Mumbai: Jerome Griffith, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Tumi Inc., a luxury travel, business and lifestyle accessories brand, is in India to speak at the Mint luxury conference and to launch Tumi’s first store in Bangalore. Over the year, the brand, which is being introduced in India under Sanjay Kapoor’s Genesis Luxury (part of Genesis Colors) umbrella that markets Jimmy Choo and Burberry, will have stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. Edited excerpts from an interview with Griffith:
Why did you choose Bangalore as the location for the first store?
It’s really about opportunity. Genesis is our partner in India, and we had three or four cities on the list of places. This was the first one that came available. When you have your own stores, you are very much a victim of opportunities.
What is the product range you are getting to India?
It is business and travel. If you look at the larger part of our business, 25% of everything sold is a travel bag, 40% is business bags—that is 65%, or two-thirds, of our business. Everything else is accessories. We will carry 80% of everything we do to India. Having said that, there isn’t any place with the exception of New York and LA (Los Angeles) where we carry 100% of everything we manufacture.
Can you tell us who your typical customer is?
Our average customer is typically in his early 40s; 56% are men, 44% are women, 100% of them work for a living. A lot of people we talk to are in CXO-level jobs—CEO, COO (chief operating officer), CMO (chief marketing officer), CFO (chief financial officer), very senior managers. A lot of them are also professionals such as lawyers and doctors… Our average male customer makes about $150,000 (Rs68.7 lakh) a year and women make about $200,000 a year. Our women customers are very much the elite customer; they are very demanding.
You are known to travel 120-150 days in a year. Can you tell us which bag you carry?
Depends on where I am going or what I am doing. I have been a customer of Tumi for 20 years. I still have the original bag that I bought and I sometimes still travel with that. It drives my employees crazy. Right now, I have just the basic black carrier bag... In all, I must have 20 bags.
How many bags would an average customer possess?
Eight to 10. They have business bags, tote bags, some luggage. Our average customer travels a lot. I am our average customer. My wife is an average customer as well. She has been to 84 countries and I have been to 73 countries.
India is the newest market added to your operations in 67 countries. Can you tell us which other countries you plan to expand to?
I will be honest with you. I am not looking to open up in any more new countries in the next couple of years. We have so much opportunity in the geographies we are in. Our largest market is America and I can easily double the market in America.
Where does India figure in terms of opportunities?
India has the opportunity to be one of our largest countries (markets). Everyone knows about the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries. But the ones that really stand out for me are China and India. We have been in China for seven years now, and this year (we) will end up with 38 stores. We think that India, given the opportunity, will be in same class as China is. In the next five-seven years; it will take a while.
Would you look at manufacturing in India?
My manufacturing team was here two weeks ago. They were in Chennai, in that area. Our second largest manufacturer based in Taiwan is looking at India, but I don’t know as yet what the plan is.