A Day In The Life Of An Authorised Dealer

The name “Sugi Kusumadi” should not be unfamiliar, if you are an active member in Singapore’s fractured and sprawling watch community.  The man is the owner and the face of Red Army Watches (or simply, RAW). TBC sat down recently with the very busy man to take a peek inside his head space.

Photography by Asher Young and Ronald Chew

by The Balance Coq

  • August 1, 2023
DSCF0015

TBC: Who is Sugi Kusumadi?

SK: 46 years on, I’m still searching for the answer to be honest.

TBC: When did you start RAW?

SK: 2004.  It was only a blink of an eye ago, I swear.

TBC: Why did you start RAW? What do you want to accomplish with RAW?

SK: I wanted to broaden the options available for watch lovers in this part of the world. We were talking about “Independent” before the word became trendy in the recent years.  I think we were trying to represent the underdogs.  Back then, when it came to watches, only a handful of brands occupied the Singaporean top-of-mind awareness (TOMA).  I would like to think we did more than our fair share of educating the community to look beyond those stalwart brands, and steer people away from mall watches to brands that have stories and meaning behind them.

TBC: What are the key challenges you have faced over the years?

SK: The brands we carry have little or zero brand awareness, so we became the story teller and we are still doing it till today.  And to continue being a vital partner for these brands mean that we have to have people who can be passionate story tellers.  That has always been hard.

The other challenges are the usual lot you hear from everyone in the local retail space. Rent is always the big one, coupled with high operating cost and manpower.  Mall footfall volumes are returning to pre-pandemic levels for most places, so that is something we do not have to worry too much about.

DSCF0019

TBC: Tell us about your memorable moments?

SK:  I’m pretty sure we were the first retailer in the world to house multiple Russian brands under one roof.  As  part of the normal course of business, the RAW team spend a lot of time looking at, and talking to new brands.  I will be the first to say I do not have the biggest risk appetite, but I can see potential.  That is why I was also the first one to discover SEVENFRIDAY all those years ago.

TBC: How does the current state of the watch industry compare to when RAW was new?

SK:  Some of the more prominent brands have supply-demand issues, especially since the pandemic.  We can see that watch collectors are more open to independent brands, and are willing to pay good money for them.  There are more dedicated brand-owned boutiques now, and you can see these brands interacting directly with their clientele base.  As a result, the bigger and established multi-brand retailers are on the lookout for new brands to replace them.

TBC: What’s next for RAW?

We are looking for a partner, a big brother who sees us (and me!) as complementary to their business.  Last October, we launched Singapore’s first indie watch fair – Spring Sprung Sprang.  The reception from the local watch community was astounding, and so we intend to make this a regular event.  Watch out for the next SSS, which should be coming into your social media feeds any time soon.

TBC: We ask this in every interview – what’s in your collection?

It is a rojak (Editor: to mean a mixed bag) collection! Besides the brands we represent, I also love the Speedies and Tudors!

DSCF0024

Recent Posts