MUMBAI: The ‘recession proof’ luxury industry in India is facing a dearth of leadership talent.
Companies across fashion, jewellery, realty and, what’s increasingly being referred to as ‘experiential luxury’, are scurrying to hire CXOs and niche talent as they scale up business following an escalation in growth. This has also resulted in skyrocketing salaries at CXO levels, executive search firms said.
From what used to be at best 2-3 searches a year, Claricent Partners is now handling 7to 8, including for CEOs as well as highly specialised niche roles, said the executive search firm’s managing partner Jyoti Bowen Nath. “Companies are even ready to offer a100% jump in compensation. Large groups are diversifying into jewellery and existing players have been ramping up. Talent for leadership and highly specialised roles in is very scarce,” said Nath.
Sunit Mehra, partner at board & senior executive level search services firm Hunt Partners, said, “The K-curve effect of Covid has had a dramatic impact on sales of luxury goods. Business has boomed in India, leading to an unprecedented shortage of leadership talent. ” Hunt Partners has closed several senior placements for luxury brands such as Shaze, TBZ, Raymond and Pernod Ricard. The numbers for 2022 are up 3x when compared to the prepandemic period, said Mehta.
CXO search firm Accord India, too, has seen an uptick in mandates this year with consumers spending on high-end homes, cars, paintings, watches and jewellery, as well as experiential luxury such as travel, clubs and food. Sonal Agrawal, managing partner at Accord India and global chair at AltoPartners, an international alliance of leadership search firms, said, “Selling luxury is as much about perception and experience as it is about product, and companies are scrambling to find people who can appreciate and balance the experiential with the nitty gritty of operations, supply chains and build-outs.”
Options of hiring expats for CXO roles are also being considered. To attract such talent, there is no choice but to shell out mega bucks and literally roll out the red carpet, said Nath. “Deals are being sweetened with ESOP plans and specially curated roles. For example, companies are open to having someone on a flexi-engagement model as long as the individual can add value. Many creative professionals find it extremely restrictive to work with a single brand and several of them are entrepreneurs having their own high-end jewellery brands, which they don’t want to give up,” Nath added.
For CXO roles, search firms are looking for talent across a spectrum of sectors. But for specialised roles in retail, design and merchandising, companies look to hire from within the same sector. Industry estimates suggest that India’s luxury goods market will be worth $8. 5 billion in 2022 against $6 billion in 2021. It is expected to grow annually by about 8% (CAGR 2021-2025).
An important part of the luxury segment is the roughly $850-million jewellery industry, which is keen on hiring professional CXOs for scaling up operations.