Photo: U-Boat Worx
Erik Hasselman, sales and marketing manager of the Netherlands-based aqua-products maker U-Boat Worx, isn’t disappointed about selling only eight submersibles so far – they started off more than five years ago. After all, the product isn’t designed to sell fast. “It is a class product,” he says, emphasising that it is not just the money, but it is also the “bent of mind” that matters. “We are here for the long haul.” Hasselman was talking about some “luxury toys” his company launched around 2006. U-Boat Worx is one of the only three companies in the world that make submersibles, or mini submarines; the others, he says, are Triton and Seamagine, both American companies. U-Boat has sold its submersibles in West Asia, Greece, Russia and Japan.
Hot Pursuit for Indian HNIs
Now, U-Boat is targeting South Asia, especially India, where it finds the quickly expanding breed of young high net worth individuals (HNIs) too irresistible to ignore.
Nigel Harwood says it was natural that U-Boat tied up with The ESTD, of which he is the CEO, to sell its products in the Saarc region. For, Harwood adds, The ESTD, a subsidiary of InterGlobe Enterprises which also owns IndiGo Airlines, is in similar pacts with companies selling high-end luxury products. It has expanded its range of offerings to non-aviation and luxury lifestyle products such as yachts, cars and bikes.
“After our success in the aviation space we decided to have a non-aviation division as well in the luxury segment…we went through a rebranding exercise a few months ago,” says Harwood. The ESTD’s latest offerings include Swedish super luxury sports car Koenigsegg, priced at ‘12.5 crore, besides other cars such as Gumpert and a few motor bikes. “Koenigsegg is what the owners of Ferraris and Lamborghinis would buy …there are a total of some 26 such brands that we represent in this part of the world,” says Harwood.
Like Hasselman, Harwood, too, is excited about the growing appetite of India’s HNIs. In fact, the luxury market in India is estimated to grow 25% annually.
Sure, U-Boat’s submersibles aren’t as expensive as Koenigseggs or several other brands sold by The ESTD. “But it [a submersible] is something new and has the potential to capture the rich Indian’s attention. Not all of them want to just show off with cars and helicopters. Some of them want to own things such as submersibles that whet their thirst for semi-adventures like diving into the bottom of the sea,” says a chief financial officer of an MNC, requesting anonymity.
Harwood says a few rich Indians have shown interest in buying submersibles, but he doesn’t want to either disclose their names nor details of sales. “In Seychelles, we are close to two deals. There is a lot of interest in Sri Lanka and Maldives as well.” He also doesn’t wish to part with the exact price of U-Boat’s submersibles and Scubacraft, a floater which once deflated at the sides becomes a diving apparatus. He reveals the price range: For India, U-Boat’s submersibles are priced in the range of $1-1.5 million and Scubacraft at $235,000 (excluding import duties).
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