'We want to be No 1 in the affordable luxury segment'

'We want to be No 1 in the affordable luxury segment'
Japanese watch major Seiko, which carries a legacy of having kept time for over 136 years, will remain committed to telling time, even as the consumer wants more.

A leader in the horology space, Seiko Watch India is a fully-owned subsidiary of ¥257-billion Seiko Holdings Corp, which has diversified interests in clocks, watches, electronics, and eyeglass businesses.

In an interaction with Mamta Bhardwaj of DH, Seiko Watch India President Niladri Mazumder talks about the scope of the market in the country and the company’s initiative thereon.

From Seiko’s perspective, what is the current watch consumer looking for, and what is the company doing about it?

Our DNA hasn’t changed. We are still a very serious watchmaker. Of course, we make all kinds of products ranging from professional watches, which are meant for drivers, racers, pilots, and there is the normal chronograph sports watch, which can be worn by anyone.

But, in the current landscape, people are looking for differentiated products. Some 95% of the people wearing a chronograph watch don’t even know which button to press. They may not know how to start or stop the chronograph, and don’t know how to use it, but that doesn’t matter.

Ultimately, it’s about the feeling the consumer derives from using the watch. If we think that this consumer is never going to... let’s say, ‘dive’, and we think, ‘Why make the effort of making that perfect product?’, that would be wrong! Aspiring individuals, who want to participate in adventure activities or take up a sport, want to look the part as much as they want to learn and practice. That is where we come in.

How is it similar or different in India?
The Indian consumer is slowly graduating to what an international consumer is today. He/she boasts of high levels of awareness and does enough research at the price-points we offer. They want the best that is internationally available.

Take for example, Presage, our mechanical watches collection. It would sound ridiculous. Why would anyone want a mechanical watch in today’s day and age? Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure it would do well in India, and I was pleasantly shocked.
It reiterates the point that people are looking for ‘differentiated’ products. You cannot be wearing a smartwatch all the time!
So how threatened is the watch industry by the advent of smartwatches?
It is a reality for us. There is no denying that. Fitbit is a rage, and the good thing for us is that we are into sports timing as well. So one way to look at it would be that it promotes the segment itself.

As far as smartwatches go, I only consider Apple a threat, and for obvious reasons. In two years, they are the largest selling watch company in the world. So, how can you ignore them? The others, I would say there is a lot of ‘me too’ happening.

Having said that, over time, my interactions with people have led me to believe that things are changing. The same people, who refused to wear watches because a smartphone did the job of telling time, now seek to flaunt a watch for its novelty. It’s simple. Any consumer product today is beyond just utility.

Given the market scenario, what drives Seiko’s design and marketing sensibilities?
The consumer comes first. You need to know -- not what the consumer wants now but what he/she wants in the next three to five years. Just by creating another dial or colour of a product that already exists in the market, you cannot be called an innovator.

It’s also important to bear in mind not to be too ahead of your times, because you should be able to monetise the idea. In India, we are focusing on the affordable luxury market in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

A typical fashion watch would be below this price range in India. So we would count ourselves in the likes of Tissot, Rado, Omega, TAG Heuer, etc.
Which is the product ine that is driving Seiko’s growth in India?
In India, we have a collection called Seiko Lord, which is designed for India. It is in the price range of Rs 25,500 to Rs 37,500. It contributes to about 24% of the sales here.

About where we are headed, of course sports watches and all that will be there, but luxury mechanical and quartz watches look like they have a bright future. The market is tiny right now, may be 4-5% of our sales right now, but we want to take to at least 15% in the next two years.

Ultimately, we want to be number one in the affordable luxury segment in the next five years. I don’t think we can get that spot in the luxury market in the near future, because it is a vast market. And, because we straddle so many price points, it becomes important to pick one segment and drive our initiatives in that segment.

How are the company’s retail initiatives supporting these plans?
We have marked our foray in the North-East part of India. We are present in about 8-9 cities there, and these markets are interesting. We sold about 90 Presage watches in Shillong. Who would’ve thought this could be possible in a non-Tier-I city? So we are looking at such opportunities seriously.

Currently, we are present in 70 towns across India, including top three markets, namely Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. We have six boutiques now, and want to take the number to 10 by 2020.

We are targeting Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad for the new stores. We have been growing at a rate of 20% year-on-year till now, and hereon, we are expecting it to be about 15-18%.

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