For Titan, the 1990s were a good decade. It set new trends in watch designs using innovative technology, and was the market leader in India. Where does one go when one has already reached the top at home? The next logical step was to move into world markets; a challenge the company was keen on. Titan's first step in its internationalisation journey was the Middle East. Why? The decision was based on market research and one simple indisputable fact — the region had a large Indian population, for whom Titan was already an established and well-known brand.
The watch industry in West Asia is extremely competitive. Every international brand is available, in a plethora of designs and prices. From luxury brands starting at $2,000 to the lowest-priced range that retails at $10, there is a watch for everyone, for every occasion.
To succeed in this 'shopping mall of the world', a company must have a wide distribution network, attractively designed retail outlets, efficient after-sales service and focused advertising. These were issues Titan had successfully addressed at home. That knowledge and experience would now be tested in the global markets.
The process of gaining a foothold in this region has been one of intense learning for the company. It got a first-hand feel of international competition and customer expectations, getting valuable inputs about handling foreign markets. Bhaskar Bhat, managing director of Titan, says: "These inputs were very useful. They even helped us to compete against global brands when they entered our domestic market."
The company has evolved from selling watches to developing special product ranges to suit the tastes of local customers. As watches moved up from being just time measuring devices to fashion accessories, the company kept pace, offering designs in tune with changing customer demands. Titan now targets its collections at specific customer segments, based on age and demographics.
Initially, the company positioned itself in the premium segment, but soon switched tracks to woo young consumers between 25 and 35 years of age, who want distinctive fashion designs at affordable prices. Titan offers nearly 800 designs, of which 50 per cent are exclusively for the region. "The Raga, Fastrack, Royale, Regalia and Edge collections are very well accepted," says Mr Chavadi, head of sales for the Middle East and Africa. Incidentally, Edge, the slimmest watch in the universe, is much appreciated for its innovative technology.
Titan watches retail at an average of $30, the highest priced one costing $100. "We operate in the mid-price segment against Japanese brands like Citizen and Seiko, and local players like Westar," says Mr Chavadi. "Our pricing policy reflects the 'value for money' concept. Being the sixth largest integrated watch manufacturer, we offer world-class quality supported by excellent after-sales service that goes well beyond international norms."
Titan has set up a large retail network. They have exclusive distributors in each country, who set up exclusive and non-exclusive showrooms, and also sell through high street retailers, power retailers and department stores. The region has more than 1,000 well-designed retail outlets that offer a pleasant shopping experience for the customer. Ronald Rebello, manager of ETW, a Titan distributor in Dubai says," The region has an excess of brands fighting for shelf space. Most people have more than one watch, and Titan is their first choice in its category."
With more than 250 brands throwing advertising at the consumer, marketing is the key differentiation to separate the brand from the competition and make it stand out in the clutter. Titan selects advertising media strategically, in order to maximise its reach and visibility. Brand promotion is conducted year-round, through outdoor media, radio and TV.
Sales promotion initiatives such as dealer and consumer promotions are held seasonally, for greater mileage. "Titan has made good headway in institutional sales," says Mr Rebello. "Some major customers are the Dubai Petroleum Company, Lipton and several leading banks."
In 1997, the company expanded its product portfolio, launching Tanishq jewellery in West Asia. Today, the jewellery division contributes 20 per cent to Titan's business in the region. Tanishq is retailed through an exclusive distribution tie-up with Damas — one of the largest retailers of gold jewellery in the Gulf. Currently, Damas's stores in the UAE, Oman and Qatar sell Tanishq 22-carat gold jewellery. Expansion plans include new countries as well as new products such as 18-carat studded jewellery, for which consumer testing is underway.
Titan recently launched a perfume called 'Evolve-100%' for test launch in Dubai. The foray into perfumes is natural; the customer segment is the same as for watches and jewellery. The company is now looking at other Gulf countries to market its perfume.
Titan is currently the market leader in watches — in its category — in Oman and Bahrain. It is number two overall in West Asia, with a market share of 18 per cent. The market is growing exponentially, and the company is working to consolidate its position through an innovative and fashionable product line suited to local customers, and backed by an exceptional marketing effort.