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After Cubans, Swiss cigars on way

business Updated: Sep 03, 2007 03:16 IST
Samiran Saha
Samiran Saha
Hindustan Times
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Good news for the cigar aficionado in India. After Luxury cars, branded foreign liquor, chocolates and almost everything else associated with luxury, good cigar brands are now making their way to India.

It’s a style statement; it’s fashionable and the new mantra of the young upwardly mobile with money to spare. These are some of the many reasons that has prompted the $150 million Swiss cigar maker Villiger Sons Ltd to set up shop in India. Godfrey Phillips India (GPI) through its pan shops and departmental stores will exclusively distribute Villiger cigars. “India is an emerging market, a young nation and has thrown open good opportunities for us,” Heinrich Villiger, president and chairman of the board of the 119-year-old family-held cigar company told the Hindustan Times.

Villiger says his company will not ask people to smoke and is instead “targeting those who are interested in smoking”. The company is eyeing a growing cigar market comprising the young upwardly mobile that is interested in switching from cigarettes to cigars. “Cigars are no longer associated with those in their fifties. More and more younger people are taking to cigars,” Villiger said.

To begin with, the company will focus all its attention to the metros in the first year of its operations and later move on to the mini metros and other cities. “GPI is in 56 cities, and we will reach those cities through them,” Villiger said.

Villiger feels the European Union, the US and Asia were the key markets in the cigar business. With 30 per cent growth projected for the cigar market, Villiger said there was an immense opportunity to tap about 15 to 20 per cent of the market in India over next three years. “We will be present across various market segments since we have brands ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 125 per cigar stick,” he said.