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Big-Time Player
Text by Sona Bahadur and Photograph by Eyepiece Photography
Published: Volume 15, Issue 5, May, 2007
He's the brand daddy of global watch launches in India. Instrumental in bringing names like Omega, Tissot, Rado, Longines to the country, Ravi Thakran is currently President and CEO of LVMH Watches & Jewellery Division for Asia Pacific and coordinates the division's business across the whole region. Sona Bahadur zooms in on the mover and shaker responsible for the entire LVMH group's activity in India

Flying high is a way of life for Ravi Thakran. As South Asia head of LVMH, he spends considerable time in the clouds, on board as many as six flights a week. Singapore, Paris, Barcelona, London, Delhi and Dubai could feature on a single week's itinerary for the peripatetic man. When he is not flying, he is typically going through the company's country business reviews, giving feedback or reading proposals for LVMH boutique launches. "Something is always on, be it Hong Kong or China or India," smiles the soft-spoken achiever.

An alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad - interestingly, his wife was his batchmate - Thakran cut his corporate teeth working at Titan. In charge of establishing the watch brand's international operations in UK, Thakran recalls the humbling experience of trying to sell a made-in-India product in Europe in the early1990s - that too in a technical category like watches. "That was completely not acceptable for Europeans, not just because we were an Indian brand but because it was completely the wrong product for that market." The market needed a bigger size of product with a lower tone of gold while they had flashy gold colours, he recalls. And while Titan used Arabic numerals, Europeans used Roman numerals. It was a learning experience. As he puts it, "it made a man out of a boy."

After working at Swatch for almost six years, Thakran helped launch Omega, arguably the first luxury brand in India in the mid 1990s. The launch of global watch brands like Rado, Longines and Tissot followed. The trend of celebrity endorsements for luxury brands were started during that period. "We signed the very first contract with Shah Rukh Khan at that time. Aishwarya Rai signed for Longines, her first contract for a brand. I still have her CV written by hand!"

Based in Singapore, Thakran has been with LVMH for the last five and a half years and currently looks after LVMH watch and jewellery business for Asia and the Pacific as President of Asia Pacific. He is also the group director for India and coordinates the various activities of the different brands under one umbrella.

LVMH has five divisions: wines and spirits, perfumes and cosmetics, fashion and leather goods, watches and jewellery and selective retailing. While India accounts for just one per cent of total LVMH business, the Chinese market is about 30-40 times larger. "But we are better in India than what we were when we started in China," he says with characteristic optimism.