Copyright 2016, Forbesindia.com

We sell wellness solutions: Ludovic Letrillart

The regional director of Hastens Sanger, a Swedish luxury brand, talks about penetrating the complex Indian market and the challenge of selling Rs 40-lakh beds in India


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Ludovic Letrillart Regional Director IMEA Hastens(Left), Asim Afsar Manager India, Hastens

Ludovic Letrillart, regional director at Hastens Sanger, a Swedish luxury brand that has been selling handcrafted beds since 1852, reckons that though sleep has been undervalued by most people in the last few decades, there is now a realisation that it’s the world’s most powerful drug.

“It’s not just about rest. It’s about enhancing your physical and mental performance in a way that will change your life,” says Letrillart, who was in Gurugram early this month to open the company’s fourth outlet in India. The brand entered the country in 2011.

For people performing in the most competitive environments, Letrillart contends that sleep can be a tool for achieving their goals, fulfilling dreams and being on top of the game. Though the Indian market has immense potential in the long run, for the time being, it’s in the early phase, claims Letrillart in an interview with Forbes India:

Q. How has your journey in India been, so far?
We are still in the early days, because like in different geographies across the world, here too, we need to educate people about the importance of sleep. Apart from that, even the importance of selecting a bed with natural materials which would help with the added value that is needed for deep sleep.

Each Hàˆstens bed is handcrafted in the factory in Köping, Sweden, and uses premium natural materials such as flax, horsehair, cotton, wool and Scandinavian pine. While horsehair insulates, ventilates, keeps you at the right temperature throughout the night, cotton and wool help in falling asleep quickly and sleeping a deep sleep.

Flax is strong and durable, and helps provide a quiet sleep environment, while slow-growing Northern pine provides stability to the bed that can make it last for generations. Educating people about the right qualities of a bed is very time consuming. It has not been easy to penetrate the Indian market.

Q. How are Indian luxury consumers different from their global counterparts?
I would say they are very much the same. Indian consumers want to experience and enjoy a relationship with the brand the same way their counterparts elsewhere, would.

So, despite cultural and geographical differences, they expect similar elements that tie all end customers together. The Indian luxury customer may look for a few changes to the look to adapt to the taste here, but more or less, they are very similar to the global users.

Recently, the knowledge of Indian consumers about luxury brands has developed in a tremendous way. In fact, in a lot of cases, they far more advanced, well-travelled, and technologically more empowered than their global counterparts. All the information that a customer needs is on their fingertips, thanks to internet and smartphones. That’s a big evolution.

Q. Is selling a bed with a Rs 40-lakh price tag, an art or science?
It’s a mix of both. Nothing happens by chance. One should come with a plan, a calculation, have an understanding of the landscape and where one stands in terms of customer behavior and expectations. We have been in the business since 1852. So we have a lot of anecdotes, stories to tell.

Q. What is your target audience in India?
High net-worth Indians (HNIs) are our primary target, which is not always the case everywhere else in the world. People who are well-travelled, those who have been exposed to the brand outside India are our natural picks. But then, our potential audience can be really diversified. It’s more people who value their heads and sleep.

Q. How are you reaching out to a potential buyer?
So far, referrals have played a major role. People who purchase Hastens, become our flag bearers. We have been trying to market our product in a couple of ways: Retail, trade marketing and experiential. Recently, we roped in a Yoga Guru who performed Yog Nidra for our prospective and existing customers using one of our beds. We have also tied up with sleep therapists to come in and talk about the importance of sleep and how to improve it. There are plans to rope in a chef who would talk about the right diet for better sleep.

Q. What are the challenges you have faced in India, so far?
There have been two big ones: Awareness about the brand, and education about the importance of sleep.

Recently, a small financial company in Gurugram did a sleep seminar to make its employees understand the impact of deep sleep on performance and productivity.

Q. Going by your price tag, can we say that good sleep is only the luxury of the rich?
Not exactly. It depends on the mindset. Our entry-level bed starts at Rs 5 lakh, and has a 25-year warranty. The price of a good night's sleep works out to about the cost of a Starbucks coffee a day. In the end, it boils down to the importance you want to attach to your body and well-being.