Your wish is my command

Mishti Bose, chief executive officer of Quintessentially Lifestyle, talks about how the lifestyle concierge services sector is evolving in India and the company’s future prospects 

POORNIMA KAVLEKAR

MISHTI BOSE, GROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, QUINTESSENTIALLY LIFESTYLE

What is luxury? It could be anything one aspires for – money, experience, apparel, accessories and much more. But, for a company that offers concierge services, time is defined as luxury. “While it may not be a definition that the luxury industry will accept, it is very specific to the entire business that we are in,” says Mishti Bose, group chief executive officer of Quintessentially Lifestyle (QL), a part of the UK-based concierge services company specialising in lifestyle services business. The company was founded in 2000 by Ben Elliot, Aaron Simpson and Paul Drummond and has been offering specialist advice, insider access and exclusive benefits to its members across the globe.  This UK-based company, one of the world’s leading private members’ clubs, began India operations three and half years ago. It has a portfolio of over 32 businesses covering every facet of the luxury lifestyle market.

With offices in over 70 cities across the world, QL, in India, has complete access to the best services in lifestyle category across the globe.  It caters to HNIs who are essentially top industrialists, media owners, corporate lawyers and owners of large law firms. The company has three membership categories – dedicated, bespoke elite and global elite. The annual fee is Rs 2 lakh for the dedicated category and Rs 8 lakh for the bespoke elites. The global elite memberships, where clients get relationship managers in 70 cities, are by invitation only.

Since its launch in India, QL has grown at 35 to 40 per cent on a year-on-year basis. It is optimistic about its growth in the coming years given the changing dynamics of this industry, A report by Kotak Mahindra Bank and CRISIL (Top of the pyramid India, decoding the ultra HNI 2013), also confirms the market potential that the companies from the luxury sector have. It says that the total net worth of Indian ultra HNHs will reach Rs. 380 trillion in 2017-18 from an estimated Rs. 86 trillion in 2012-13. This growth in net worth will be driven predominantly by growth in the number of ultra HNHs and income growth.

On one hand, the HNI base is growing in India; on the other, this group is also becoming money rich and time poor. Acquisition of wealth is making them discerning and demanding and, they are beginning to aspire for unique experiences. This is where our services will come into place and eventually help us grow.

In this interview with Poornima Kavlekar of The Smart CEO, Mishti Bose, who has eleven years of experience in some of India’s largest advertising agencies, talks to us about the concierge services industry in India, the dynamics of the sector and QL’s role in shaping this sector.

What are the factors driving the growth of lifestyle concierge business in India? 

On one hand, the HNI base is growing in India; on the other, this group is also becoming money rich and time poor. Acquisition of wealth is making them discerning and demanding and, they are beginning to aspire for unique experiences. This is where our services will come into place and eventually help us grow.

When did this sector start growing in India? And what was the reason for the same?  

When we launched three and half years back, the timing was perfect. There were a set of people in this country that had money and lifestyle; there were also the ones who did not have the lifestyle but were definitely aspiring for it.

Historically, concierge has been part of a hotel and that’s what people associate it to. Around 10 to 15 years back, when Bengaluru witnessed the IT industry boom, concierge culture entered the corporate circles too. Though more like a HR initiative, a concierge company set up a concierge desk at the IT hubs, benefits were given to employees, and many utility driven requests were fulfilled through these services. What started as a corporate concierge service has slowly evolved into a lifestyle concierge service.

All the concierge services that we have in India are all local home grown services with many of them doing backend concierge for credit card companies and so on.  We are the only membership-based global concierge services company in the country.

How would you compare the Indian market for concierge services with the global market?

These services have existed much longer in places like London, New York or Hong Kong. India is a new market, but one that holds a strong potential to grow. We are still educating people about this service. There used to be a time, few years back, where people believed that Indians were clueless about international brands and lifestyle. That era has gone. They are well travelled and are more aware about brands and services like this. So the overall opportunity in this category is huge.  As far as the type of requests is concerned, it is mostly for access to events, restaurants or bookings, which are typically difficult to access.

What kind of training do you give your lifestyle manager? 

Our lifestyle managers go through a rigorous training program with each vertical at QL. They are trained with the acquisition team (talking about the sales procedures), partner relations team (sharing insights on partnerships) and marketing (giving the brand strategy perspective – marketing, PR, events) and of course the membership operations team, which is the backbone of the brand. Lifestyle managers are trained to deal with the day-to-day requests with due research and, most importantly, are taught to build relationship with members. It is not a theorem that can be followed, since every member is a different individual with varied lifestyle choices. Hence, it is an extremely complicated process.

Our service has to be proactive and time efficient. The lifestyle managers should know their clients well. The concierge service should have a global network of exceptional contacts which they can utilise for their member’s benefit. Finally, they should also have a host of partnerships offering value-added opportunities. Knowing the luxury market is crucial for any luxury business.  Training lasts for a few weeks, depending on the level of the manager. For example, an elite manager is trained for longer period when compared to a dedicated level manager.

Can you share an interesting assignment that your organisation has carried out? 

Once, an elite member requested us for two to three month old Shiba Inu puppies. Since the breed is available only in Japan, our elite manager contacted our Japan office, which informed us that, as per Japanese law (in lieu of the vaccinations given to the dogs), this breed was allowed to be sent out of the country only as a six-month old. We contacted a reputed Indian dog breeder, who helped in procuring the paper work to follow customs guidelines. Payments and paperwork were sent in advance. Post vaccination, the two puppies were transported to India via air within 24 hours. The best part was that the puppies were in a healthy condition when given to their foster parents in India.

What is your shield against the economic slowdown? 

Typically, what we have noticed since we commenced operations is that somehow the top end of the pyramid does not get impacted during a slowdown. This business has the ability to withstand an economic slowdown.