Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Lifestyle: All that glitters is ... Montblanc

URBAN Indians had grown accustomed to statuesque, stunning Anna Bredemeyer as the face that launched essentially feminine products over nearly 30 years. That’s why it is quite a shock to encounter her in Bangalore in an entirely new avatar. As the Marketing Manager for Montblanc over the past two years. Miss India 1976 and possibly India’s first supermodel is now the Swiss mega-brand’s ambassador in our country.

The century-old Montblanc, in the popular eye, makes the world’s most superior writing tools, bar none. Over time, it has added watches, leather goods and accessories to its range. Anna was in Bangalore recently with a mission to accomplish ~ to highlight Montblanc women’s jewellery in the competitive Indian designer market, as part of a worldwide launch.

Can Montblanc, one of the world’s top high recall brands, make an impression? “We realized that 50 per cent of the walk-ins into our boutiques were women, who come in to buy gifts for the men in their lives, for corporate occasions, for trousseaus. Montblanc has always been perceived as a masculine brand. So is a Jeep or a Mercedes, but women still drive them,” explains Anna, referring to Montblanc’s exclusive boutiques at Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. “Since we had a ready platform, we decided to diversify, put out something for women.”

What’s on offer? Three collections in 925 sterling silver, rhodium-plated and platinum finished, to allow for price accessibility. Ranging from Rs. 5,700 for a charm to Rs. 28,000.

No one can think of Montblanc without recalling their distinctive white star. This motif takes pride of place in their Star collection. As a necklace with a dangling pendant that can be re-linked to form an elegant waist chain. Or cycle-link style chains that offer a silver star pendant for day wear, flipping to a mother-of-pearl facet for glamorous nights out. Wrist bands in pink, blue-grey and black are adorned by star cutouts in silver, while similar neck pieces dangle the reversible pendants. Tuning in to the teen and college segment, the collection presents tiny silver pendants ~ a heart, a guitar, a bloom. What better way to commemorate an unforgettable date, a dream concert, a declaration under the full moon?

Montblanc extends the concept of its square Profile watches with a matching jewellery line. With cosmopolitan accents, these pieces offer silver with a twist. Such as star-ended links that transform into necklaces or bracelets. Or two interlocking rings that can be twisted around to form new designs. A Montblanc promise of magic accompanies the ring: “Make a wish, turn the ring and your wish will come true.” But there is no company assurance of the time frame signalled!

Boheme is its most innovative collection. Some of its soulful pieces include rings with amethyst, topaz, crystal or citrine that flip over, Rubic cube-like, revealing moods as varied as those of the wearer. Or cubes of silver that form an elegant chain or locket, each allowing for transformations, cued into our ever-changing, globalizing world.

“We have jewellery that’s right for the young young look, but also with serious undertones for sari-wearers,” Anna stresses, a look she demonstrates in Bangalore in a sheer almond green sari. “Outside India, the feedback has been very promising because white metal is always so in over there.”

The next day, recast in a white shirt over tailored jeans and jewellery to match, Anna proclaims huskily, “Our belief at Montblanc is that jewellery should be worn daily, not stashed away in a safe deposit locker. It only comes alive when it’s worn. The idea was for it to be your constant companion, like our pens. That’s why our jewellery is not over the top.”  


What drives this range? Longevity. Catching consumers young, allowing them to grow into the brand. “Over 10 million users around the world use Montblanc products,” she declares with pride.

Can Montblanc take on the Indian market, where established players like Tanishq, Oyzterbay, Damas and Orra have been wooing customers for years? “At our headquarters, they have studied the potential before deciding to venture into this. I do believe that once people come in, touch and feel our jewellery, they will be convinced. Because when you buy jewellery, you’re basically buying it on trust. Quality is what you want,” Anna reiterates. “Montblanc has always given that in the past. We don’t want to compromise our 100-year reputation by launching on impulse.”

What does this brand offer that’s outstanding? “There are other players, different looks, so much variety. But I don’t see why people wouldn’t take this because it’s not over the top from the price point of view, yet it’s giving you good value for money,” she says in defence of the range.

Given the Indian mindset, would Montblanc consider venturing into the gold segment? “Normally, when we look at gold here, it’s 22 karat. Abroad, it’s always 18k. So, it wouldn’t be an investment, probably more of an impulse buy. So, I’m not sure if we’ll go in that direction in a hurry,” says Anna.

Has Montblanc found the Indian south a conservative market? Anna agrees, “It’s a different mindset. We’re treading very gently. In Chennai, over about seven years, we find it’s slow but sure. But the sales from the boutique will need to justify a large representation to an extent.”

She continues, “Hyderabad, on the contrary, has been excellent. The people I interacted with seemed so rich from a cultural point of view. Whether with our limited edition pens or other products, they seemed to understand Montblanc. People there are into traditional jewellery, but they’ve been coming in to buy ours, too.”  

An unusual facet of the stellar brand surfaces during our encounter with Anna. We learn that the Montblanc Arts Patronage Award is now an established cultural fixture in ten countries. And that part of the profits from their Donation Pens, commemorating famous musicians and composers, goes to specially selected arts projects.     

Montblanc has come a long way since it entered India through its New Delhi boutique at the Maurya Hotel 11 years ago. It is targeting Chandigarh and Pune in the immediate future, followed by at least 12 exclusive prototype boutiques over the next three years. That’s besides 25 pan-Indian retailers.

Given the globe-trotting Indian today, perhaps the Montblanc jewellery range will soar to the heights of the 4810-metre snow-capped peak from which it takes its name. It all depends on whether its star signet will find a mindset to match within the urban market. 

(The Hindu Business Line, 2003) 

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