So what if you still can’t pick the magazine off your neighbourhood news-stand – what else but for its quality journalism, silly – you can now get a taste of life in the fast lane, the Playboy way. Playboy Enterprises, the institution that has extended the iconic brand with the rabbit-head logo to a rash of aspirational lifestyle products and services, plans to open clubs, cafes and retail stores in the land of Kama Sutra by year end. “The first upscale club with 22,000 square feet of space will open by mid-December on North Goa’s Candolim beach, making it the first beach location for Playboy globally,” said Sanjay Gupta, chief executive of PB Lifestyle. The Mumbai-based entity has won the brand licence to open over 120 Playboy formats, which will be a mix of retail outlets, clubs, hotels and fashion cafes, in the next 10 years. PB Lifestyle is co-owned by Parag Sanghvi and Jeetendra Jain who have interests in media and real estate.
Playboy was born in 1953 when its indefatigable founder Hugh Marston Hefner launched the inaugural issue of the eponymous magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. The company has since grown beyond the magazine to include a profitable licensing business that has capitalised on the global appeal of the Playboy bunny; meantime, the flamboyant 86-year-old Hefner – who is also Playboy Enterprises’ chief creative officer – continues to lead the sumptuous life he has propounded in the pages of the magazine he founded (think lingerie parties and live-in girlfriends, in the plural). Today, the Playboy franchise includes a stable of television networks, luxury fragrances, collaborations with luxury fashion labels like Dolce & Gabbana and a recently-launched Playboy Wine Club.
Although the 50 year old adult-entertainment enterprise, identified by bunny logo, opened its first club way back in 1961 and went on to set up over two dozen club chain globally, the concept was defunct by 2006. However, seven years ago, some of the clubs were re-launched in places such as London, Macau and Cancun. The business in India won’t be restricted to nightclubs and bars alone. Globally, Playboy merchandise is sold in over 25,000 stores in around 180 countries, and India won’t be an exception. “In the next two years, we will also open retail outlets. The total investment across formats will be 200 crore in the next five years,” said Amar Panghal, director-finance at PB Lifestyle.
A PB Lifestyle official said its members will be allowed access to global clubs and benefits, including the exclusive parties at the Playboy Mansion, home to Hefner and his girlfriends. Hefner’s lifestyle and provocative views on not just sex but everything from politics to race inevitably overshadows the enterprise he’s built. Social commentators back home feel that clubs in which women assert their sexuality and wear provocative bunny costumes could be at risk from political and support groups, reminiscent of a similar situation in the US 50 years ago. “It will be sort of sensitive to expand in India even if the Playboy aura attracts members. The launch may not be a smooth one, with critical parties objecting to the concept even if it is a toned-down version,” said Santosh Desai, chief executive of Future Brands, a marketing consultancy.
PB Lifestyle acknowledges the risk and is quick to point out that the Playboy venues in India will be sanitized zones. “We are clear about one thing: There will absolutely be no nudity. The bunnies will be suited to Indian sensibilities and moral values,” said Gupta. That means the bunnies – traditionally waitresses at Playboy Clubs will have to depart from their attire of red or black satin bodices, bow ties, cuffs and trademark ears. In the India, the bunnies won’t be the attraction, not at least the main one. “It will be the lifestyle and glamour quotient that will attract members and walk-ins,” suggested Gupta, who adds that the target clientele for the clubs is not just male.
News source: Economic Times