CANALI ON CANALI
Business Today|October 31, 2021
Stefano Canali, President and CEO of luxury menswear brand Canali Spa, talks about the India story and operating in a post-pandemic world
KRISHNA GOPALAN

STEFANO CANALI has a relaxed demeanor. The President and CEO of Canali Spa, a scion of the dynasty that is synonymous with menswear, love India for its culture and immense business potential. In a joint venture (JV) with Reliance Brands, Canali wants more of the India piece and says it is here for the long haul. A man with conviction that physical stores for his brand will always be around, he thinks e-commerce will complement it. In a freewheeling chat, he opens up on a host of issues, from how the pandemic has been hugely disruptive to how much India matters to the company. Edited excerpts:

What is it about India that has struck you as being remarkable?

I had a chance to discover India on my first visit in 2008-09. I was very impressed with what I saw around culture and heritage. Casual conversations with people reveal a long history. To some extent, there are quite a few similarities between the people in India and those in Italy—starting with the passion for culture, well-crafted items or anything that is precious. The evolution of a civilisation through art and other forms is quite fascinating.

There is a connection here since Canali is known for making high-quality, well-crafted garments for men. It is very important for customers to fall in love with Canali’s products. That means the customer has to understand what products he is trying, and appreciates the details that the garment comes with.

Over the years, I have had a chance to meet many Canali customers. They were passionate about these details and obviously, that made me happy. It is this passion that, we believe, differentiates our customers from other brands.

Our relationship with India goes back about 15 years. We did not follow the strategy we usually do in other countries, like China for instance. As we looked closely at the Indian market, we saw there was a great clientele but not too many luxury locations. In order to preserve the value of the brand, we decided not to overdistribute and did it only when we found the right location.

Even today, we have six-seven boutiques in India, while the number in China is four-five times more. This approach was important for financial prudence. That has been made possible because of our clientele and having a good partner in Reliance.

Was India very different from what you had imagined?

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