To import products from European facilities.

Amit Mitra

Mumbai, Sept. 17 Samsonite, a global player in travel bags, luggage and accessories, will be extending its non-luggage portfolio by launching travel-related watches and eyewear in India, as part of its global launch, in six to nine months.

The company’s increasing focus on non-luggage brands is part of its exercise to reposition itself as a lifestyle brand related to travel. Last year, it launched its shoe brand in India. “The Indian market will be playing a key role in Samsonite’s growth plan,” Mr Subrata Dutta, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Greater Asia, told Business Line.

Samsonite’s watches and eyewear will be designed for special use by travellers — these products will be marketed on the travel and tourism platforms. Without going into specifics, Mr Dutta said watches, for example, could have different time zone readings to eliminate the need for travellers to reset their watches.

The company does not have any plans to manufacture the new non-luggage products in India and will be importing them from its European production facilities.

However, in the luggage segment, Samsonite’s facility in Nashik will be accounting for a major chunk of the company’s hard luggage production worldwide. Presently, the Nashik facility, which produces one lakh units per annum, accounts for almost 40 per cent of the company’s global hard luggage production.

New luggage products

Mr Dutta said the company intends to launch a slew of products under the hard and soft luggage categories in the next six months. It will be investing about Rs 18 crore on new moulds at its Nashik unit for these new products in the pipeline.

On Monday, the company launched nine product lines, from mid to premium segments, under its American Tourister brand. These consist of two lines of business travel, six of family travel and one of backpacks.

Mr Dutta said the prices of these new brands range from Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,500. Each line has products of different sizes and colours in the hard and soft luggage categories.

“A significant development worldwide and in India is that hard luggage is coming back to fashion again. Understanding this need, American Tourister is introducing two lines catering to the hard-side segment next year, which will be marketed as fashion statements,” he said.

American Tourister plans to add 25,000 sqft of retail space by 2009, with its network expected to go up from 450 to 500.

He pointed out that with the Indian travel industry growing at 25 to 30 per cent, there is a demand growth for travel gear. Business travel is the largest segment, with India’s corporate travel market estimated at $3 billion.

Samsonite has been facing a squeeze on its margins due to rise in input costs.

Mr Sudip Ghose, Director Marketing, said: “In the last four to six months, we faced a nearly 25 per cent increase in input costs. We took a 8 per cent increase in our product prices during this period.”

He, however, expects prices to remain stable in the coming months, especially with the cooling of crude prices.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 18, 2008)
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