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Plan about 2400 stores by the end of 2020: Anuj Sawhney of Swiss Military

Though Swiss Military has been in India for six years now, the premium lifestyle products brand has not been very visible in the traditional retail formats.

Devika Singh        Last Updated: March 22, 2016  | 15:17 IST
Managing Director of Swiss Military Anuj Sawhney
Managing Director of Swiss Military Anuj Sawhney

Though Swiss Military has been in India for six years now, the premium lifestyle products brand has not been very visible in the traditional retail formats. The company, which initially introduced its products in some innovative settings, now wants to make its presence felt in the offline as well as online retail market. In an interview with Business Today, the Managing Director of the company Anuj Sawhney, outlines its plan to become the No. 1 brand in premium men's lifestyle.

Q: Swiss Military was founded in 1986 but it moved to India in 2006. Despite your association with the brand, why was it introduced so recently in the country?

Till 2006, the brand's focus was on Europe but then we went to the Swiss principals and said why are we not taking the brand outside of Europe? So we signed a 10-year contract in 2006, according to which anybody who wants to be a licensee/franchisee/distributor/dealer for the brand has to go through us. Since then, we have taken the brand to 26 countries across the globe.

Q: But instead of the traditional route of entering India, you employed in-flight selling and corporate gifting to market your products. How did they work for you?

Sawhney:  We started with corporate gifting and received very good traction in that segment. Second step in the Indian market was strategic partnerships with in-flight partners like Jet Airways and Indigo Airlines. In-flight today is our biggest revenue stream in the Indian market and globally. Visibility is very important for us and most of the customers who don't recall us seeing us at offline stores do recall seeing us on these flights.

We are also in talks with other air carriers for partnership. In corporate gifting, pharmaceuticals is massive for us, and soon we are launching an automobiles division. For example, if you are buying a certain model of a car, a free gift will be given from Swiss Military like a travel gear, or car charger or sunglasses  and so on.

Q: And step three was traditional retail?

Sawhney:  Step three, which was last year in January, was multi-brand outlets and we had our sections installed over there. Recently we opened our 800th store in India, so it's a 20:80 ratio between large stores like Shoppers Stop and retailers. And now we are slowly stepping into online and opening exclusive brand outlets.

Q: How many EBOs are you planning to launch?

Sawhney:  By 2017-end we are visioning 170 stores, out of which about 10 will be company-owned and rest will be franchisee, and this is our plan for the next two years. We are trying to be one of the most visible brands in men's lifestyle segment. We are starting with Bangalore, our first franchisee store will come up there. Second is going to be Mumbai and the third is going to be in the north. Eventually we are planning about 2400 stores by the end of 2020.

Q: Aren't you quite a late entrant in the online space?

Sawhney:  E-commerce was slow, the reason being we will never propagate Swiss Military as a discounted brand. And since we were not offering discounted products, we were told we should have an offline visibility and people will come looking us. As our offline retail stores were not in place then, we kept it on hold. Now that we have presence in 800 stores and are launching our EBOs, strategic tie-ups with Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Jabong and Myntra are happening. We also launched our app and website recently.

Q: What's your global turnover and what's India's share in it? How much are you investing in India?

Our global turnover is about $300 million, and India happens to be less that 1 per cent of the global revenues. Right now we are still in an experimental stage in India. We are planning to invest Rs 200 crore by the end of this year in India and we are visioning Rs 1,000 crore turnover by the end of next year.

Q: Where do you see your India business in the next three years?

Sawhney: We are looking at being the most visible and largest brand in men's lifestyle in India. Also we are looking at an IPO in the next three years.

We will be the largest brand available and some divisions are going to be licensed. Licensing happens to be very strong for Swiss Military worldwide. And with the global division coming into India, we are also getting into electronics, motorcycle helmets, other lifestyle products like men's and women's personal care etc. via licensing.

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