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German camera maker Leica to expand presence in India

Ten years ago, Leica was an unknown brand in China but today we have a sizable business generating a reasonable profit. We see that happening in India, says Sunil Kaul, Managing Director, Leica Asia-Pacific.

German camera maker Leica to expand presence in India

Sunil Kaul, Managing Director, Leica Asia-Pacific

German camera maker Leica's products have been available in India for long, but it was only in November last year that the company set-up its base in the country. Leica Camera India Private Limited, a 100 per cent subsidiary of Leica Germany, has a working office based out of Gurgaon that takes care of administrative functions. It also has a Leica store at Connaught Place, New Delhi, for customers to walk in and experience their line-up. Leica is also selling its lower entry-level modes through Amazon India in the country. The company also has a shop-in-shop in Bangalore, and the graduation of the shop-in-shops will be Leica Stores. The company plans to introduce 3-5 Leica stores over next three years in India.

Being a luxury camera company, not many are aware of this brand. But unlike other camera brands, Leica doesn't believe in advertisements and communication but in the brand experience.

Sunil Kaul, Managing Director, Leica Asia-Pacific, explains, "We have various channels of reaching out to our customers. Other than Leica Store and shop-in-shops, we also have an in-store program -- Coffee with Leica. Under this program, Leica users share their stories with us, we shortlist and select them to present their work. In addition, we have a Leica Academy, where one can learn photography, different forms of photography, and have travel and experiential tours."

Talking about the India operations, Kaul says, "We did not come to India to make money. The effort, amount and time we put in here, in any other market would get 20 times the result. A lot of work needs to be done. But we are here to build a brand. People largely are not aware of the brand. We are ploughing the field. We are doing everything for people to experience the brand." He further adds, "We have done this before in China. 10 years ago, Leica was an unknown brand in China but today we have a sizable business generating a reasonable profit. We see that happening in India, maybe not immediately, but in the next 3-5 years. Currently, we are not losing double-digit and are close to breaking even."

Priced  upwards of Rs 85,000, Leica is offering its complete range in India as well. And irrespective of the regulations and taxes, the pricing is very similar to what is available abroad. However, the Leica cameras purchased abroad are not covered under warranty in India. Kaul explains the reason behind this, "Each and every part has a serial number and if the camera cannot be repaired in India, it has to be sent back to the country where it can be repaired. When it comes back, it gets stuck in customs as the serial number doesn't match the records."

Unlike other camera brands, Leica does not have products to appeal the masses and has some unique offerings in its portfolio. For instance, while LCD display is a common feature in new age cameras, Leica has one model which doesn't feature an LCD display. Similarly, it has a Monochrome camera, which is manufactured in small quantities and is fairly popular amongst users. Leica's philosophy is to make a few, for the few.

Of the complete range, many Leica cameras are handcrafted. Just like luxury watches, the cameras have a hand-painted serial number. All Leica cameras that involve handwork are manufactured either in Germany or at the small factory in Portugal, which accounts for close to 80 per cent of the total production. Leica has also collaborated with Panasonic, which is also an original manufacturer for a few of its models that do not require hand work.

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