Titan’s Helios, Ethos enter into retail deal with Swiss Raymond Weil

Swiss family-run watchmaker Raymond Weil targets urban Indian consumers amid growing retail challenges from e-commerce marketplaces


Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Bengaluru: Titan Co. Ltd’s premium watch retailing outfit Helios and KDDL Ltd’s Ethos Watch Boutiques have entered into a partnership with Swiss family-run watchmaker Raymond Weil Genève.

Under the partnership, Raymond Weil watches will be exclusively retailed in India by Helios and Ethos. Ethos is run by watch components supplier KDDL, which has been exporting parts to companies based in Switzerland.

Raymond Weil started making watches 40 years ago and has been retailing in India for 30 years now.

It’s the first time the Swiss watchmaker is entering into an exclusive retail partnership in India.

“I want a unique price policy here for my brand and a unique shopping experience, which means an environment which is coherent, that respects the DNA of (my) brand, has trained sales staff, a price policy that’s equal across both online and buying in-shop, and only stocks the latest product in stores,” Olivier Bernheim, president of Raymond Weil, said in an interview.

What this partnership changes for Bernheim’s company is their watches, which used to be sold by multiple retailers including e-commerce marketplaces, will now be available only at Helios and Ethos showrooms in India. But narrowing it down to just those two retailers will not reduce the reach, or footprint, of Raymond Weil watches in India, Bernheim said.

S. Ravi Kant, chief executive officer of watches and accessories at Titan, agrees. “Between the two of us, Helios is going to have 50 stores very soon (from 48 currently) and Ethos has 40. So Raymond Weil now has access to 90 stores. It’s not that we are going to start with 90 stores right in the beginning but reach is not an issue at all because Helios is itself present in 27 cities,” Ravi Kant said.

Raymond Weil’s focus on India is not surprising considering the average urban Indian consumer’s appetite for international brands. But what adds to it is that doing business in Europe, especially the company’s home country of Switzerland, has become tougher after the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly abandoned the franc’s cap against the euro last January. That move resulted in a sharp spike in the franc, thus, bumping up costs at home for companies like Raymond Weil.

“For a Swiss manufacturer, (we) manufacture in Switzerland, pay salaries in Switzerland. But we are not making a lot of money because what we are gaining on sales (in other countries) we are losing on the currency,” said Bernheim.

Another challenge for both Titan and Raymond Weil, and indeed many other brick-and-mortar retailers, comes from e-commerce marketplaces that can offer big discounts on products.

“The biggest reason for tying up exclusively is we can now control the price in the market. The whole disruption in the market is taking place because of the e-commerce players picking up products and brands from other multi-brand retailers at steep discounts. But if the brand is available exclusively only through us, the marketplace is not open to them (online),” Ravi Kant said.

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