Nicolas Baretzki, CEO, Montblanc International in conversation with Mitrajit Bhattacharya during the former’s visit to India
Montblanc is definitely the luxury brand from Richemont’s stable to have the widest footprint in India. How is the brand doing in India and what can we expect in the near future?
Montblanc has the privilege of being one of the most recognisable luxury Maisons in the world, and India is no exception. Having had a presence here for a quarter of a century has benefitted us immensely from a brand awareness perspective, and what delights us, even more, is the number of new customers we gain on a daily basis. We put customer proximity at the forefront of our development in the market and is the reason for the 10 boutiques already operating in key cities, and we plan to open another five this year. This includes two new boutiques in Delhi – one at the Delhi Airport and one in Emporio – to bring our total in this busy city to four. We are also opening another boutique in Bengaluru in the new Conrad Hilton, and are expecting to add another boutique in Mumbai. We also believe that there is an excellent opportunity for Montblanc beyond the Tier One cities, and are following up on opportunities in Ahmedabad, Kolkata, and Chandigarh, to name a few. The importance of being accessible to our customers is also driving our e-commerce presence in India. At the beginning of April, Montblanc products became available through Tata CLiQ Luxury – again, one of the first luxury Maisons to do so. Our first customers on this platform were from Kanpur, Raipur and Dehradun – demonstrating the appeal of Montblanc beyond the major Tier 1 cities. The future is certainly busy and bright for the Maison.
You are also here to open a new boutique in Chennai. How’s the reception been?
We are delighted to be opening this second boutique in Chennai, and judging by the immediate interest the official opening attracted, we look forward to it being as successful as our boutique in Express Avenue. This is a city rich in culture, and we have some exceptional collectors here. The new boutique in Chennai’s Palladium Mall showcases Montblanc’s new Neo² retail concept which is currently being rolled out globally. The concept allows for real customer-immersion into the world of Montblanc, and brings to life many of the elements that make our Maison so special. It also enables each category within the Montblanc portfolio to shine, because they enjoy specially demarcated areas within the boutique – so our leather goods, writing instruments, timepieces, and accessories & jewellery collections are all showcased in dedicated areas for each.
Has India adopted Montblanc’s global positioning as a luxury brand for the millennial man?
Most definitely, given that 65 percent of India’s population is under the age of 35. Montblanc resonates with the millennial customer because our core values are appreciated by them. We are highly relevant to today’s millennial customer who is always on the go and is looking for quality products that integrate into their lifestyle. Our products are as functional as they are aesthetically beautiful. Our Extreme Leather collection, for example, is created for everyday use and is water, scratch and fire resistant, while our Meisterstück Sfumato collection featuring exquisite smoky finishes and colours that are hand painted by our craftsmen make every single product an original – something of great appeal to millennial customers looking for a more personalised product. Our leather collections also include the “millennial briefcase” – the backpack, in a variety of styles and finishes. Our mechanical timepieces, crafted in the finest Swiss watchmaking style, undergo a rigorous 500-hour test to ensure they are robust and reliable in today’s active world. For example, the Montblanc Summit watch combines digital connectivity with the codes of fine Swiss craftsmanship to create a watch that is elegant and connected. Our Augmented Paper, which has been a bestseller in India, looks like a beautiful leather envelope folder with notepad and Montblanc Meisterstück writing instrument but enables instant conversion of your handwritten notes or drawings to digital notes at the press of a button.
Do take us through your latest launch—the Montblanc Le Petit Prince Special Edition.
The collection is inspired by the much-loved literary character of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic novel Le Petit Prince, which I’m sure you know is one of the most translated novels in the world – more than 300 languages and dialects – with over 200 million copies sold. The story is as pertinent today as it was when it was written 75 years ago, and the messages articulate the essence of Montblanc – sharing of ideas and dreams, the importance of the relationship, and encouraging imagination. The novel provided our teams with so many references to articulate in this collection that we have actually created a series that will include three annual collections. One of the most revolutionary elements in the Le Petit Prince collection has made it immediately collectable around the world because it is the very first Meisterstück writing instrument to be crafted in a colour other than the black resin that has made it an iconic piece since 1924. Montblanc believed this tribute to Le Petit Prince important enough to craft the collection in blue – representing the deep-blue night sky in the story. It is quite spectacular and provides the perfect backdrop to other elements from the novel – the fox, the stars, the inclusion of a profound saying from the book, and a gorgeous etching of the little prince with the fox and stars on the nib of the fountain pen. All in all, this is a Montblanc collection that has captured the imagination of our collectors around the world and is enjoying an overwhelming reception. We believe it will in India too.
How are categories of writing instruments, leather goods, timepieces, jewellery and accessories performing?
I’m delighted to report that all our categories are contributing to the success of Montblanc. We continue to maintain our undisputed leadership of the luxury writing instrument market globally, and thanks to the breadth of our timepiece collections we continue to see growth in our sales around the world. The fastest growing category for us currently is leather – it is interesting to see the increase in sales of our large leather goods, and shows the expansion of the category from the smaller items that are popular gifting items to the pieces that our customers are generally buying for themselves. Underpinning the growth of all our categories is the fact that we have dedicated manufactures for each one, all of which are uncompromising in the excellence of their craft, their materials, their design and their functionality.
You have one of our IPL stars and South African legend AB de Villiers as your brand ambassador. How has the relationship shaped up over the years?
AB de Villiers has been a wonderful addition to our Montblanc family of ambassadors, and we are privileged to have the relationship with him that we do. His own personal values are aligned with Montblanc’s, which is always important for us – excellence in his craft, authenticity, and commitment being the best. We look forward to continuing our partnership for many years.