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Home / Companies / People /  ‘In 5 years, India to emerge as top luxury watch market’

‘In 5 years, India to emerge as top luxury watch market’

Erol Baliyan, managing director, Middle East, Africa and India for Franck Muller.

People were trapped in their homes, but when they were free to go out, we saw an unbelievable consumption of luxury spending, says Erol Baliyan, MD, Middle East, Africa and India for Franck Muller

NEW DELHI :Following the post-pandemic demand recovery for luxury watches, India may emerge as the top market within a few years, said Erol Baliyan, managing director, Middle East, Africa and India for Franck Muller. While the Swiss luxury watch company renewed its contract with Bollywood star Ranveer Singh as brand ambassador, it is also wary of the high customs duty which could dampen this growth as consumers start shopping outside India, Baliyan said in an interview. Edited excerpts:

NEW DELHI :Following the post-pandemic demand recovery for luxury watches, India may emerge as the top market within a few years, said Erol Baliyan, managing director, Middle East, Africa and India for Franck Muller. While the Swiss luxury watch company renewed its contract with Bollywood star Ranveer Singh as brand ambassador, it is also wary of the high customs duty which could dampen this growth as consumers start shopping outside India, Baliyan said in an interview. Edited excerpts:

 

 

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Isn’t it unusual for Franck Muller to appoint a brand ambassador? Then, why are you renewing your contract with Ranveer Singh?

We made the right decision by getting him on board in 2019. Normally, we don’t appoint brand ambassadors. Around the world, we have very few. Football player Cristiano Ronaldo is a friend of the brand. Singh is a great passage to the consumer, and we are happy with the partnership and will renew his contract for another three years. We saw the impact on sales within two or three months of appointing him as an ambassador in 2019. He is a fashion statement icon and at the movie star level, we don’t have any such ambassador anywhere in the world. 

Did the pandemic disrupt business for luxury brands?

During the pandemic, everything stopped and the entire world was affected. But the amazing thing is after the initial pandemic period, we saw an unbelievable boost in sales. People were trapped in their homes, but when they were free to go out, we saw an unbelievable consumption of luxury spending. It was crazy. I have been in the business for 20 years and I’ve never seen something like this. Stocks were out and our sales have quadrupled since the pandemic. So yes, we had a tough time, but right after that, we sailed through. 

Was that true for India as well?

Sales are not slowing down, especially in India. India is growing in double digits for us and I think it will not stop. We have even higher targets we want to achieve in the next two years because, if we put in the effort and the right marketing strategy in India, consumers respond immediately. Our watches are priced at 10,000-20,000 Swiss Franc ( 8.3-16.6 lakh). 

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How do you see India performing as a luxury market?

Indians love luxury, and they appreciate luxury unlike, other continents. They work hard and create wealth and they want to put that wealth, their success into something which can be seen when they meet others. It’s a growing market and India will take over the world within the next five years. I’m fairly confident in terms of luxury buying, if the country does the right moves to support luxury business, it is going to boom. But again, it’s the government’s decision to put a certain tax or a customs regime, (in that case) too much growth cannot be expected. It then encourages people to buy from other countries. 

What about China?

Chinese customers are very demanding. It is one of the major markets for luxury consumption. They are very sophisticated and have a booming economy. But I think in the near future, China is going to slow down for certain political reasons and governance issues.

Will Apple’s digital watch threaten the Swiss watch industry? 

Apple pulled a PR stunt to say it will take over the Swiss watch industry, but it could never do so because we are talking about emotional items here. We follow trends. For instance, when the crypto craze started five years ago, we created the world’s first crypto wallet watch where people could store money on automatic watches. At the beginning people were hesitant, but now it is the only crypto watch in the luxury segment. It was very successful, and still has a waiting list. Technology is always going to be there. But we need to be more creative to cater to the needs of the new generation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Varuni Khosla

Varuni Khosla is a journalist with close to 14 years of experience in writing business news stories for mainstream newspaper companies like Mint and The Economic Times. She reports and writes on luxury and lifestyle brands, hospitality and tourism news, the business of sports, the business of advertising and marketing and alcohol brands.
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