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Watch out for brand, not bill

It’s the battle of the brands, not prices, in the watch wars. With prices from Rs 500 to Rs 5 lakh, an international range of designs and the launch of new names, choice and availability are no longer an issue in the mega mart in town. And the consumer, too, is changing with the times and trends. Substantial disposable incomes and label and design awareness mean the Calcutta customer is not willing to settle for anything less than the best.

At the launch of the Christian Dior watch range in the city recently, LVMH Watch and Jewellery regional managing director Ravi Thakran explained that although the line was being launched simultaneously in six cities in India, focus would be on the Calcutta market because of its “promising retail development” scene. “Mumbai and Delhi have stagnated in the retail sector, and despite the hype, they each have only one large shopping mall to speak of. But Calcutta already has three, with more on the way,” said Thakran.

And the price range of Rs 13,000 to about Rs 150,000 is not daunting. The company that also markets Omega, Zenith and Rado amongst others, sees a promising future in India, but particularly in Calcutta. The reason – “The artistic sense of Calcuttans, which has made the city the seat of art and culture in the country,” according to Thakran. Hence, the need to associate the brand name of Christian Dior with this city, “because those who have money, as is the case in some other cities, need not necessarily have taste. So, we have to woo this city first.”

Titan and Piaget, Raymond Weil and Mont Blanc, are all in competition, and anything upto Rs 50,000 is in popular demand, for private collections or anniversary gifts, says Nandini Dasgupta of the Titan showroom on Park Street and Suranjan Sen, sales executive of BC Sen Jewellers. And it’s a floating customer, with a love of a variety of brands.

“If someone has a fascination with Omega, they will definitely buy one. But the next piece will inevitably be something different, because they want diversity,” observes Sen. “Besides, one piece is rarely enough for people who buy such expensive watches. It wasn’t the case a few years ago, but people are definitely changing. Now, the average age group of customers is 25 to 30, and they come in knowing exactly what they want. Not just the brand, but the sub-category as well. What they look for first are the label and the design. The most popular ones at our showroom are Mont Blanc, Raymond Weil and Omega.”

But it’s the home-grown variety that’s worth watching out for, according to Thakran, with Titan being the giant in that area.

“People are very aware of fashion trends and what’s available, and it’s true of all socio-economic strata in society,” explains Dasgupta. “Everything between Rs 500 and Rs 50,000 is competition for us, because the customer is quite fickle, and shifts loyalties every two or three months, particularly when something new enters the market.”

Of the 10,000 watches that Thakran hopes will be the minimum to sell in India in the next couple of years, “at least 1,000”, he feels, will be from Calcutta. “With sales down by anything between 30 and 80 per cent in Southeast Asia in the last financial quarter because of the Iraq war and SARS, and more losses expected in the coming months, India could very well become our focus. And we have big game plans for this city,” he winds up.

— Nisha Lahiri


Carved letters

Gurusaday Dutta had once written that since stone was not easily available in Bengal, the artistes of this region could express themselves through the use of wood and clay instead of stone. But that did not in any way undermine their skill as sculptors. Unknown to well-to-do city folk, innumerable instances of their remarkable ability to carve wood can still be found in the beautiful huts in villages. Dutta was convinced that the ancestors of these sculptors, who used wood, had inspired the sculptors of ancient India. Tarapada Santra’s book Wood Carvings of Bengal stands testimony to the truth of Dutta's comment. Published posthumously by the Centre for Archaeological Studies and released at a recent memorial meeting following Santra’s death on April 22, the book is a comprehensive overview of the aesthetics and history of woodcarving in Bengal.

It is divided in six chapters, beginning with the introduction. The second chapter is on dwelling houses and mandapas or roofs of temples. The third is all about rathas or chariots, the fourth is about the images of deities, the fifth on ornamental doorways and the sixth on miscellaneous wood carvings such as the brishakastha, thrones, wooden dolls, the wooden bulls that used to guard the portals of Shiva temples, musical instruments, wooden chests, beds, puppets, the craft of making boats and palanquins. This is an invaluable reference book illustrated as it is with a profusion of rarely seen photographs, some taken by Santra during his peregrinations.


Screen beat

He’s aced the percussion platform with classical performances and a fusion album. Now, Bikram Ghosh is looking for a new challenge. The percussionist has signed up with Spandan Films for his first movie score. He is to compose the music for Shatabdir Galpo, starring Debashree Roy.

“My primary outlook was to find a project that was not run of the mill,” explains Bikram. The “urban” film about the “exploitation and degradation of women” appealed to the artiste. “I related to this film pretty strongly.” There will be a few songs, for which the musician is in talks with lyricists. Recording is to start by June 10. “There should be a lot of percussion. Indian cinema has not explored tabla as background to its fullest extend. It can be used even to express subtle emotion,” feels the tabla exponent.

If all goes well, Bikram’s work may be heard in Bollywood as well. He is currently in talks with Govind Nihalani for an upcoming project. He is already working on a Hindi pop album, with a Bangla one with Sony Music lined up for Puja release. He has recording dates scheduled with Sivamani for a joint project with a “strong element of percussion”, which is also to have musical numbers.

His world music group Rythmscape is leaving for a tour of the UK. “We will be playing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on July 24. That is an honour many musicians don’t have,” he signs off.


Fortune hunt

Want to make your ‘fortune’' On Sunday, you will have a mega chance to do just that. ‘Aaja ban ja raja’, billed as the biggest treasure hunt in India, has a booty of Rs 150,000 and two return tickets to London. Organised by ‘Fortune’ online lottery, on May 11, the Salt Lake stadium helipad will see up to 2,000 teams flag off at 3 pm. To be certified by the Limca Book of Records as the “first and largest treasure hunt in India”, participants will have to register, along with their vehicles, for the six-clue location, 60-km ride. From 8 pm, back at the venue, all bounty hunters can catch a live show featuring Ritika Sahni and Ms Universe-turned-actress Lara Dutta, amongst other stars.


Tots on ramp

All you doting parents who think your baby has what it takes to win hearts, gear up for a modelling career for your little one. The stars will be shining bright for a babies beauty contest, entitled Jack ’n’ Jill 2003, at Fun City, on May 18, for which entry is open to all, between ages one and six.

Prizes will be given for ‘Best smiling baby’, ‘Best dressed baby’, ‘Best photogenic face’, ‘Most healthy baby’, ‘Most active baby’ and ‘Most beautiful eyes baby’. In fact, the youngsters will be given ‘training and instructions’ the day before, and the portfolio of the winner, decided by a celebrity judges panel, will be handled by Dream Merchants.

The gala event will include puppet, music and magic shows, with a dance floor for the toddlers to help them party. DJ Akash and a live band will provide the tunes, and a dance performance by the children of Sabera Foundation will also be part of the evening’s entertainment.

Supported by the Montessorie’s Association, registration forms will be handed out to about 150 Montessories and playhouses.

Cotton creations: This weekend marks the sale of handcrafted cottage cottons in women’s wear at Loudon Manor on Loudon Street. These are the creations of craftspeople from various fields who have been trained especially at the centre and the proceeds will go straight to them.

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