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With rise in wealthy individuals, Seiko sees better times in India

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on September 20, 2021

Japanese watchmaker sets grand vision to expand its presence in India

Moving ahead of competition is nothing new for Seiko.

In December 1969, the Japanese watchmaker introduced the world’s first commercial quartz watch, ‘Astron’, which was 100 times more accurate and ran 250 times longer than most mechanical watches that came out during that period.

The launch of Astron set in motion a ‘quartz revolution’ in the modern history of the watch world, leading to a global shift to quartz-based digital and analog watch production in the following decades. Today, quartz watches are estimated to account for over 95 per cent of all the watches manufactured globally.

In the following decades, the Japanese watchmaker made several pioneering innovations, and launched many ‘world’s first’ features in the wristwatch segment, staying true to its new brand slogan, ‘Moving Ahead’. Touching Hearts’.

In 2012, Seiko pushed the boundaries of innovation in watchmaking further to introduce the world’s first GPS solar watch, ‘Seiko Astron GPS Solar’, which can recognise all the 39 time zones on Earth by using a global network of satellites with a precision of one second every 100,000 years – all that in a mechanical watch.

Grand vision

With a burgeoning young population and growing number of affluent Indians, the Japanese luxury watchmaker has set a grand vision to expand its presence in the Indian market. “Very few countries can promise you growth for the next 50 years. India is one such country. Seiko sells in over 180 countries, but has national offices (which are 100 per cent subsidiaries) only in 15 countries, including in India, which is a testimony to Seiko Japan’s long-term vision for the country,” Niladri Mazumder, President & COO, Seiko Watch India, told BusinessLine.

The reason for the optimism is not far to seek. According to Knight Frank’s ‘Wealth Report 2021’, among India’s ultra-high-networth individuals (UHNWIs), those with $30 million or more are expected to grow by 63 per cent in the next five years to 11,198 from 6,884 UHNWIs.

The Japanese watch brand witnessed a sharp growth in sales of its luxury brand ‘Grand Seiko’ last year as wealthy Indians splurged on luxury items such as watches in the domestic market as the pandemic spoiled their international travel and spending plans.

“The Covid period has been definitely challenging, but one thing we have noticed is that the number of wealthy people has gone up. In the consumer space, products like Grand Seiko, which are high-end products, are the ones that helped us survive this period,” Mazumder added.

“Interestingly, a lot of younger people in age group of 25-35 years are first entering into watches with a Grand Seiko,” Rajesh Patel, GM, Marketing, Grand Seiko and Boutiques, Seiko Watch India, adding: “These are customers who are mainly professionals like lawyers, CAs and aspiring doctors.”

Pandemic effect

Seiko Watch India grew at 15-20 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) in the pre-Covid period. With growing contributions from the luxury watches category, the company is looking to sustain a CAGR of 20 per cent once the effect of the pandemic wanes.

On the marketing side, Seiko India is doing a lot of digital brand promotion to attract more millennials and Gen Z consumers.

“We have company-managed online boutiques in India, which are enticing a lot of young people. We are seeing a lot of people even buying watches worth ₹10 lakh from our agency site without even visiting a store,” said Mazumder.

Online sales

Currently, 20 per cent of Seiko Watch India’s sales happen through online, and the company plans to ramp it up 30-35 per cent in the next two years.

On the physical store expansion, Mazumder said: “Right now, we have 12 exclusive showrooms, and the plan is to add three showrooms a year. We are also planning a full-fledged iconic Grand Seiko showroom in India next year.”

Published on September 20, 2021

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