Eric Vergnes, President Montblanc Middle East, Africa and India, speaks to us on the occasion of the launch of the brand’s new boutique at Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai
What are Montblanc’s plans in India, going forward, and what does the country mean to you as a market?
It’s a new beginning for us, but we have been in India for 20 years, and the awareness is strong, the brand is solid. There are fans of the brand, and collectors, so we are not starting from scratch. This being said, 6 months ago we started a new adventure, with our JV with Titan, which is based on a very solid business plan. The plan is to open maybe 25 to 30 boutiques, give or take 5 boutiques, in the coming years, in order to have a comprehensive network of Montblanc monobrand boutiques all over India. We want to offer a proper Montblanc shopping experience, identical to what they would find in Hamburg, our HQ, or Paris, or Dubai.
What would you describe the Montblanc experience as?
Montblanc is an interesting brand. We have a 110-year heritage, and this can be difficult to express if you don’t do it properly, in the right environment. It needs to be nurturing, the customer needs enough space to browse, feel and touch these four main categories — writing instruments, watches, leather goods and accessories, like cufflinks and so on. Especially for watches, you need a very skilled and experienced sales team, and this is what we will be aiming to create.
Is there a difference between a Montblanc customer abroad and one in India?
I believe there is very little difference. The bestsellers in our collections are almost the same everywhere, and the launch of products is done simultaneously all across the regions. We don’t want to stereotype a buyer. We want to offer the same quality and standards, at the same moment, through the whole network — we don’t want to favour any one market over the other. Today’s customer is very well travelled — he may have bought a limited edition piece in Mumbai today and another two days ago in Dubai. Here, we will analyse our sales figures and feedback in order to serve our customers better. In a market like India, it’s the younger audiences who are making more money and have aspirations towards luxury.
Are luxury brands starting to cater to this audience?
That’s an interesting question. We’re investing a lot in novelties in terms of designs, and by doing so we’re obviously addressing a broader clientele. For example, when we brought out a new type of leather 18 months ago, which is of a carbon fibre pattern and is scratch, water and fire proof, it was aimed at a younger generation. We have connected objects, like the e-Strap and also writing instruments like the M, which was designed by Mark Newson, and we’re looking to bring out objects that are contemporary.
Tell us more about your collaboration with Titan, and what they bring to the table.
When we decided on a JV in India, we needed a very strong partner, and we were very fortunate to have found a partner of the strength, magnitude and resources of Titan. They bring a knowledge of the market that we don’t have — we bring a beautiful brand, with a heritage, but we don’t have their kind of reach. The second thing is that we needed the right kind of leverage in choosing the best locutions for our boutiques, which they have. They have a very strong knowledge when it comes to selling watches and jewellery, and we are learning together. They’re helping us with how not to make basic mistakes here, and we’re helping them with luxury from a Western vantage point of view.
Will we ever see a collaboration between Montblanc and Titan for timepieces?
That will be more complicated, since we are very protective of our manufacturing process. However, if it comes to specific design elements for the Indian market, we are open to suggestions. For example, right now, in our world timer functions, we don’t have half an hour, but if Titan comes to us and says we need a world timer function with half an hour for the Indian market, that is something we can look at.
Will we see some Indiaspecific special editions form Montblanc?
That is something we’re working on, although I cannot tell you more at this point. We will definitely have the entire limited edition range available in India, for now.