Suparna Mitra is a long-time Titan Company hand, having spent 16 years in the watches to jewellery company. She took over as CEO of Titan’s watches and wearables business in April 2020 and is overseeing its transition to a premium and smartwatches player.

In this interview, the IIM Calcutta alumna, talks about Titan’s rebranding strategy of its stores and its premiumisation strategy. Excerpts:

Podcast | In conversation with Titan Watches chief Suparna Mitra  Podcast | In conversation with Titan Watches chief Suparna Mitra  

Why is Titan rebranding the World of Titan stores to Titan World and also co-branding it in some places with Helios, your chain for multi-brand international watches?

World of Titan has been the identity of the chain for over two decades.

In 2019-20, we looked at what kind of consumers were stepping into a WOT store and gauged their perceptions of the chain. We conducted a comprehensive consumer study, and there were dimensions consumers wanted, which were not evident in current stores.

This included: a more modern look, more international brands, more premium and more smartwatches and wearables. These were the big trends we incorporated in the brand, but, of course, the brand gets played out in the exclusive brand outlets. It was important to make these shifts in the World of Titan outlets, with a new design.

Also, while Helios is a separate multi-brand international brands outlet, in many places we integrated the two brands, and while overall sales go up, sales of Titan brand watches also go up, because you are attracting a customer who may not have stepped into a World of Titan outlet earlier.

Because of the presence of international brands, they also discover the Titan range and can make a choice of which brand to buy. These two insights brought on the World of Titan facelift and repositioning.


So, what exactly are the contours of this change?

The two-year Covid phase gave us time to think through and conceptualise new store interiors, which had five specific new themes. One is, the change to Titan World, symbolic of the larger changes inside; second one was the brand direction we gave; then a black, premium look and a separate section for smartwatches, which are all kept together; also, behind the cash counter, the backdrop has been redesigned, and as a combination of all these individual parts, customer experience is enhanced. The look and feel upgradation has happened and 123 stores have been renovated in the last financial year, and this year, another 140 should be renovated.


How many exclusive Titan stores are there and how many of these will have co-branding?  

We have 864 exclusive stores around the country; around 560 Titan Worlds, 144 Helios stores and 160 Fastrack stores. Of these, 88 stores will be combined Titan World and Helios stores.


Is the change in nomenclature making a difference?

It’s symbolic, it denotes a modern and premium outlet and the change seems to be seamless. We haven’t checked with consumers yet. The franchisees felt that the World of Titan brand had a lot of cache but this feeling was three years back; but now seeing the changes they are happy about it. 


While the stores have changed their look, what about your watches themselves?

We had so many exciting and innovative products from brand Titan over the past three years like the Ceramic Edge, the Edge Mechanical, other mechanical watches, our smart watches range and the latest in Raga.

The content in the book had changed, but the cover was still the old one; products have dramatically transformed, but many consumers were not aware of it; it was like a well-kept secret. There were two ways of conveying it — through advertising, which we are doing, and the other is to dramatically alter the way stores look, to make them more inviting.

We have sold millions of watches and many consumers have three to five Titan watches and feel they need to look at something else, so if they step into a re-done Titan World in their area, they may rediscover their passion for watches; and if they buy for themselves and as gifts, it brings back love for the category.


What about your premiumisation strategy as well as experiments with new materials?

Premiumisation is something that we’ve been talking about for the past few years because of the increasing trend of Indian consumers to upgrade with higher disposable incomes.

We saw this getting a huge bump up during Covid, because several spending avenues and indulgences such as travel were sealed off. So, if, for example, one’s budget as a consumer was ₹5,000, and you saw at a Titan outlet, a beautiful watch for ₹7,000, you could buy it.

There has been great effort from Titan in product design and innovation, and a lot of innovation in manufacturing as well, which has allowed us to scale up.

Our highest-priced watch is Titan Edge mechanical, which is at ₹1.95 lakh, and we have many watches in the price band of ₹15,000 to ₹35,000. What is interesting is that every one of them has a future; it could be a combination of materials, or it could be the movement; Edge Ceramic is a combination of material and an Edge slim movement which makes it special, and consumers are loving it. Today, we have come full circle to mechanical and automatic from quartz and many of the movements are made in-house, which means our factory has movement engineers who were working 25 years on quartz and have now mastered mechanical movements in the past six to seven years. The icing on the cake is the slim mechanical movements. There’s a lot of work on materials and design, which allows us to justifiably charge a premium; it’s not the same watch sold at a higher price.


What about your innovations in the digital space and smart watches?

In the last three months we had several launches, including Titan Smart, Smart Pro and Fastrack Reflex Vox which is Alexa-enabled.

The smart watches are selling in the price band ₹4,999 to ₹11,999. We have launched Fastrack Reflex Curv; it looks substantially curved and has a lot of functional features.

This year, we have 14 new smart watches lined up and we have already launched three. We also did some launches in the audio accessories, hearables space, which are Bluetooth-enabled earbuds under the Fastrack brand.


So contrary to perceptions, conventional watches, apart from smart watches, continue to do well?

Absolutely. One of the things the pandemic did is that people have veered more towards trusted brands; the value of trust and access in smaller towns has also helped. Many of the stores opened are in the smaller towns; we have seen that demand is quite strong across and the brands continue to be loved and trusted.  Now with everything opening up, people are back to work and college and looking at their wardrobe and also upgrading their watches; people are spending money and effort on their presentation.