Deepak Chabra, Timex Group India

While watch penetration per capita in India is low, those who buy watches buy more – the top 10 pc who consume watches as accessories come across three watches each. “Global watch consumption is on the rise, which is also helping Timex Group,” revealed Deepak Chhabra, MD, Timex Group Indiain conversation with

Timex Group has made headlines for launching a slew of fashion brands in the country with global licensing deals. It counts in its fold Guess, Gc, Furla, Ted Baker, Missoni, Adidas Originals, Philipp Plein and UCB, in addition to Versace and Salvatore Ferragamo in the luxury segment.

Chhabra spoke on behalf of owned brands and licensed brands, smartwatch and wearable trends, marketing strategies and a brand campaign in the works for the start of 2023, among others.

What will be the share of owned versus licensed brands for Timex in, say, the next three years? What about now?

Currently, we manufacture about 20 pieces of licensed brands and 80 pieces of our own brands. But, with the acquisition of many more brands or distribution agreements, we see that increasing to around 30-35%. Thus, two-thirds of our business still remains with our core brands. A third party can switch to Licensed Marks in two ways. First, because the consumption of fashion and luxury watches is increasing due to the increased demand for the products. Second, due to the acquisition of some additional brands to the group. We currently have 10 brands and assuming one brand is added every year, at least, that will be 15 brands, which will give us 15% more.

Timex launched the Waterbury Ocean Collection, a watch recycled from ocean plastic to fight pollution, in July 2022. What was the reaction from consumers?

Durability is seen as one of the considerations by the consumer when consuming anything. Waterbury is made from 100 pieces of durable materials. It had a great response and is selling well. This is the collection that will continue for the next seasons. We believe that the coming season will be much bigger for the collection. I believe that more than the commercial value, it was the group’s commitment to sustainability and sustainable manufacturing, whether it’s the manufacturing process or disposal after use, that were the primary goals. With the Waterbury collection, we wanted to talk about how we are a responsible and sustainable brand.

According to reports, after (the peak of) Covid19, health-conscious consumers have increased and are turning to smartwatches. How is the connected watch segment doing for Timex Group? What is Timex’s smartwatch market share in India?

Smartwatches around the world had achieved huge growth about seven years ago, although it picked up again in India only two years ago. One lesson is that smartwatches don’t cannibalize analog. They are a complementary watch for consumers. While smartwatches are on the rise, analog watches continue to grow at a high rate of 20%.

We wanted to give consumers options. We first started selling wristbands, then wearables and smartwatches over the past two and a half years. Currently, it contributes about 15% to our overall business. We don’t see it going beyond that – as we grow the overall business, smartwatches will also grow.

If we compare all other smartwatch brands, our market share wouldn’t even be half a pc. This is mainly because most of the smartwatches are concentrated at lower prices. Brands like Noise, Fire-Boltt, Boat cost less than Rs 2000 and the majority of business comes from smartwatches priced below Rs 1200. We do not play at these price levels. But if we place ourselves in the premium smartwatch segment where players like Fossil, Micheal Kors, Amazfit are included, then we would have a 4-4.5pc share.

What is Timex Group’s market share in the Indian market?

Brands owned by Timex Group constitute 6% of market share. If we include all licensed brands together, we would be around 8 pc.

What strategies does Timex adopt to attract more customers to the Timex Group product portfolio?

We strongly believe that there are three factors we need to work on when planning to acquire a new set of consumers. The first is the product that must appeal to consumers. The second is communication and the last is the channel through which communication should reach consumers.

Frankly, we have a hard time attracting young consumers to the brand. Generally, heritage and contemporary are at loggerheads. The challenge we have is that we have a great legacy that becomes a disadvantage because you saw your previous generation carry it. Somewhere young people start to drift away from the brand if there is a lack of communication or product innovation or if you are not selling where they want to buy the product. It becomes a challenge and after a while it starts to affect the numbers.

What we’ve done is we have a really big fashion line within the Timex group. We fixed the issue with product offers. About 25% of our product offering is high fashion which is actually aimed at the 18-24 age group. Second, we sell through digital channels and also through organized format stores, where these young people shop.

Third, all of our communication, marketing and advertising strategies are digital first – what they consume. We are seeing several positive benefits from these strategies and will continue to do so.

What are the most popular Timex Group products/brands in India?

In the luxury segment, Versace is making incredible numbers and growing at a faster rate. It is a brand that is very relevant to Indians as it is a high fashion and much flashier brand which suits Indian taste compared to other competing brands which are more subtle. Versace being a maximalist brand has a lot of value. In the fashion segment, Guess is doing well.

Then we launched a collection called Fria – which is a pre-owned women’s watch collection that is doing incredibly well. The men’s automatic collection has also been a star for a year and a half.

What watch buying trends have you observed among Indian consumers? Is there an increase in the purchase of luxury watches?

The luxury segment is doing very well. Because of the pandemic, people have realized the uncertainty of life. You have to save money, but you realize that there should be a percentage. People realized that they should indulge rather than just save. One comes to indulgence with the thought that you want to do more than you could have afforded a while ago. This is where the luxury segment is growing at a faster rate.

The watch as an accessory in the fashion segment is also growing. People who used to spend Rs 5,000 to 6,000 on a watch have gone over Rs 10,000 resulting in huge growth in the fashion segment. The segment grows to 40 pc.

The third most important segment that is growing for us is first-time watch ownership. In India, half of the population could never afford watches, but with general economic stability and the realization of indulgence, even these segments of the population are consuming watches.

Timex plays an important role in buying a first watch at the brand level. TMX has significant activity, activity has quadrupled largely driven by geographical areas where consumption was very low. Uttar Pradesh was the leader among geographies, Madhya Pradesh also performed well. Places like Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam have seen a huge increase in the low-end segment.

The North leads the pack for us, accounting for 30% of our business, followed by the West which accounts for around 27-28%. Then, the South counts for 25 to 26 pc. In the East we are a little weak and I believe that is the trend for the majority of brands. East represents 12 to 13 pc.

Can you shed some light on the brand’s marketing and advertising spend?

We do not intend to do ATL business for the luxury segment as only niche consumers can afford the segment. Much of it is personalized digital communications and events.

For the fashion segment, digital social becomes important. The segment works largely on influencers. We have a set of macro, middle and macro influencers who work with us. We invest a lot at the point of sale because today is a very competitive environment and we have to attract the attention of consumers. We don’t like ATL on this segment either.

For our core brand Timex, we plan to launch a major campaign early next year. At this point we are trying to finalize a face for the campaign. The campaign will be ATL, probably not print – more AV, TVC, digital, OOH and influencers.

How do Timex products perform in online retail channels?

We believe that we must be present wherever our consumers are. Online is the channel that none of the brands can afford not to participate in. We also strongly believe that offline has limits on how many places you can be, what online can do.

Online retail space is very cheap where you can showcase all your products together. Covid has also taught us to buy bread online, this trend is going nowhere. Online has stabilized as the preferred mode of shopping, especially for products that are not size dependent.

Our objective will remain to develop the online network. A quarter of our business comes from the Internet, which matches the industry ratio.

About Robert L. Thomas

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