The market for branded and premium sunglasses in India is experiencing strong growth.
Although local players dominate the domestic market, the industry is changing rapidly, with more and more international brands stepping in to woo Indian customers.
Mehak Prakash is ready to splurge $387 on a pair of sunglasses from an Italian luxury label this summer.
Ms Mehak, who is a chocolatier, saves for a pair of new shades every summer.
She believes that, like luxury handbags, sunglasses too are a noticeable way to display and indeed acquire, the perceived cachet inherent in a designer brand.
She said: "I got this fetish three years ago and since then there was no looking back. Every season I pick up at least one pair if nothing else and the pricing can go up till 15,000-20,000 rupees. That is about $300-400."
The customers who share Ms Mehak's level of brand consciousness that have fuelled the sales of branded sunglasses in the Indian market, which is largely dominated by less-renowned players who lack the marketing focus of the big brands and whose products lack both quality and design protection.
According to a latest government survey, the premium sunglasses segment, which accounts for 30 per cent of the Indian eyewear market, is growing at 40 per cent a year.
Lalit Kalra, managing director at Dayal Opticals, said: "More and more awareness towards the fashion industry plus there are a lot of brands launching in India, like all the major brands have got stores now in New Delhi, so they are really affecting lots and lots of people. So more brand awareness is catching up, people are aware of brands and they want to spend on good brands, spending power is also increasing."
With sunglasses becoming a fashion statement, eyewear designers are introducing new shapes and colours every season to reflect the whims of buyers.
Analysts, who have traced the behaviour of this growing trend over the years, believe that India's fashion eyewear market has huge untapped potential.
Gurpreet Singh, owner of Xpert Opticians, said: "There are some very big players…They are already in India, like you name the brand, and it is available in Indian market. I think they are doing really good, especially in comparison to all over Asia, India and especially the north side in India. It is doing very well and yes, definitely there is much more scope."
Despite the whopping prices, Indians have over the years come to love their expensive sunglasses. Besides the other branded must-have objects like handbags and watches, shades too have emerged as a fundamental fashion accessory for more brand-conscious customers.
Over at Silverstone, the handbags are out between two UK mobile networks ahead of the British Grand Prix. Why? Well it all comes down to what's on the Vodafone-sponsored cars.
Jenson Button's and Sergio Perez's jam jars are branded with Vodafone's yet-to-launch 'Ultrafast 4G' network. According to Vodafone, this annoyed EE somewhat, who contacted the red network "demanding" that the cars be garaged and the branding removed, TechRadar reports. EE claims it did nothing of the sort.
A Vodafone UK spokesperson told TechRadar there was no harm in branding the cars with its forthcoming service. "This is sponsorship, not advertising," they said. "The clue is in the team's name: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. We're using the cars to build further awareness of our forthcoming ultrafast 4G service.
"It's a 'static' promotion, albeit on a car that can travel at over 200mph. Consumers know Vodafone's ultrafast 4G is coming. We've said very publicly it will be here by the late summer. Even if someone seeing the car wasn't aware of that, there is no 'call to action' on it."
EE's response? It said it never made the demand, that it just thought it strange Vodafone would want to publicise a service that hasn't launched yet. "We're far from demanding Jenson get garaged, we're right behind him for tomorrow's race," a spokesperson said. "We simply asked why advertise a product that you don't have?
"When it comes to 4G mobile networks, Vodafone UK isn't even on the grid."
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