The inspiration for Montblanc, the manufacturer of luxury watches, writing instruments, jewellery, leather goods, fragrance and eyewear, is the highest mountain in the Alps after which the brand takes its name. Translated as the
‘white mountain’ , the logo represents the snow-covered peak and symbolises the brand’s commitment to the highest quality and finest European craftsmanship. Franck Juhel, President of Montblanc, Middle-East, India and Africa tells us how the brand’s partnership with Titan and Tata CLiQ has helped grow Montblanc in India, why the company’s focus is to be as accessible to its customers as possible and why a shopper in India has the same experience as a shopper anywhere else in the world.
Q: How important is India as a market for Montblanc?
India is a key market for us, and one in which we have been present for over 25 years. Montblanc is the biggest luxury player in the country, and will continue to be, given the expansion strategy we are currently following.
This is a market with significant potential for Montblanc, thanks to the immediate recognition and appreciation we receive for our heritage, quality and craftsmanship, as well as for the status a Montblanc product gives to its owner.
And if we look at the sheer size of the Indian market, the emergence of the growing upper middle class and a young
demographic with increasing interest in luxury, we are confident of the long-term
Q:How has the partnership with Titan, since 2014, helped the brand?
Our partnership is a strong and complimentary one. Montblanc is one of most recognised luxury brands in the world, with more than 112 years of heritage, craftsmanship and design. Titan is a leader in India, with a significant track record in retail in this market. The joint venture enables us both to benefit from one another’s expertise and succeed in growing Montblanc’s presence across the market.
Q:What are the biggest challenges you face?
The main current challenge in India is infrastructure, most particularly real estate. As a luxury Maison, it is essential for us to be in the right premium environment, and this segment of retail real estate development is still in its formative stage. We open a boutique as quickly as we find the appropriate location. Most recently we opened boutiques in the DLF Emporio Mall in Delhi, Phoenix Market City Mall in Pune and the Palladium Mall in Chennai.
Q:How would you describe your target group? Which are your biggest markets and what’s been the uptick in Tier II and III towns?
Montblanc has the biggest retail presence in India of any global luxury brand, with 13 boutiques currently open in Tier I cities, where the retail infrastructure is the most developed. We see excellent opportunity for Montblanc beyond these too, and are currently exploring opportunities in Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and Chandigarh, to name a few. Our most efficient means of making Montblanc available to those customers who are not in cities where we have a
boutique is, of course, online through the Tata CLiQ Luxury e-commerce platform. This has enabled us to
offer our pan-India customers access to a wide range of Montblanc products. Interestingly, our first customers on this platform came from Kanpur, followed by more orders from Dehradun, Bilaspur, Raipur, Coimbatore and
other Tier II and III cities – demonstrating the appeal of Montblanc beyond the major cities.
Q:What % of your revenue comes from the e-commerce platform and from where is the growth coming?
It is too early to measure this as Montblanc only became available on Tata CliQ in August, but we are confident that this retail avenue will grow at an exponential rate. There is no doubt that e-commerce is a rapidly growing
channel in India, and a relevant additional retail outlet for Montblanc across all our categories. What is most
exciting for us at this early stage of our e-commerce journey in India, is that we are already seeing repeat orders from customers. We have customers making online purchases for ink refills and peripherals, who are then returning for leather goods and accessories such as cufflinks. The gifting culture for celebrations such as Diwali and Raksha Bandhan and the ability to shop at one’s convenience is also driving online purchases of Montblanc.
Q:What is the core marketing strategy for Montblanc in India? Are your marketing plans
localised for the Indian market?
We are a global Maison, but we are also local, so when we launch a new collection we do it in all the markets
around the world at about the same time, and that includes India. Consistency is very important for us, and a customer who visits a Montblanc boutique in Paris, Dubai, or Chennai, should have the same experience. Our focus in India, exactly as it is in other parts of the world, is to be as accessible to our customers as possible.
Q:How important is experiential and digital marketing for the brand?
Experiential and digital are significant marketing disciplines for luxury brands globally, particularly as we
look to our future customers. Retail for Gen Z is not just about online and mobile shopping, it is equally about instore experiences and the ability to engage meaningfully with brands on social. At Montblanc we are seeing a shift
in the allocation of our marketing budgets accordingly.
Q:What has your growth been like? Looking ahead, what are your plans and how are you looking to
Growth for Montblanc in India has been strong and consistent, and as we expand our network of boutiques and increase our portfolio online through Tata CliQ, we expect this to continue. In terms of our categories, our
writing instruments remain our biggest sellers, but our leather goods are our fastest growing category, and
are delivering significant growth in all our boutiques and online. Montblanc is also developing a solid market for our timepieces in India, thanks to our high level of watchmaking expertise and quality complications
coupled with exceptional value for money. We will continue to expand, with a number of new boutiques
and channels in the pipeline for the coming fiscal year.
Published in the November-December 2018 issue of Pitch Magazine