Business Today

Timex looks to reinvent brand with the times

Having started off on the wrong foot in India, in a joint venture with Titan, Timex has been struggling to reinvent itself after the JV ended a few years ago.

R. Srinivasan   New Delhi     Last Updated: May 3, 2011  | 14:35 IST

Timex India's managing director (MD) V. D. Wadhwa often forgets to wear a watch. Like many busy chief executives, virtually every waking moment of his is in any case programmed into his smartphone-PDA, which bleeps constantly with alerts and reminders about meetings and appointments.

When he does need to check the time, he can sneak a peek at his mobile phone.

As the head of a watch-making company, though, Wadhwa is aware that millions of others are also increasingly tending to do the same thing. The primary importance of a wristwatch -as a time source- is rapidly disappearing, as ubiquitous mobile phones fulfil a dual role as a time source.

That problem might be expected to be particularly acute in India, where the number of mobiles has crossed 500 million, or one handset for every adult in the country. This might be expected to pose problems for a company which still relies almost entirely on watches for its revenues.

But Wadhwa is not worried. "India is the world's second largest mobile market," he says. And it is growing at over 16 per cent a year. Every year, more than four crore watches are sold in the country. And roughly 60 per cent of these are made by organised sector players like Timex and Titan. The balance is accounted for by cheap imports from China.

But neither mobiles, nor cheap Chinese watches are really a threat, he asserts. "Watches are now as much a fashion accessory as a means of telling the time," he says. Which is why the flood of cheap imports in the grey market is a headache, not a threat.

"Anybody who is paying more than two or three hundred rupees for a watch wants some kind of assurance on quality and service, which only organised players can give. And we are not present in that price point," he points out.

When it comes to price points, though, Timex has a problem moving up the chain with the Timex brand. Having started off on the wrong foot in India, in a joint venture (JV) with Titan, which left the distribution to the latter, Timex has been struggling to reinvent itself after the JV ended a few years ago.

It has since brought in an array of brands, including upmarket apparel brand like Nautica and luxury fashion house Ferragamo, for whom Timex designs and markets watches worldwide.

It has also attempted to diversify its distribution channels, opening up kiosk stores in malls and its own multi-brand retail chain 'Time Factory', where the Timex brand is anchored among other brands.

Its latest attempt is to tap the youth segment with a new range called Helix, targeted at the emerging 'BPO generation'- 18-25 year-olds, who are moving out of school or into their first jobs.

"This is an emerging niche which has not been catered to so far," claims Wadhwa. The idea is to hit the 'sweet spot' in pricing to grab customers who are still into impulse buying, but can be taken up a notch or two in spending.

Currently, the Helix offerings, designed by Giorgio Galli at his design centre in Milan, are priced at between Rs 1,400 to Rs 2,400. The range will be initially sold in the major metros and mini-metros.

The past year has been hectic for Timex as the company launched brands like Tarun Tahiliani's designer collection, Marc Ecko and Versace. It had also tried to hitch on to the cricket bandwagon, bagging the official product licenseeship for this year's ICC World Cup and had also launched a special edition ICC World Cup collection. In the last two years, Timex has been expanding rapidly and has strengthened its portfolio of brands to seven brands in India.

But whether it has managed to find that elusive 'sweet spot' remains to be seen.

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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