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Shantanu Mukerji

Brand Manager | 04 Mar 2005

“Seduction, creativity and femininity are the words that best describe the distinctive Dior style. Dior, the French fashion house established in 1947, sets the trend each season. In 1975, Dior instituted its watch collection as a crucial fashion accessory at the heart of the couture brand.”

As Brand Manager, Dior Watches, Shantanu Mukerji is responsible for managing the distribution channels and leading marketing initiatives for Dior watches in India. Shantanu has been spearheading the team for Dior Watches in India since January 2003. Prior to this, he was based in Singapore and served as Area Manager for two years where he was instrumental in setting up LVMH Watch & Jewellery brands in Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and other countries.

Shantanu has also worked as Marketing Manager at Nike, South-East Asia, where he looked after marketing operations of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. He also led the famous Nike Football campaign for Nike South-East Asia during FIFA World Cup 2002.

An engineering graduate from IIT, Delhi, he did MBA from the IIM, Ahmedabad. Shantanu speaks to Malini Menon of exchange4media on how the brand established itself in India and the aggressive targets ahead. Excerpts:

Q. Can you tell us about Dior’s entry in India and the limitations faced by you?

We entered India in July 2002 and the limitations were in several accounts. India has the highest tax and duty structure in the world. The duties are higher than any of the closest competitors and at the same time we had to ensure that our prices were competitive as compared to the rest of the world. That was the main challenge. The second big problem we faced was underdeveloped retail in India. In fact, it is getting better now as compared to 2002. The third big challenge was our very strong competition. We were very late entrant so it was difficult to get shelf space. Over and above the real task was to set up our after-sales service before the product launches and make sure that we can provide an integrated package to the customers. So the challenges faced by us were price-related, logistics-related, shelf-related and competition-related.

Q. So how did you overcome them?

We took it upon ourselves to overcome these challenges. So despite having the highest tax and duty structure in the world, we priced our watches at a very competitive price in comparison to the rest of the world. We believed that even if we don’t have a retail environment, we would create an environment in terms of the shops that we set up and the Point of Sale personnel involved. We decided to ensure that we have an after-sales service in every city. We also made sure that our assortment of products is comparable to the rest of the world. We launched our products in line with global launch. This is to make sure that the Indian customer gets everything that he or she could get in any other part of the world.

Q. What is the kind of investment that you have made in India?

We had to invest heavily in India to give the same quality of brand portfolio as available abroad. We have put in more than 60 per cent of our annual turnover in marketing today. We are also putting in about 25 to 30 per cent in exclusively creating the retail infrastructure and retail environment. One has to realise that India is also one of the lowest margin countries in the world because of the high duty structure. So this investment of a percentage of the turnover treats heavily into our margins. However, there is a belief that when our duty structure gets rationalised, it will be possible for us to leave our margins.

Q. What is your market share in India?

Right now within India we are still very small. If you look at the total luxury market, I don’t think we cross the eight to nine per cent share. However, in the coming three to four years we are looking at a market share of 25 to 30 per cent. We also want to be among the top twelve markets in the world in the next three years. These are aggressive targets but with the kind of resources, products and the commitment that we are putting behind the brand, we are optimistic that it will happen.

Q. What are the values that Dior as a brand stands for? Can you briefly describe how the brand evolved?

Seduction, creativity and femininity are the words that best describe the distinctive Dior style. Dior, the French fashion house established in 1947, sets the trend each season.

In 1975, Dior instituted its watch collection as a crucial fashion accessory at the heart of the couture brand. Dior Watches is the successful result of a perfect consistency between the watch creations and the couture collection, which together with the fine Swiss watchmaking expertise, have created a completely unique watch. Three designers perpetuate Dior creative and innovative tradition. Since 1998, John Galliano has been in charge of the artistic direction of Haute Couture, Ready-To-Wear and Women’s accessories. Great master of “Mix and Match,” John Galliano has managed to design an audacious, extravagant and constantly renewed timepieces collection for Dior Watches.

Artistic Director of Dior Joaillerie since 1999, Victoire de Castellane has imposed her style, a mix of poetry and eccentricity. In 2003, she created the first original jewellery watch collection for Dior Watches. In 2004, Hedi Slimane, Artistic Director for Dior Homme since 2000, transmits the purity, the elegance and the asymmetrical geometry of his design to Dior Watches with the launch of Chiffre Rouge, which imposes itself as the first masculine watch of Dior.

We are getting in the best range of these three best designers and there is also Asian influence—Chinese and Indian that is percolating. So we have high-end watches in India from these designers and also certain watches with Chinese and Indian taste. Many of our watches we have brought to India specifically are at a price that is affordable to Indian consumers. So our innovation happens at triple fronts. There is innovation of product, price and design.

Q. Are you looking at indigenising the watches?

One of the premises of basic value proposition to the Indian consumer is that we are the most fashionable watches available in the market but over and above that we also stand for Swiss watch making. Therefore, in order to not to deviate from our basic value proposition, in the short to medium term we have no plans to go indigenous.

Q. What were the brand initiatives that worked well for you?

When we launched in India in 2002, it was critical for us to have an excellent retail, excellent in product presentation and showing our commitment to the trade. So our fundamental belief was that the quality of retail would be the building block for the brand. Also, our value proposition in India will be as good or perhaps better than rest of the world. Our commitment from the people, product portfolio coupled with time, resources and marketing formats that really worked in our favour.

Q. What about your brand association with Yana Gupta?

We have been working with Yana Gupta over the past two years and her association has been fashionable for the brand. In April 2003, Dior appointed Yana Gupta, one of the best faces in the Indian modeling world today, to represent its luxury range of watches in India. Yana has been given the title of ‘Miss Dior’ and represents Dior watches across the country. Yana is very passionate about life and fashion and we being a fashion brand, it is the right fit.

Q. What are the latest launches from your end?

In India, we have always had John Galliano’s collection, but for the first time we have launched the collection of Victoire de Castellane, which is a completely different genre in terms of design, price points and feel. We are looking at very selective launch of Hedi Slimane’s men’s range of watches later on this year. We have two kinds of launches. We have the line launches and we have a lot of thematic launches. So we have two to three fashion themes in a year and so we do have one or two range launches in a year. So we have on an average at least four to five watches launched in India.

Q. Can you tell me about Dior’s product portfolio?

We have La D De Dior Steel, an exclusive creation designed by Victoire de Castellane. Born out of the subtle and precious universe of high fashion jewellery, this unisex collection is inspired by a man’s wristwatch worn by a woman. The La D De Dior Steel collection is made of 316 L stainless steel with appliqué indexes and is equipped with a bracelet with three-blade unfolding clasp. Inspired by the ravishing femme fatale of thirties and forties Hollywood, Marlene Dietrich, Chris 47 Diamond-Set Dial Dior D’Trick is a part of the Dior Summer 2004 collection designed by John Galliano. A black lacquered dial featuring a line of six straight cut diamonds gives this piece its unique air of Haute Couture. Then we have Riva M Sparkling collection from the house of Dior, which has an ensemble of 43 diamonds dazzling on the steel set. Malice Sparkling is another Dior watch that adopts the D’Trick strap to assume an elegant and refined thirties look. The watch carries Marlene Dietrich’s bearing, her personality, her mystery, her sense of provocation and fashion.

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