The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Petals, pricey & perfect

If you thought Calcutta was short on small change, try this number for size. Lladro, the Spanish porcelain company, records sales worth Rs 14 to 16 lakh every month from its single outlet in this poor city.

Rs 16.5 lakh is what one undisclosed customer of the firm’s official showroom, Ganga Expressions, paid for an exquisite porcelain train. Not happy with just one, the buyer has ordered another.

“We were the first in India to sell the limited-edition piece,” explains Jag Mohan Daga, proprietor, Ganga Expressions. At the Metro Plaza showroom on Thursday, one of the company’s most experienced artists, Trinidad Gimenez, demonstrated the intricate craft of creating the tiny flowers distinctive of the brand. Each petal is separately made and then deftly caressed into a bud. Just a few of these flowers can push up the price of a piece significantly.

The 1.5-metre train — created from 500 different moulds, with every little detail in place — is also the most expensive item in the brand’s India portfolio.

Calcutta stands at number three from the sales perspective, behind Delhi — where the GK Lladro showroom is the largest single brand retail outlet in the country — and Mumbai.

The limited-edition Lord Ganesha, which sold out in a year, also did very well here. Buyers of this piece would be happy with their investment. When it started out, it was going for Rs 69,000. Now it is marked at over Rs 300,000.

Though India is just a blip on Lladro’s 120-country map as of now, it is pegged as a major market. A Radha-Krishna figurine will be released next year, as will be a porcelain jewellery line set on silver and gold — both expected to be sales drivers.

“All kinds of buyers invest in this kind of artwork,” explains Anjelique O’Brien, country manager, Lladro. The relatively cheaper items — between Rs 10,000 and Rs 30,000 — are often used as corporate gifts. Private buyers either want something that can be included as part of a trousseau, or as an ornamental piece for the home.

If the prices seem somewhat steep — and they are — company representatives can explain the cause. “The attention to detail is what sets these works apart. There would be one person whose job it is to only paint eyes on the figures,” says O’Brien. Add to that the inherent cost of porcelain and European labour charges and much of the expense is accounted for.

These highly-taxed luxury pieces are only for the rich, admits Daga. But that hasn’t stopped 60 loyal Calcutta customers from signing up for the Lladro Privilege club, which makes them eligible to buy from an exclusive line.

“Around 60 per cent of our business comes from the US, Spain, the UK and Japan, with the US leading by far,” explains Roberto Marco Andreu, sales executive based in Spain, in Calcutta for the promotional tour. “But we see no reason why India should not become a major market, as Indians share a love for porcelain and figurines.”

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