Anirban Roy ChoudhuryPublished: 12 Dec 2016, 12:00 AM

"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan

We spoke to Suparna Mitra, chief marketing officer, watches and accessories, Titan Company, about Sonata ACT, her new 'safety watch', a product she's confident of going to market with.

Women's safety is an issue in India that needs the least research to prove. Open the newspaper and a flurry of women's safety related stories make you cringe each morning. Yes, it's a serious issue in India.

To cater to women concerned about their safety, TATA's watch manufacturing brand Titan, has announced the launch of a new safety watch ACT under the Sonata banner. The watch has a button which if double pressed will send distress alarms to a pre-inserted guardian list. An app that supports the programming of the watch enables the user to customise as per need.

"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
"For women in India safety is one of the key issues, so safety automatically becomes a consumer need and that is what got this watch idea in our mind. And then, every woman we reached out to with the product said, I want it, which proved that there is a huge room for this in the market," says Suparna Mitra, chief marketing officer, watches and accessories, Titan Company.

True that, but what about the technology? "Despite being a watch manufacturing company the technology involved in making this product was new for us. The team worked for over a year and a half, there were many things which we thought was not possible but then the team cracked down those obstacles with new innovations which we were previously unaware of."

Incidentally, we are in an era where an app seems to be the solution for everything and there are so many of them dedicated to the issue of women's safety. Yet, according to Mitra, it does not mean that the road for a safety watch is blocked. She thinks removing the phone while under attack is a stellar task and the attacker seldom offers that opportunity.

"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
"There are safety apps for mobile phones available in the market today but, mobile is the first thing that an attacker will take away before the victim can do anything with it. Imagine a scenario where I am attacked and I am trying to remove my mobile phone and do something with it, I won't have the time. Whereas in this watch you just need to press a button twice, it's so discreet that the attacker would not even come to know.

You press the button twice and the distress alarm is sent; if you have the loud alarm version turned on, the alarm starts ringing. Now what it does is, it puts the attacker in the thinking zone as he has no idea where this is coming from and that's because you don't expect the watch to do all that," she asserts.

"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
Priced between Rs 2,749 to Rs 2,999 the watch will be available in three variants. "This watch is for each and every women who feels the need. So, it was very important for us to make it an affordable one," shares Mitra.

Despite having so many add-ons, a wrist watch continues to be a style statement and a safety watch too needs to have a good style quotient. However, Mitra warns, "The style of the watch is very important but just because this is a safety watch it cannot be large, clunky and ugly; so we made sure it's good looking and stylish but that is not the talking point of the product." She continues, "There are many good looking watches from our brand and other brands but there is no other watch that does what this does."

"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
Titan plans to promote the launch with a 4-6 week marketing plan. The television commercial (TVC) created by Arun Iyer and his team in Mullen Lowe Lintas will be the primary tool of the marketing campaign. Television supported by digital and radio will be the key media to reach the masses.
"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
Why did Titan not make it a smart watch, which is a trend now-a-days? "It was easy for us to launch this as a smart watch packed with specifications, but one specification would have added to the cost which we always wanted to keep low as the motive was to make this watch reach as many women as possible. There was no point loading it with more features and making it expensive. Look at the smartphone that you use, half the features you have on it have never been touched, while each feature is adding to the cost and you are paying a price for it," says S. Ravi Kant, chief executive officer, watches and accessories division, Titan.

Let's hear what the experts had to say:

Vibha Desai, senior brand consultant agrees to the fact that women in India have long battled the complete lack of safety, and the increase in crime against them. She says, "While the government has announced that all mobile phones from January 2017 will have a panic button, details of the same are not known. It is said that this facility would be available on old mobiles as well. The launch of the ACT Sonata watch has to be evaluated in this context."

"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
"There's a huge market for a safety watch": Suparna Mitra, Titan
She further adds, "Where the need for such a product is concerned it is a crying one. I can imagine every parent wanting their daughter to be able to get in touch with them in a moment of crisis. However, if the mobile panic button actually gets launched it will dull, to some extent, the demand for the Sonata ACT."

"Having said that, it is a great feature, with a huge market potential. I wish more such innovations were launched. Titan will gain not just financially from such a launch. It is something that will further establish it as a responsible market leader."

"I loved the ad. It's simple, to the point, talks about a problem and a solution," says Priya Jayaraman, co-founder and account director, Propaganda India, "a watch that also doubles up as an alarm that can notify others when in distress." She further adds, "The tone is definitely empowering and subtle nuances like the confidence they passed on to the other lady waiting, is very well captured. I think, when a communication can get the message across it doesn't matter who you are featuring, north Indian athletes or any other place - it's the message that matters."

Now it remains to be seen if this new innovation from Titan works over the counters and also if the campaign drives footfall in stores.