At this year’s SIHH I caught up with Franck Juhel who has recently been appointed as the President of Montblanc Middle East, India, and Africa. Franck has been with the Richemont group for over 15 years, he started with Cartier, moved to Jaeger Le Coultre after which he headed Montblanc in the Latin American markets for four years. We talk about the brand’s plans for India, the challenges and a soon to be signed brand ambassador.
Luxurylaunches – Montblanc in India, has a very strong recollect value and recognition, but, that is very much limited to writing instruments. So how do you plan to achieve this for other verticals like watches?
Franck – Today Montblanc in India, in the luxury industry, has the biggest reach, we as a luxury retail brand have the most stores and boutiques in the territory. This is thanks to the long history in India where the brand is very well recognized as you are saying and obviously at the beginning for its writing instruments. Now for many years, Montblanc doesn’t do only writing instruments, we have different categories and pillar within the Maison where you can find watches, accessories and leather goods on top of the writing instruments. Our goal in India, in particular, is to offer all of our category of products which we are doing today but because we started really to develop our retail presence our boutique presence 2 years ago, now it takes a little bit of time to make people aware that this is not only writing instruments. However, from our latest developments in India show that writing instruments are a very important category followed by watches that are growing every month. We foresee a very promising future in India and are going to develop the brand and our presence even more within the country.
LL: What are the challenges you are facing in the Indian market?
FJ: I feel there are two main challenges, first in terms of development to open boutiques, you need intellectual industry, you need an environment that goes with it. We can’t have a Montblanc boutique in the middle of nowhere, you need other brands or other boutiques that access luxury or high luxury, you need an environment. Today you have some but given the size of the country, we should have a little more in India. In terms of real estate, it is difficult. Today we have 10 boutiques in India and it’s difficult, we want to open more but we have to be true to ourself and respect our DNA and respect who we are as a Maison And therefore for our clients, we need to find a right place to open our boutiques. The second challenge is that the Indian clients or customers are very well aware of what is going on in all around the world. It is one of the most advanced countries in terms of technology and for us since the inception of the brand, we are pioneers and we need to be even more pioneers in India because that is what the customer is expecting and this is very challenging in a very positive way because It pushes us, even more, to reach and to answer that need even when compared to other countries.
You say Montblanc has 10 boutiques and there is difficulty in opening new boutiques. Have you explored or considering online selling options and pushing the online channel more?
Yes, we are launching an E-platform on April 1st of this year and it goes back to what I was saying earlier, in other countries it would take years before launching E-platform or E-commerce because you would need to seat the brand in the country, open boutiques or open the distribution. When, in India, the country is so advanced in terms of technology and the country is so big that we need to do it and we need to do it now.
Can you tell, more about the association with AB De Villiers, its been 6-8 months since you guys signed him up, how is it going and what are the future plans for him in India?
With AB It officially started almost a year ago, now, I say officially because the relationship between him and our Maison has been way longer than that. I was there last month in South Africa at his house and we were talking about Montblanc and he was showing me Montblanc writing instruments that he has had since university. He loves the brand and all the products and Montblanc wallets that he had offered to his friends because at the beginning, he loves the brand and most importantly we share the same DNA and the same vision.
Montblanc recently signed up an upcoming Chinese Superstar Yang Yang who is just 25 years old, the demographics of China and India are very similar. Even we have a massive young population. They are the Internet generation and consume all of their content online. They have a different set of role models as well. Do you have plans for such a local brand ambassador that caters to the millennials?
Today, we have a few friends of the brand in India that help the brand on social media. Now, we definitely are in the pipeline to make it more official and as you said, with someone representing the millennials of India today. It will definitely happen, hopefully, this year.
What’s your favorite watch from this year’s SIHH?
1858 automatic. Its the one, I am wearing now. I love it for various reasons. One of them being, the vintage or the retro look of it. I like the combination of the steel and the bronze. I like the fact that it is inspired by the pioneering spirits and from Minerva, and we are celebrating this year the 160th anniversary of Minerva.
What’s your vision for Montblanc in 2020 in India?
My vision would be to make it easier for customers to find us and this would be through any platform, through e-commerce, we would be partnering with Tata Cliq. We would also be expanding our reach beyond the metro cities to other cities.
LL: Thank You