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Blog: Wine may be Auspicious too

Posted: Tuesday, 02 August 2011 16:29

Blog: Wine may be Auspicious too

August 02: Wine is known to be a healthy, lifestyle product that helps build friendships. We know the divine aspect, especially in Christianity. But wine can also be auspicious which I discovered at least in the case of a wine connoisseur businessman of Chandigarh, Yasho Saboo who has seen an exponential rise in the sale of super luxury Swiss watches through Ethos chain stores across India, perhaps aided by the auspicious wine while adding the new line of business a few years ago.

I was invited by Yasho Saboo to Chandigarh  about eight years ago to conduct a couple of cheese and wine evenings at Ethos, the new showroom he was opening to retail high-end luxury Swiss watches that could easily cost upwards of $10,000. Of course he had already performed the usual religious ceremonies. I helped organize and present the wines and did some pairing of food for the evenings. It was a hugely successful affair from his point since many of the who’s who of Chandigarh turned up on both days and enjoyed the wines- then a rare concept.

I was so pleased with the response and the people’s desire to learn about wines that I urged Yasho to form a wine club like the Delhi Wine Club. He started the Chandigarh Wine Club with 15 members and the club is doing well. ‘Several members of our club are now very well informed wine connoisseurs’; he told me when the club invited me a couple of years ago as a speaker at a club dinner. He admits being still very fond of Rupert and Rothschild Classique from South Africa, one of the wines I had presented.

But I was quite skeptical about the market for luxury watches, especially when people were buying Titan and Citizen and the Swiss watches were available much cheaper in Dubai or Hong Kong . I am glad he proved me wrong, and how! From that first store, he has opened 25 stores pan- India including the Duty Free Shops at the Delhi and Bangalore airports and hopes to take the number to 100 in 4 years. From the initial 8 Swiss brands he now has 40 including Breguet, Cartier, Rolex, Carl F. Bucherer, Jaeger-Le-Coultre, Breitling etc and rapidly growing Omega, Tag Heuer, Longines, Edox; not to forget, vibrant fashion brands such as CK, Fossil, Claude Bernard, Versace, Guess, Tissot and Swatch-it’s like having a branded chain of specialty wine shops with top quality wines of different labels!

He was very confident about the potential of luxury watches in India. ‘I realised that Swiss luxury watches were practically unknown in India but after the import liberalisation, they would soon establish themselves quickly, as in other Asian countries. We selected Chandigarh as it was my hometown and we knew the customer profile well. Within a year, we were encouraged to open more stores; Ethos has grown steadily from Chandigarh to Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ludhiana and Pune.’

‘All our products are officially imported and guaranteed to be genuine with full documentation. Besides the state-of-the-art after-sale service centre, our prices are very transparent and competitive with the best in the world including Singapore, Dubai or Switzerland. At the duty-free stores, we are among the most competitive anywhere in the world,’ he tells me over a glass of Grand Cru Burgundy, one of the prized bottles he had brought back from his collection at a friend’s private cellar in Europe.

He won’t tell me how many watches he sells during the wedding season but says with a wink, ‘price is not a criterion for the bride’s parents who buy multiple numbers from our top labels because of their quality and brand image. ‘From an initial turnover of only Rs. 20 million and at 40% annual growth (faster than the growth in wine consumption) we passed the milestone of Rs. one billion last year, and will tip to Rs. 2 billion in the next 2 years,’ he hopes.
Of course wine has been auspicious for him before Ethos. His first contact with wine was also connected with watches. He started to visit Switzerland around 1983 in connection with the family business after his stint at IIM-Ahmadabad and was impressed to see wine as an integral part of European culture. But he remained a casual table wine drinker till the mid 90s when they started exporting to Europe and he had to entertain his customers. Being a vegetarian, there was a limited choice of food so he started to learn French and read about wines to become a better host.

Soon wine became a passion. He attended his first wine tasting in Switzerland and realised in a blind tasting that it was not difficult to differentiate between ordinary, good and great wine with some knowledge, training and interest. So he started to read, taste and collect fine wines.

‘Watches and wines are two of my passions. Just like wine is best enjoyed in the company of friends, so is the knowledge and interest in fine watches. Discussing the intricate aspects of watches over a fine wine among discerning friends – what else does one need for a great evening!!’

So next time when you venture out into something new that calls for a pooja, havan or similar religious ceremony- do it by all means. But try following it up with a cheese and wine evening after; it may be quite auspicious.

Subhash Arora

As I look accidentally at my left wrist, I am wearing a simple yet elegant looking Ethos watch that he gave me as a present after I had presented the wines. Despite my Rolex and a few other not so expensive watches I have accumulated over the years, I find myself wearing the same watch on most occasions. Maybe the  wine experience at Chandigarh has been auspicious for me too!



Sidd Banerji Says:

Every time I get into your articles,I simply get swayed with a unique feeling.Extraordinary collection of facts and figures with interesting punch of language in the most lucid terms. Hats off again for the article/blog on Ethos,Chandigarh.Much to learn.much to be happy just reading your lines. I do not know how I came across the article so late.It is dated early August.The value of gold anyway,do not diminish with passage of time though.

Posted @ October 15, 2011 11:54


Subhash Arora Says:

I am flattered that I was the first person you thought of. It is a long and bumpy road but I hope one day we see 2 bottles liquor/6 bottles of wine at all the duty free shops in India. Subhash

Posted @ August 10, 2011 17:15


K Kaur Says:

Thought I'd drop in a line since yours was the first name which came to my mind as I entered the Mumbai International airport yesterday nite... And you might wonder why... Wish you all the best in your crusade to change the signage at the Duty Free terminal...2 bottles of liquor/wine!!

Posted @ August 10, 2011 17:10


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