The Indian market today has many more brands compared to when Titan entered. Has it led to the erosion of market share that Titan holds?
It has been an interesting phase for the watch business, especially the last four to five years. Almost every brand is now present in India. We had market leadership earlier, which we still continue to have; there has been a little bit of erosion. What however is interesting, is that we still continue to have leadership in most of the segments of our watch business. By segments, I imply fashion, sports etc. Each of these segments (for us) is still bigger than the brands that have come into the market and compete at the same price points. We have been here for the last 25 years. We have a huge range. We cater to very diverse consumer needs. We have exclusive outlets and distribution centres. This continues to be our strength even as we continue to add 40 to 50 stores every year.
It (the entry of more brands) has motivated us to work harder – whether it is in our retail metrics or retail environment, product space, or brand communication space. We have become stronger in what we do, and the journey has evolved very well. And the results are already showing.
India is a growth story for everybody right now. What defines your edge?
We have such a major controlling market share, and apparently, all brands are doing well as per their standards and benchmarks. But the only thing that may be holding them back is distribution. We have a lesser-evolved watch market. We do have multi-brand stores selling variety of watches but no one is investing as much as we are in building exclusive stores. Their growth is linked directly to the distribution. It is also going to be limited by the amount of money they are willing to spend on marketing efforts. If you look at the watch category, nobody is really advertising. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is on Titan’s shoulders that the watch market is growing. We have to invest to make the watch market grow since no one else is doing it.
These are the limitations that these brands will have but every brand that is going to come into the country will grow. They will always have places to add to their distribution. As long as we have our own stores, we control our destiny. As long as we control our destiny, we will continue to be leaders.
When you say leadership, what is Titan’s share in the Indian watch market?
We should be about 65 per cent. This is a rough estimate of the organised market. If you look at the leadership in department stores for instance, despite competing with all leading brands in the store, we are the number one brand there. In the trade or mass distribution space, we have manifold leadership. If you look at exclusive outlets, there as well we have tremendous leadership.
What contributes most to your communication – big data or creativity?
Consumer and communication – these are the two areas where we are struggling to keep up as a marketer. We are doing a lot more research, and (gaining) lot more insight before we design our communication and product portfolio. We do lot of research to study the consumers, to understand them. We are trying to keep up with the challenge, and trying to invest more money into these places.
We have the largest consumer database because we have captured it from all our brands. We use that a lot to target our consumers with our various products that come out or from a marketing perspective. Of course, there is scope for improvement. Big data will be used extensively so that our marketing efforts become a lot more focused.
Apart from Raga, other sub-brands such as Zoop are not advertised...
Even Raga is advertised as Titan Raga. We have different segments to cover the market because the consumer is evolving, but it is still (as) one brand. Earlier, there used to be one watch for every occasion. Today, you have different kind of watches for each occasion, and mood. As a watchmaker, it is our effort to accessorise your complete look. We have watches for the sport look, casual look, fashion look to cater to various needs. The watch is a compliment to all those moods and occasions, and we want to make sure that we cover those spaces.
That is where our communication philosophy of ‘Be More’ came from as well. It was a call to action to the consumer. However, at a product level, ‘Be More’ meant we are present at every phase of the consumer journey, and for every occasion and need.
Titan’s campaign has mostly been rooted in gifting, and for brands like Raga – in women empowerment. How has the unchanged approach helped the brand?
‘Gifting’ has been the traditional part of our communication. We started this year with a gifting campaign, which was about a proposal. We also had a Diwali film, which was rooted in the concept of ‘gift of time’. This theme has been integral to the way Titan has grown. Gifting also accounts for a very large percentage of our business. That is one part of it. The other part is how we are pitching this communication with what is happening with the consumers today, and how consumers’ time is increasingly consumed by technology. This is a triangle that we can play with. Gifting is our strength, and we will continue to play with it but we will continue to explore other opportunities.
The communication rooted in women empowerment has been phenomenal for Raga. The consumer has certainly responded, and the acknowledgement of our peers has also been an encouragement. It worked very well for us. We had a fantastic year on Raga. We have broken down Raga in terms of design and price points. We see that people are willing to consume the range at different price points since they see value in it.
We keep undertaking research to create insights for our future advertising.
While Titan has been using television as a storytelling medium, how is it exploring the digital medium?
We started investing in digital over the last couple of years. One part of it links to our larger marketing campaign, and create extensions after the campaign is out, whether it is through Twitter or Facebook where we create opportunities for consumers to engage with us. When it is Valentine’s Day, Christmas or other occasions when people are in mood for socialising and gifting, it gives us a platform where we can talk about our products, and weave in interesting stories about gifting.
From the digital perspective, we have various strategies. One is the ad hoc… things and events we can leverage. Second is what we do in our campaigns, and link it back to digital. Third, is link it to our micro-websites that showcase our products. Digital, thus, serves a three-fold purpose for the brand.
Are the marketing spends increasing?
It has been growing at 10 to 20 per cent. We have been increasing them in line with our goals.
Can you highlight the current growth drivers for Titan?
We continue to invest in products. Every year we churn one-third of our line across our segments, which means that if I have 1,000 products in my portfolio, 300 products get churned by end of the year. A lot of investment is done to bring international flavours and preferences in our product lines. The approach to communication is that it is not built on single platform because we seek to understand our consumers.
Retail is a big focus for us. We are renovating our stores, refurbishing them and investing more in visual merchandising. These are the three big pillars of our growth.
What are the trends that are emerging in non-metro markets?
Earlier, we had lots of business coming from the gold-look watches. We see a rapid change coming with people moving towards steel-look, and preferring contemporary and bigger watches. This is one big trend, which we have been leveraging for our growth.
People are ready to spend more. Our average prices are increasing in these areas; say by about 10 to 15 per cent. With e-commerce, and more digital awareness, our products are being consumed much more compared to few years ago.
Titan is present in 33 countries outside India. How are those markets responding to the brand?
The markets with Indian diaspora are growing well for us. Middle East and South East Asia are two of the largest segments for us currently. This is not to say that local population is not buying into our watches. We are very well represented in retail in South East Asia. We lead with our Titan brand. With Sonata, and Fastrack, we are yet to make a conscious foray. We are largely investing in Titan. This year, we should be doing a lot more with those (other) brands.
Do you see the launch of wearables (from Apple, Samsung) as a challenge to Titan’s growth?
It is a challenge, but also an opportunity. It is a challenge from a business perspective but we also strongly feel that these happenings have actually created a lot of interest in the watch category. It has started conversations around what will happen to watch industry. All these conversations mean that the watch category is alive in consumers’ minds. It’s is a PR of sorts – and people tend to evaluate the watches with these products, and how watches can complete your look. On the whole, it is certainly going to be challenging. To what extent, we will have to see. India is a different market.
(This article was published in 1 May issue of Campaign India)