Timex and Tarun Tahiliani - Going up the Ladder

It's time to woo the Indian consumer aggressively. And Timex Group has understood that. VD Wadhwa, CEO, Timex Group India, talks about their newly launched Tarun Tahiliani watches and the strategy for their luxury watch brands like Versace, Valentino and Ferragamo

By: Soumya Jain

Posted on: January 10, 2011

Timex Tarun Tahiliani WatchesIconic designer Tarun Tahiliani recently launched his mono-branded watch collection in association with Timex Group and became the first ever Indian designer to do so! What sets it apart from other watches is that these watches are ‘Indian’.

Catering to women only for the time being, these watches will surely go well with your lehengas and sarees. No other international watch brand has been able to catch this local flavour for the Indian audience. They surely have sophisticated diamond and ruby studded watches, but Tahiliani’s watches, with their true blue Indian motif-ed designs, takes the cake. So as you browse through the following pages, enjoy the beautiful collection, as we recount our conversation with VD Wadhwa, CEO, Timex Group India.

A union of titans
Wadhwa narrates the whole cycle behind the conceptualization and manufacturing of ‘tarun tahiliani’ watches. “Timex has been in the watch business for 150 years. In India, women’s watches are contributing to about 40 per cent of our business, but still we were not getting that credibility. And when you look at Indian ethnic dresses, none of the watch brands have products which can suit the Indian attire. Thus, the decision to come out with this brand was taken with Tarun in early 2008,” he said.

Timex Tarun Tahiliani Watches VD WadhwaThe collaboration is surely an intelligent one. Tahiliani obviously knows how to design for Indian ethnic wear, while Times has the know-how in watch making. But after the decision, it was quite an ‘experimentative’ time for both Tahiliani and Timex. “Tarun started working with our Timex centre in Milan. But it was a challenge for our Milano designers to create those Indian colours and designs. So then we shifted designing to Hong Kong, because it is our sourcing centre as well.,” explains Wadhwa.

Both had initially planned on launching the collection in July 2010. But since neither Timex, nor Tahiliani, were ready to compromise on quality, the launch got delayed. But Wadhwa is quick to inform that they have already started working on the next level of the collection, which will be launched in July 2011.

Though Wadhwa rues that they might have missed one wedding season in India, he cheerfully adds that here, every second or third month becomes a wedding season. So he expects a good demand not only here, but globally also where Indians live. He has a couple of reasons to support this assumption, “If you are coming out with a watch, manufactured by the best of the watch manufacturers in the world, designed by best of the designers in the country, at an affordable price, I think it’s a steal. In a city like Delhi, around 30,000-40,000 weddings take place in a month. So there is a great potential. And who wouldn’t like to pick up a Tarun lehenga or Tarun sherwani and now Tarun’s watches also! I think the success of this collection is dependent on how we are going to market it.”

The Timex story
Timex started its operations in India in 1992 – almost 20 years ago. That’s enough time to imprint a brand name on the consumer’s mind. But did the Indian consumer start taking Timex for granted amidst all the international watch brands aggressively pushing themselves in India? Wadhwa politely denies that. He says, “I don’t think India started taking us for granted. When we started in India, we started as a cheap brand with price points lower to a Titan watch. That is how our joint venture with Titan (a part of Tata Group) also came to an end. Somewhere we felt, that from a brand point of view, it wasn’t doing justice to the brand. In longer term, it is not going to work. So we pulled away from Titan and started doing our own business.”

Timex Tarun Tahiliani WatchesTimex India is now working hard to move away from the ‘cheap brand’ image and go towards affordable luxury. “Somewhere, the Indian consumer still has the impression that Timex is an affordable brand. We have come a long way from that image now. Today we have women’s watches with crystal, diamonds and Swarovski. Timex is globally known as a technological and sporty brand. We have our portfolio of 11 brands where Timex is probably at the bottom of the pyramid, then we move on to Guess, and then Marc Ecko, Nautica, and TX. In higher luxury fashion we have watches from Valentino, Versace, and Salvatore Ferragamo. And now we have Tarun’s watches which we believe can become a global brand in the years to come.”

Luxury in time
The names Valentino, Versace and Ferragamo certainly held my attention. So I proceeded to ask about his strategy for these brands in India. Wadhwa answered, “With these brands, you have to connect to the right audience. Whatever tools we use for promoting Timex can’t be used for these brands. It’s a completely different ball game as you know.”

He enumerates three ways of marketing their luxury brands in India: Event-based promotion (in-store and outside store events); product placements in magazines; and occupying space in all the fashion magazines. “It’s not something that can go to daily newspapers or television. Rather than ‘massify’, you need to connect and talk to the right niche audience – be in their inbox with special mailers or messages,” he explains.

Wadhwa is optimistic about the luxury market in India – “I would say it’s growing, but not yet there where it should be. But definitely if you see what India was five years ago, I think we have come a long way.”

India is certainly on the global luxury map, and brands like Timex know that you have to catch the Indian consumers’ attention if you have to survive in this complex market. That’s where Tarun Tahiliani comes in. Makes sense, after all, India is the third largest market for Timex out of all the 100 countries it operates in!

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