It is said that “Imitation is the best form of flattery”. Right! But when it goes beyond the flattery and is targeted towards windfall gain, we call it “inspiration” — isn’t it more graceful than calling it “copying” or “counterfeiting”?

I remembered this because, a few months ago, I was talking to an Italian furniture maker and he shared two of his greatest worries — one, selling their products in the domestic market because of the recession, and two, whether the Italian furniture is made in China or Malaysia! His concerns today are absolutely right and well in place. Not only that, he is not alone to have both these concerns/anxieties! Today, right from art to craft to furniture to accessories — everything is being copied. In fact, copying has become a parallel industry, the world over. One search on “designer replica products” on Google gives millions of options for watches, sunglasses, handbags, shoes, wallets, jewellery, branded clothes — almost anything and everything is available, off the shelf! You name the brand and it is available, even with product serial number and authentication certificate. In our own Dharavi, a small shop owner will show you Louis Vuitton handbags, with great confidence!

Whether one calls it grey market, clone market, counterfeit product market or simply “inspired” products market, it is booming the world over. The online market has added fuel to the fire! Now you visit the Internet — search the brand of your choice with the model and voila — it reaches your doorstep!

When I quoted the Dharavi example, let me add that the “aspiring” middle-class, who wants to buy such “inspired” products, makes a beeline here. But while talking to a reasonably sized operator here, I was surprised to know that one large buyer segment is the rich and the famous. Because, they are the people who are the “perceived users” of Louis Vuitton bags, or for that matter, any high-end luxury product. And the beauty is, even if they are using fake products, nobody will imagine that what they are using is fake! But, if a middle-class person buys a real product even after stretching his budget, people will think it is fake! This is the contradiction of our times.

Anyways, that’s a story of “inspiration”, “aspiration”, “perspiration”, “perception” and of course contradiction! By the way, I have written this piece with an “original” Mont Blanc Limited Edition pen :-)