back, not just profit margins.
Could you choose one word to describe luxury now?
Purity, of purpose, principles and proposition. This is the fundamental genetic makeup of profound luxury brands. Capitalist markets are polluted by empty promises made by brands looking to make short-term profits and luxury brands place good human values at the heart of their operations.
“The frontline of luxury experiences or goods is managed by people and luxury brands should be the vanguards of human empowerment.”
What is one luxury you couldn’t do without?
Time is the ultimate luxury. I am very mindful of how I spend my time, whether its reflective, social or professional activities so making time for myself, to do the things I love, is my only measure of luxury.
How do you see the evolution of luxury and where is it heading next?
Luxury will revert back to the basics, as people seek simplicity. Simplicity is not mutually exclusive to refined craftsmanship, human ingenuity, imagination and creativity. There is timeless elegance in design simplicity and as brands try to create amplified distinction, it will be their higher purpose that will make them stand apart.