The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Calcutta and Preity in Chopard’s sights
- Swiss watch maker hosts Bollywood lunch in Cannes

Cannes, May 18: If further endorsement were required that things are looking up in Calcutta, it came today in Cannes when Chopard hosted a “Bollywood lunch” for the “very pretty and very fresh” Preity Zinta and announced it was confident of selling more of its exclusive watches and jewellery in India ' “especially in Calcutta”.

If the Switzerland-based watch and jewellery company has its way, it will become de rigeur for the comrades to go to Writers’ flaunting Chopard watches.

In fact, there already exists a “Chopard Club” in Calcutta.

Of course, Chopard does not want to sell its stylish products only in Calcutta but all over India. But, based on its exploratory research, the firm has identified Calcutta as having the right kind of potential buyers ' “lots of young, affluent, educated, discerning and stylish people”.

Today’s lunch in honour of Zinta, whom Chopard has had in its sights for over five years, was held in one of the prime locations in Cannes ' the beach restaurant opposite the Carlton Hotel with plenty of bouncers to keep out B-listers.

Zinta was not fashionably late. She wore a simple but elegant black dress, with simple but very expensive diamonds, and arrived safely on the arms of the Bollywood director, Karan Johar.

Others who followed included Bobby Bedi (The Rising), Amit Khanna, president of the Film and Television Guild, and senior officials of the CII. Representing the Hinduja family was Geneva-based P.P. Hinduja.

Zinta did her bit, posing for photographs in front of the Chopard logo, fetched a glass of chilled champagne from a passing waiter and chatted happily with The Telegraph: “This is my second trip to Cannes. Let’s face it, diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

If things work out, Chopard could be her new best friend. She was all for Chopard doing more business in India. “The GDP has been growing at 8.5 per cent,” she pointed out. At which point, The Telegraph left her to eat her lunch in peace.

Chopard’s boss, Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, co-president and creative director of the company, with Indian diamond dealer from Antwerp Rashmi Mehta by her side ' the Indians are taking over the diamond trade there ' said: “Next to China, it’s the fastest growing economy. There are a lot of rich, talented people in India. We are making contacts with Bollywood.”

Mehta, who is big in Belgium and close to the Chopard management in Switzerland, said: “Chopard gets its diamonds from Russia, Belgium, New York and other countries, but the Indians are right up there with them.”

Chopard’s area manager for India Thomas Sczyrba, who now visits the country four times a year, said he was not prepared to name names but nearly 30 Chopard watches had recently been sold in Calcutta. “Calcutta is improving very fast,” he said. “Our watches go from $1,000 to no limit, but a popular model sells for $4,000.”

Chopard now has 11 boutiques or retail outlets in Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta. “But we intend opening more and in cities such as Bangalore and Hyderabad,” he said.

“Next year in Cannes, we will hold a big Bollywood party. Chopard is linked to cinema ' we are at the Oscars, for example.”

Asked for the differences in the market for Rolex and Chopard, Sczyrba replied: “Rolex is more for men. Chopard is more trendy.”

He would not rule out product placements in Bollywood movies. It will be time to be suspicious if the remake of Sholay, for example, shows Jai and Veeru wearing Chopard, while vulgar and violent Gabbar makes do with a Rolex.

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