Madhuwanti Saha
Marketing

“There’s an explosion of fashion in the mass segment”: Sonata’s Subish Sudhakaran on the ‘Rs 499 watch’

Titan recently tied up with Flipkart to retail a range of Sonata watches priced at Rs 499. A quick chat with Sonata’s marketing head.

When Titan Company, India’s largest watch retailer, ties up with leading e-commerce giant Flipkart to retail an exclusive and fashionable range of Sonata watches, it’s bound to raise eyebrows. ‘Epic by Sonata’ is priced at Rs 499. It’s one of the recent trade tricks by retailers to partner with e-commerce platforms, as consumers continue to buy more goods online.

Targeting modern digitally-savvy consumers, aged between 16 and 28 years, Titan’ sub-brand Sonata offers 48 SKUs in the Rs 499-Rs 949 price range. “We are targeting Tier-II, III and IV towns in India, as we strongly believe they will drive the next level of consumption,” Subish Sudhakaran, marketing head, Sonata, Titan Company, tells afaqs!.

Subish Sudhakaran
Subish Sudhakaran

We are talking about towns like Nashik (Maharashtra), Hubli and Chintamani (Karnataka), Dindigul (Tamil Nadu), Siliguri (West Bengal), among others. That’s how Sonata’s partnership with Flipkart comes into play with the latter’s burgeoning customer base of over 350 million. As far as distribution goes, Flipkart’s logistics and supply chain arm Ekart covers more than 90 per cent of the country’s pin codes.

“There is an explosion of fashion in the mass segment. Moreover, no branded player is catering to the demand for a fashionable watch at this price point (Rs 499). That’s how this journey kicked off.”
Subish Sudhakaran

Sudhakaran adds, “We found an overlap in the core audience we’re targeting and that of Flipkart. Also, with this association, we’re present in a multi-category environment, which is beneficial to ‘Epic’. We’re tapping an audience base that’s looking for a fashion accessory to complete their look.”

“There’s an explosion of fashion in the mass segment”: Sonata’s Subish Sudhakaran on the ‘Rs 499 watch’
“There’s an explosion of fashion in the mass segment”: Sonata’s Subish Sudhakaran on the ‘Rs 499 watch’
“There’s an explosion of fashion in the mass segment”: Sonata’s Subish Sudhakaran on the ‘Rs 499 watch’
“There’s an explosion of fashion in the mass segment”: Sonata’s Subish Sudhakaran on the ‘Rs 499 watch’
“There’s an explosion of fashion in the mass segment”: Sonata’s Subish Sudhakaran on the ‘Rs 499 watch’

This is how Sudhakaran is positioning the ‘Epic’ range - an online player offering ‘fashionable watches at lower prices with a unique association with Flipkart.’ “The business model for this is developed solely looking at an e-commerce distribution. We will stick to this model.”

With the watch market in India projected to register a CAGR of 20.32 per cent over the forecast period 2020-25, according to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, Titan identified the gap, thus, giving birth to this product range.

Sudhakaran shares, “There is an explosion of fashion in the mass segment. Moreover, no branded player is catering to the demand for a fashionable watch at this price point (Rs 499). That’s how this journey kicked off.”

It’s also a challenge, considering there will be a ‘high refresh rate’, with the sub-brand bringing out new SKUs every quarter in sync with the latest fashion trends. Sudhakaran points out, “We will bring in 12 SKUs in the next 2-3 months. We will refresh our product portfolio with the latest trends.”

The high reliance on fashion comes from a survey Sonata recently undertook. The brand team spoke to nearly 250 consumers to understand their purchase criteria. It was found that fashion overrules brands and convenience, informs Subhakaran, who has been with Titan for almost 15 years.

Prior to Sonata, Sudhakaran was with Titan Eyewear as program manager. He finds the watch category exciting and challenging. “To develop and manufacture a fashionable watch at this price point is a challenge. Our customer isn’t looking for something plain and simple. They want the latest trends in dials and plating at that price. It’s a challenge we’ve taken up as we feel our consumer is underserved.”

The opportunity was identified two years back, before Sudhakaran moved to Sonata last April. From conceptualisation to execution, the launch took nearly a year-and-a-half (including the delay caused by the COVID pandemic).

Even though COVID has significantly impacted consumption patterns of consumers, Sudhakaran seems unperturbed, as he sees a massive opportunity in this space in the long run. “With the economy opening up, the younger consumer segment is the fastest one to bounce back. That’s the reason we decided to go ahead and launch it.”

The growing shift towards smartwatches doesn’t bother him either. “The smartwatch (segment) is seeing huge growth, but the space we’re operating in is also exploding, as there’s no branded competition. It’s a strategic choice we’ve made, in terms of pursuing this opportunity.”

The exclusive launch with Flipkart make this a digital-first marketing strategy. There are four legs to it: social media platforms, influencers, the Flipkart app and PR, Sudhakaran informs.

“The first includes the social media handles of Sonata and Flipkart. We’re looking at local influencers, with whom the TG can relate. PR helps us connect with the media stakeholders in key markets, where the demand for products is higher. This, in turn, helps us reach consumers who’re looking for value fashion products - high on style, and affordably priced. Promotions have already kicked off.”

Communication on the launch is underway on the brand’s social media platforms, with hashtags like #EpicWalaStyle and #SonataXFlipkart. Instagram Reels is also being used to promote the product.