Suparna Mitra is a longtime Titan Company hand, having spent 16 years in the jewelry watch business. She took over as general manager of Titan’s watches and wearables business in April 2020 and oversees its transition into a premium and smartwatches player.
In this interview, former IIM Calcutta, talks about Titan’s rebranding strategy of its stores and its premiumization strategy. Excerpts:
Why is Titan rebranding World of Titan stores to Titan World and also co-branding it in some locations with Helios, your international multi-brand watch chain?
World of Titan has been the channel’s identity for over two decades.
In 2019-2020, we looked at what type of consumers walk into a WOT store and gauged their perceptions of the chain. We did extensive consumer research, and there were dimensions that consumers wanted that weren’t evident in current stores.
This included: a more modern look, more international brands, more premium smartwatches and wearables. These are the big trends that we have incorporated into the brand, but, of course, the brand plays out in the brand’s exclusive outlets. It was important to make these changes in World of Titan’s outlets, with a new design.
In addition, although Helios is a separate multi-brand international brand outlet, in many places we have integrated the two brands, and while overall sales are increasing, Titan brand watch sales are also increasing, because you attract a customer who may not have stepped into a World of Titan outlet earlier.
Due to the presence of international brands, they also discover the Titan range and can choose which brand to buy. These two ideas led to the facelift and repositioning of World of Titan.
So, what exactly are the contours of this change?
The two-year Covid phase gave us time to brainstorm and conceptualize new store interiors, which had five specific new themes. One is the move to Titan World, symbolic of the bigger changes inside; the second was the orientation of the brand that we gave; then a premium black look and a separate section for smartwatches, all of which are kept together; In addition, behind the checkout counter, the backdrop has been redesigned and, thanks to the combination of all these individual parts, the customer experience is improved. The look and feel upgrade has taken place and 123 stores were renovated in the last fiscal year, and this year another 140 are expected to be renovated.
How many exclusive Titan stores are there and how many will have co-branding?
We have 864 exclusive stores across the country; approximately 560 Titan Worlds, 144 Helios stores and 160 Fastrack stores. Of these, 88 stores will be combined Titan World and Helios stores.
Does the change in nomenclature make a difference?
It’s symbolic, it denotes a modern, high-end outlet and the change seems to be going smoothly. We haven’t checked with consumers yet. Franchisees felt the World of Titan brand had a lot of cachet, but that sentiment goes back three years; but now, seeing the changes, they are happy about it.
While the boutiques have changed their look, what about your watches themselves?
We’ve had so many exciting and innovative products from the Titan brand over the past three years like the Ceramic Edge, Edge Mechanical, other mechanical watches, our range of smartwatches and the latest Raga.
The contents of the book had changed, but the cover was still the old one; products have been radically transformed, but many consumers were not aware of this; it was like a well-kept secret. There were two ways to convey it – through advertising, which we do, and the other is to radically change the appearance of the stores, to make them more appealing.
We’ve sold millions of watches, and many consumers have three to five Titan watches and feel they need to watch something else, so if they step into a remade Titan World in their area, they can rediscover their passion for watches; and if they buy for themselves and as gifts, it brings back the love for the category.
What about your premiumization strategy as well as experiments with new materials?
Premiumization is something we have been talking about for a few years due to the growing trend of Indian consumers to upgrade with higher disposable incomes.
We have seen this increase tremendously during Covid as several spending opportunities and indulgences such as travel have been blocked. So if, for example, your budget as a consumer was ₹5,000 and you saw at a Titan outlet a nice watch for ₹7,000, you could buy it.
There has been a lot of effort from Titan in product design and innovation, and a lot of innovation in manufacturing as well, which has allowed us to grow.
Our most expensive watch is the mechanical Titan Edge, which is ₹1.95 lakh, and we have many watches in the price range of ₹15,000 to ₹35,000. What is interesting is that each of them has a future; it could be a combination of materials, or it could be movement; Edge Ceramic is a combination of materials and a thin Edge movement that makes it special, and consumers love it. Today we have come full circle in mechanical and automatic from quartz and many movements are made in-house, which means our factory has movement engineers who have worked 25 years on quartz and who have now mastered mechanical movements over the past six to seven years. years. The icing on the cake are the fine mechanical movements. There is a lot of work on materials and design, which allows us to rightly charge an extra cost; it is not the same watch sold at a higher price.
What about your innovations in the digital space and smartwatches?
Over the past three months we’ve had several launches including Titan Smart, Smart Pro and Fastrack Reflex Vox which is Alexa compatible.
The smartwatches sell in the price range of ₹4,999 to ₹11,999. We launched Fastrack Reflex Curv; it looks noticeably curved and has many functional features.
This year we have 14 new smartwatches lined up and we have already launched three of them. We’ve also made a few launches in the audio accessories space of headphones, which are Bluetooth-enabled headphones under the Fastrack brand.
So contrary to popular belief, conventional watches, apart from connected watches, continue to do well?
Absolutely. One of the things the pandemic has done is people have turned more to trusted brands; the value of trust and access in small towns also helped. Most open stores are in smaller towns; we have seen that the demand is quite strong everywhere and the brands continue to be loved and trusted. Now that everything is opening up, people are back to work and college and looking at their wardrobes and upgrading their watches as well; people spend money and effort for their presentation.