Hyphen's 'ish' watch creates buzz

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 29, 2012
Mumbai-based ad and design agency Hyphen recently launched a product that leverages an infamous Indian insight that has at its core the inability to be on time.

About a year ago, when Alok Nanda, founder of brand consultancy Alok Nanda and Company (ANC), and Prasanna Sankhe, former national creative director at Publicis Ambience, launched their new firm Hyphen, they specified that it was not just another creative hot-shop. Rather, it was positioned as an agency that would operate in the product design and creation space.

Sticking to its claim, the duo has recently launched a product that has garnered a good deal of traction in India as well as internationally. The product is called the 'ish' watch or the 'Indian Stretchable Time Watch'.

Indian Stretchable Time Watch

The idea behind this innovation is based on the global cultural insight that Indians tend to be 'fashionably late' or 'predictably late' due to reasons ranging from cow blockades, political rallies, and poor road/traffic conditions. For Indians, a common way of fixing appointments is by saying, "I'll meet you there by 6-ish". Adding the suffix 'ish' after a given time has become commonplace. The 'ish' watch thus has no numerals; the numbers have been moved from their classic perpendicular positions, and have been tilted to an approximate point on the dial. Further, the numbers carry the suffix 'ish' - the watch displays the numbers '3ish', '6ish' '9ish' and '12ish'.

Indian Stretchable Time Watch

Explaining the concept, Hyphen's Sankhe says, "We took this life insight and added some dark humour to it to produce a great design opportunity." Isn't it offensive to openly propagate the accusation that Indians lack professional punctuality? "Well," defends Sankhe, "We're merely observing something that's already part of our culture. We can't deny it. Instead of getting offended, we ought to change it."

So far, though, people seem to be taking it in their stride, he informs, insisting that since unpunctuality is engrained in the Indian ethos, most of us have at some point in time either been the victim or culprit of tardiness.

Though the watch was originally created to find traction with the Indian mindset, the response it received from other nations was a pleasant surprise. Buyers hail from countries such as the USA, UK, Australia and France, amongst other design-savvy nations like those in the Scandinavian region.

Prasanna Sankhe

Soon after its launch, a design blogger wrote about the watch and this post was picked up on Tumblr.com. From this platform, the story received around 7,000 re-blogs and re-tweets in a single day. Clearly, viral traction is playing a significant role in the popularity of the product.

Design blogs in particular appear to have found a deep connect with the product. Some of the international blogs that have featured it in their online content include Designboom, DesignTAXI, Packaging of the World, Sustainable packaging and Lovely Package.

International exclusive distributorship enquiries are coming in from the USA, UK, Scandinavia, Australia and Germany, amongst several other countries. The watch is being invited to be housed in Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota and New York-based magazine Artinfo is looking to do a feature on the watch and the team at Hyphen.

The only offline store it is available at as of now is Hyphen's very own local store, called Filter, located at Kala Ghoda in Mumbai.

Online, more information can be gathered from Hyphen's brand page on Facebook as well as Filter's webpage. The team is currently gearing up for the launch of an e-commerce site that will be focused on driving more sales.

The watch is priced at Rs 2,500. So far, about 1,600 pieces have already been sold worldwide. On an average, around 70-75 watches are being sold per day, across the globe.

Hyphen is currently in conversation with existing watch brands to explore possibilities of taking the idea forward in a big way. The agency is also in talks with some media agencies that are interested in associating themselves with certain products. The agency authorities claim that besides the current one, several such product roll-outs are in the pipeline.

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