Thursday, March 13, 2008

For Timex, time will tell

Australian bowler Brett Lee unveiling a Timex
collection (file photo).

Swetha Kannan

ristwatch maker Timex is on a frenetic exercise to
shed its ‘single brand, single product’ image. And how!
Last year, this iconic US company went in for a substantial rejig in
India by adding new brands and consumer categories from its i
nternational portfolio. An organisational restructure saw Timex Watches
become Timex Group India Ltd. Three business verticals were formed
– Timex and fashion brands, luxury brands and jewellery,
“sending a signal that Timex is no longer a single brand-single
product company,” says Salil Sadanandan, President, Timex and
Fashion Brands, Timex Group India.

The restructure in India is really in response to the international
vision of being present in multiple segments, explains Sadanandan. Not
content with selling mid-priced sporty watches, US-headquartered Timex
Corp in the last few years began hobnobbing with the rich and famous.
It entered the luxury segment by bagging the global licences for
upscale brands such as Versace and Guess. It also acquired the licence
for the high-end, hand-crafted watch brand Vincent Berard.

“Internationally, for several years now, we have moved away
from just being a company marketing just the Timex brand. Timex Corp
realised that to be a significant player, we need to be present across
segments and categories. We went aggressive with our licensing
programme. We tapped into the luxury watch segment. Parallel to that in
India, we realised that having multiple brands is paramount to not only
get leverage from trade but also to handle multiple consumer segments
and we needed to restructure our company to do justice to that,”
says Sadanandan.

While Timex’s ‘Time Factory’ retail showrooms sell
only mid-priced and fashion brands like Esprit, DKNY, Fossil and Pierre
Cardin, apart from its own brand Timex, Timex Group India is working
out the finer details on how best to sell the luxury brands in the
country. The company also plans to enter jewellery retailing and is
exploring various options in the Indian market, says Sadanandan.

Salil Sadanandan, President, Timex
and Fashion Brands, Timex group

But will all this help Timex as a brand gain a stronghold in a
market fed by a habit called Titan? Will the likes of Versace and Guess
bolster the fortunes of Timex? Can a foray into jewellery make a huge
difference to brand preference and imagery?

Says Harish Bijoor, strategy specialist: “I do believe Timex
will be Timex. The brand shall remain and represent what it means at
large to a set of its users and non-users alike. The brand image of
Timex is a given. As for the company managing and selling its
licensed-out brands such as Nautica, Guess and Versace, each of these
brands will enjoy their individual identities as perceived in the
market at large.”

Timex vs Titan

Timex entered India in the early Nineties through a joint venture
with Titan, now its rival. In 1998, it broke away to be on its own.
Titan still holds sway in the market, even as Timex desperately seeks
to woo the Indian consumer. How does Timex view itself vis-À-vis
traditional rival Titan? Timex differentiates itself proudly on the
technology count. Explains Sadanandan: “Our brand positioning is
completely different from Titan. We are focussed on what I might
loosely call ‘fashion technology – the marriage of fashion
and technology.”

Timex, he says, has made “technology accessible to a wide
audience.” Whether it be the E-tide and temperature watch that
measures temperature and tide, the heart rate monitor, or the watch
which has the provision to change volume or shuffle songs on your iPod,
the accent has been on technology.

“We began as a watch company that took time to the masses.
Somewhere down the line we realised that the DNA of the brand was
technical innovation. Someone back then had this foresight that this
brand was future proof. When everyone was obsessed with looks, we
patented the Indiglo technology which everyone is now copying,”
says Sadanandan.

Titan, for its part, says it is not affected or led by competition.
Harish Bhat, COO - Watches, Titan Industries, says Titan quite welcomes
the presence of multiple brands in the market place. Bhat says this
will increase watch penetration, drive multiple ownership, and help
grow the category.

And as for technology, Titan too has plenty of technology offerings,
he says. Edge, Fast Track, Neon Disk and Octane to name a few, but the
company prefers to position its offerings based on emotions and human
insight, rather than technology alone. “Even our technology
watches are positioned as watches which offer energy and power –
as technology makes one feel in control and energetic. The best brands
in the world like Apple or Nike speak to the human insight.”

While this need to cater to the consumer insight has prompted Titan
to demarcate its consumer segments with Raga for women, Fast Track for
the youth, Sonata for the masses and Titan at the middle-end,
Timex’s offerings do not seem clearly segmented.

Well, sports watches don’t have a gender tilt to them, just
like there is nothing young or old about embracing technology, defends
Sadanandan stoutly. From a media planning point of view, we target the
18-35-year-olds, he says. But really, there is a diffusion of age in
the market today, says Sadanandan, referring to a gentleman well over
50 years of age looking for a watch that will come in handy while

Sadanandan does not agree with the popular perception that Timex is
a “male watch,” Sadanandan says the male:female ratio of
Timex watches sold is the same as the industry average of 65:45. But
this is going to go up in the times to come, as more and more women
seek sporty watches as they indulge in outdoor activities. Timex
watches can be worn by both men and women, says Sadanandan, reiterating
their unisex positioning and features. “There is nothing either
male or female about being sporty and outdoorsy,” he explains.

Looking for wrist share

In value terms, Timex has a 25 per cent market share in the
organised watch sector in India, says Sadanandan, admitting that Titan
is still the leader by a large margin (Titan says it has a market share
of 65 per cent). However, Sadanandan hastens to add: Timex is not
looking for market share but is on the prowl for “wrist
share.” “If people were to own five watches, it is unlikely
that all five are of the same brand. We are interested in getting Timex
and its house brands to be a part of the wrist show.”

Timex today has 59 Time Factory stores and it plans to cross 100 by
the end of the year. The ‘point of purchase’ will also see
a flurry of below-the-line activities, apart from discount sales and
special promos.

Remember Timex’s cheeky response to Titan’s promo last
year offering a 25 per cent discount on Titan watches by exchanging old
watches? Timex simply announced a 25 per cent discount on its watches
– no old watch, no exchange, just a flat discount! They (Titan)
did all the work. We just capitalised on it, says Sadanandan candidly.
“It was a huge success. Sales during the period (August-September
2007) rose 50 per cent.”

For Timex, the India market is the third largest in terms of volume,
after the US and Canada, says Sadanandan. Given India’s
importance in the global market, Timex’s India revenues stand at
a modest Rs 115 crore for 2006-07. A lot more needs to be done
strategically, beyond technology and roping in Brett Lee as brand
ambassador, to take the market by storm. Timex is still the Goliath
seeking to upset David, says Bijoor.

While Timex is quite happy brandishing its “technical
wizardry,” whether that alone will do the trick is a moot point.
Bijoor says: “Timex needs to differentiate itself not on design,
technology or efficiency. It needs to differentiate on the count of
psychographics. In addition to it all, it needs to put together a mass
market brand for itself. Unless it does this, it shall always remain a
niche player in the large market for watches in India.”


AoODiEnAToR said...

The setup is not as intuitive as my previous two Timex Watch. Older watches had a dial that could be turned to set the alarm. This watch does not have that feature and the alarm is much more difficut to set.

Marius said...

Im never really a fan of Timex watches. For me they are sensationalized like iPod. They aren't my watch type.

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