August 22, 2000 | Economic Times

Titan targets the rural market with Sonata range

Having timed out the competition in the urban markets, Titan Industries, the country’s largest watch maker is now set to aggressively move the rural consumers.

Titan is something of a late entrant into this vast market. Admitted Xerxes Desai, vice-chairman and managing director, Titan Industries, "We have been a bit slow in getting our act together for the rural market. We do have the product and the distribution. The issue that has to be addressed now is communication."

Titan intends to make inroads into the Indian hinterland with ‘Sonata’, its brand for the mass market with the aim to both "satisfy and stimulate" rural demand. Titan sees rural India as a market waiting for the marketer.

Said Mr Desai, "There is a dangerous, urban, elitist approach to categorise rural India as some solid mass when there is actually a need to properly segment and classify this market". He believes that the rural market is even more diverse than the urban one with highly differing lifestyles between the rich and poor.

It isn’t as if Titan does not sell outside the urban belt at the moment. The company’s watches are available in towns of the size of 20,000.

Said Bhaskar Bhat, chief operating officer (COO), Watch Business Unit, Titan, "Right now we sell to the rural customers through distribution." Meaning that rural customers who come to larger towns do have access to Titan’s products. But a focused entry into the rural market means having a specific product, specific communication and distribution for this market, he said.

Titan is now in the process of conducting research into the rural market to get its act right. Titan managers believe that the rural market needs a completely different communication exercise to be effective. Titan is expected to be ready with its action plan for the rural market in another two-three months.

"Our main rural thrust will come just before the next wedding season which is March-April," said Mr Bhat.

The research that Titan is doing on the rural markets is to mainly find out the consumers’ perception about the product, their expectations on price / service and even on what they expect out of watches.

In addition to hiring research agencies like MODE, Titan has worked with companies which have done extensive work in rural market like TI Cycles to get a better understanding of rural consumers.

The main competition for Titan in the rural markets will come from its traditional foe, HMT, which has a great franchise in this market and is popularly known as ‘Chemti’ watches.