Bohemian Crystal Company
Establishing a niche market within an ever growing industry, was an unthinkable feat. But turning it into a reality was a challenge that Oscar Fernandes, of Bohemian Crystal Company (India) braved with patience
The Bohemian Crystal Company was established in 1999, on the Margao-Navelim Highway as a showroom to showcase hospitality products. It catered to the hotel, fine dining as well as airline industries – a place where the target audience would see the products at display, and accordingly place an order in bulk.
But as the number of footfalls increased, the customers began inquiring why the products were only on a display, and not for sale. That is when Oscar decided to expand the business and converted it into a retail space, shifting the showcasing of the hospitality products to the top floor.
“At the beginning, we conducted a lot of marketing campaigns and on-ground events, only to make our customers aware about the products that we were selling. People from North Goa came all the way to make purchases during our annual sale, as we had a range of uncommon products, that were not available anywhere else in Goa,” says Oscar.
Being located along the national highway gave BCC an added edge as vacationers as well as the locals would randomly walk in out of curiosity, and would walk out with a souvenir or a gift set for their family and friends. “We even had a showcase of our products at the airport to reach out to a maximum clientele in the nascent stages,” adds Oscar.
At the beginning, we conducted a lot of marketing campaigns and on ground events, merely to make our customers aware about the products that we were selling – Oscar Fernandes
In 2011, the business was officially expanded and branched out into Oscar Hospitality Concepts (OHC) that merely differentiated the processes of retail from that of catering exclusively to the industry. At OHC, the range of products is a widespread, right from crystal chandeliers and light fittings, to crockery and cutlery of international specifications. Today, the products are being used by the best international chain of hotels, right from Star Wood, Marriott, Grand Hyatt, Taj, to Le Meridian, Planet Hollywood, The Leela and more. The company has established a firm footing in the HoReCa (Hotels / Restaurants / Catering) industry.
“As a Goan, nobody had ventured into this industry before. Having worked in the Gulf myself, I realized the amount of potential that the hospitality industry showed in India. Being in a managerial role, I got exposed to various nuances of the trade and coming from a financial background, I knew the risks involved to start such an establishment. I studied the various mindsets as to why certain brands and products had an upper hand over others; and accordingly incorporated the best at BCC as well as OHC. Goa proved to be an ideal location to establish a base for operations, and that is how I came back home,” states Oscar.
Be it Asian, Japanese or French – each cuisine has a different style of presentation, and each of it demands a special set of tableware to display its superior taste. It is a slow learning process that needs to be absorbed into the modus operandi. Oscar took tiny steps to bring about a change in the way of thinking for the industry as well as the masses. “It is a very delicate industry and needs to be handled with care. You need to invest a lot of time for business to grow, while ensuring that there are no complaints along the journey,” says Oscar.
Right from hosting crash course trainings for the F&B teams of various hotels, to pioneering the need of gaining a deep and profound knowledge of the trends in the industry, he even went to the extent of explaining the importance of serving a particular wine in the right glassware and maintaining the silver polishing, to increase the overall revenue of the business.
“When BCC began, my friend challenged me that nobody would buy such a premium range. But when I bagged my first order from the Salgaocar-owned Goa Marriott Resort, there was simply no stopping. Till date, we have had purchases made from the top five-star hotels across the country, right from Bengaluru, Chennai and Cochin to Jodhpur, Mumbai, Pune, Udaipur, Jaipur and more,” he states proudly.
Introducing the industry to a niche segment was indeed a big risk. Oscar explains how his apprehensions were eventually laid to rest. He elaborates “The industry was used to local products, that weren’t of such a superior quality. Our products brought about a refreshing wave of change that the industry readily welcomed. Till date, I am remembered for having introduced the industry to new standards of branded dinnerware. Each of our product is unique and has a classic pattern, designed intricately for the purpose of maximum utility.”
Slowly, the products became popular in the hospitality sector, at big business houses, in the aviation industry and even amongst the locals as an exquisite gift item set for special occasions. From glassware to buffet ware and holloware, kitchen equipment, linen and other decorative gift items, BCC houses it all. A few of the brand names include Rosenthal, Luigi Bormioli, Raynaud, Tafelstern, Guy Degrenne, Ercuis, etc. Oscar had some of the company representatives come and train his personnel about the brands to ensure that the customers receive a high-end shopping experience.
Annually, OHC partakes at the AAHAR, the International Food & Hospitality Fair, hosted by the India Trade Promotion Organization, in New Delhi. Right from the first year, Oscar has projected the brand as a trendsetter in the market that stays abreast of the changing vogues and concepts within the industry. “At BCC as well as OHC, we ensure that we cater to the customer’s need, rather than displaying our assortment of products. We first show them the options, educate them and then suggest the possible purchases that would best suit their purpose. Over a period of time, the industry in India has evolved; but at a comparatively slower pace than that of overseas,” he adds.
Each mood, every interior, be it a fine diner or a standalone restaurant, this is a ‘one stop shop for high-quality products in the hospitality industry’. Products that are competitively and reasonably priced. Oscar has maintained a low profile with not much of marketing or PR. But he is a workaholic, nonetheless. Whatever free time he gets from work, he spends either travelling or attending work related conferences, and strictly ascertains that the company houses only those brands that have a thorough background of R&D; where the manufacturers are reputed as well as reliable.
“At times, the demands in the industry are erratic and our ability to adapt and cater to each customer with the same amount of commitment is our strongest point. The one major challenge that I have however faced is the difficulty to get human resources that would bring stability to the business. We had earlier set up offices in various parts of the country, that now have to be re-aligned due to the lack of manpower,” states Oscar.
Till date, the organization has lived up to the expectations of its customers as well as the industry. Its business philosophy is to provide the best products, at the best prices with the best services. On a concluding note, he mentions that there are plans of expanding the showroom to Panjim and re-organization of the branches, in the future pipeline