Remember when the only Indian wristwatch brand you could buy came in a clutch of clunky models, one more ordinary than the other, when the craze for an imported watch never seemed to wane? That was before the time of Titan, a name which changed forever the way watches made in this country were seen by Indians and the world.
Launched in 1987, Titan is credited with transforming the face of India's watch industry. By offering consumers quality products that blended classy designs with superior technology, Titan became a byword for success stories. Outstanding service, a wide variety of models, and effective marketing have helped Titan consolidate its early gains, to the point where the company is a force to be reckoned with beyond Indian shores.
Understanding the Indian consumer's psyche has been vital to Titan reaching its current position of strength. The company today has a model for every price segment and every market, urban and rural, regional and international. Within the Titan mother brand are Nebula, which comes draped in 18-carat gold; the exclusive Insignia; PSI, for those turned on by technology; and Raga, which has been designed exclusively for women.
Titan's focus has always been on India. Research reveals some interesting facts and figures about this heterogeneous market.
It is the rural segment within this diverse market that Titan is now looking to tap. "The key to success," says Bijou Kurien, vice-president, sales and marketing, Titan Industries, "is getting into the rural market on a larger scale." The company's Sonata range is targeted at rural customers, and is part of a strategy where the alignment of price and reliability are crucial. The range costs between Rs495 and Rs1,200, has showrooms exclusively for it, and is sold mainly in small-town India.
Fast Track is a different kettle of fish. This range is broadly aimed at young Indians looking for watches that are fashionable and stylish. Then there's Dash, a range that Titan launched for children. Introduced in early 2000, Dash is priced low, but it hasn't sold too well. The company plans to change that with enhanced advertising and a different marketing strategy.
Titan's retail operations are a mix of company-owned and franchisee outlets, with the idea being to ensure a dominant presence in all market areas through different kinds of stores, and to assure the availability of every Titan product. Says Mr Kurien: "We have concentrated on customer perspective, and we have engineered the entire chain to suit different customers."
Manoj Chakravarti, general manager, retailing, Titan Industries, has more to say on the customer theme. "Earlier, there was no attempt in the retailing sector to entice customers to buy a watch," he says. "We have tried to bring the brand to the customer in an appropriate setting." The company does this through its World of Titan showrooms.
The franchisee is a critical cog in Titan's retail matrix. The company organises various programmes for franchisees, their managers and customer relationship officers. These include training workshops and seminars on market trends, visual merchandising, store operations and maintenance, and customer service initiatives.
According to Ajay Chawla, senior manager, retailing and supply chain, Titan Industries, the real challenge in retailing is managing the franchisee network through processes and systems that ensure a superior brand experience for every customer. "Franchisee relationship management is important because of increasing competition, not only from the watch business but also from other businesses in the retail industry," he says. "The market is opening up and the franchisee is, after all, looking for what is most profitable."
Besides the franchisees and its own showrooms, Titan sells its products through other outlets as well. Among them are the Time Zone stores, which stock all the leading brands, and the Value Mart outlets, which operate in Bangalore and Chennai and sell surplus-to-export watches at a discount.
For its many customers, Titan has Tata Signet, a 1,36,000-member club that looks to build relationships through rewards, regular discounts and special offers. Customers can also count on a service-centre network thats 550-strong and spread over 30-odd cities and towns across the country. The service centres have been deliberately kept apart from Titan's showrooms. "The business is different and the customer is in two different moods at the two places," says Mr Kurien.
Titan's blueprint for the future includes making watches for international heavyweights such as YSL, Christian Dior and Gucci. Mr Kurien believes there is huge potential at the designer end of the market. The marketing investment is lower because "the brand is doing the marketing for you". Also on the anvil are speciality stores for niche customers, and an expansion into product categories like sunglasses and leather goods.
However, it is staying ahead of the competition that is the overall priority. Says Mr Chakravarti, "We have to ensure that Titan has the best wristwatch store in any given city or town." You don't really have to watch this space for confirmation on that count.Related articles: