How Titan wears a brand on its pallu


bl22_Style studio

Watch co and jeweller Titan now wants to dress women up to the nines with Taneira

If you’re on Instagram, it would be hard to miss the many photos of women parading saris and accessories. They are not models, many are “regular” people hired as influencers for the brands they are attired in, and their charm seems to be working.

Social networks and movies are blamed for many things, but they have boosted the sari in recent times. Which is why Titan is testing the waters in this business. Business head Shyamala Ramanan says there’s a resurgence of the sari. Last year’s #100sareepact across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter played a role. As long as there are professions where saris are necessary, such as teaching and hospitality, they will endure, she adds. There are 25-40 groups on social media dedicated to saris, each with as many as 5,000-10,000 followers.

Equal to the occasion

The Bollywood-driven Big Fat Indian Wedding has driven the growth of the “occasion-wear sari”, a growing category estimated at ₹25,000 crore of a larger sari market of ₹80,000 crore. Pride in India, as well as the movement towards brands, are driving people to buy saris, even if they spend more time inside the cupboard than on the women who own them, says Ajoy Chawla, Senior Vice-President, Strategy and Business Incubation, Titan Co Ltd.

Chawla was in Chennai to oversee the city’s response to an exhibition by Taneira, the sari business the group has been incubating since February. The pilot project is gauging the appetite for its brand with two stores in Bangalore. The hallmark of the brand will be natural and handwoven saris and associated apparel. How different would they be from other saris in its category? To be a Taneira product, it will have to be authentic, says Chawla. An informed visitor at the show observes that these days “Kanjeevarams” are woven all over Tamil Nadu, even the ones in Kancheepuram.

Titan is considering this more as a retail brand rather than a product brand. The store experience is an opportunity, as much as allied products such as blouses, are. Women are spending an hour or two in the stores. A villa format – a store in a large bungalow – with a not so commercial feel that allows customers to discover the brand at their own pace, is what Taneira is considering. Each store will stock 3,000-4,000 saris, says Chawla.

Saris account for 75 per cent of occasion wear, says Chawla. Prices range between ₹5,000 and ₹30,000, largely. A few break this price ceiling. The exhibition at Chennai shows off an Assam Muga sari with elaborate embroidery selling at ₹50,000 and a blue Patan Patola that took 18 months to weave, and costs ₹3 lakh. The target customer is the same one who shops at Tanishq and buys Titan’s Raga brand of watches.

Taneira is sourcing its wares from over 30 handloom clusters across the country, either directly, or through designers and aggregators who work with the clusters. It has its own designers working on the project as well.

Suresh Parekh, Partner, Chennai-based Tulsi Silks, says high-end sari retail cannot be successful without a feeling of ownership and personal involvement of the top management. Would a corporate organisation/culture, where executives frequently move jobs, maintain continuity? Or provide the personal touch and reassurance that customers need when they are spending a premium, he wonders.

Chawla hopes to present a business plan to the Titan board next fiscal. “Not just in branded, lifestyle retail, we also seem to do well in categories that are not very well penetrated or unorganised or customers are under-served,” he says, explaining the genesis of the idea. The idea for new businesses was crowdsourced from an internal innovation drive. Saris were picked from a long list of 15 and a short list of three. There were some natural advantages. “We can leverage the same customer group, as for Tanishq and Raga. The second is size. Now we are a large company (₹12,000 crore) and five years down, we could be ₹20,000-25,000 crore. Any category we enter should create a ₹500-1,000-crore opportunity in the future.” Chawla refrains from commenting on the other two ideas except to say that “they are in the home space” and that they have been parked for future exploration.

Tulsi Silks’ Parekh says Titan has done well at businesses where it has made its own products, unlike saris, which it is sourcing, but reckons it could probably make a go of it with the help of high-decibel advertising. From a jewellery business that was almost written off, Titan resurrected the Tanishq brand to emerge more of a jewellery company than for the watches it started off with. So, one doesn’t know where it could head with its sari brand.

Published on September 21, 2017

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