With over 50 million watches sold over the last decade, Sonata is India’s largest-selling watch brand, from Titan Company Ltd., a TATA group company. It has established itself as a brand of great quality and unbeatable value for the customer. The brand has an annual sales volume of over 5.5 million watches and is sold through a strong retail network of over 8,000 dealers across the country. The Sonata-Flipkart partnership’s newly launched “Epic by Sonata” brand promises to extend the trusted brand’s appeal to younger, style-conscious shoppers without breaking the bank.
Suparna Mitra, Chief Executive Officer – Titan Watches, is at the forefront of bringing this vision to life. An IIM Calcutta alumnus, Suparna happens to be a watch collector herself, and swears by her trusty Titan Edge watch for the daily grind. As the Sonata – Flipkart partnership sets out to fulfill the needs and aspirations of the young Indian shopper, here’s what she has to say on the power of partnership.
Excerpts from a Q&A
What are your thoughts on the relevance of a timepiece in today’s increasingly digital, tech-savvy world?
The stunningly simple answer is not that watches continue to sell, and consumers continue to buy — because they haven’t been mere timekeeping devices for more than a decade now. They cater to the various needs of customers — style, status, a means of self-expression, the perfect accessory in an ensemble. And, of course, they make great gifts for any special occasion — a wedding, a birthday, your first job, retirement, etc. I don’t think watches are going away anytime soon.
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Historically, Sonata has appealed to an older, more mature segment of customers — those looking for timeless appeal and reliability above all else. What does Epic by Sonata stand for? Whom does it seek to appeal to?
Sonata remains India’s largest-selling watch brand by volume — there are more than 50 million consumers in India who wear Sonata watches. Having said that, there are a lot of younger consumers who are mobile-first, digital savvy, and prefer shopping online. While they trust the Sonata brand enormously, they don’t necessarily feel the appeal in terms of style at a given price point. When we got together with Flipkart and began to conceptualize Epic, in my mind, it was a coming together of two market players who were very well-poised to explore this opportunity to cater to these young Indian consumers who value style and are digitally savvy, yet on a limited budget. This particular intersection of style, value, and accessibility presented itself as a huge opportunity for a brand like Epic by Sonata to enter the market.
When and how did this partnership come into effect?
I think we’ve been talking to the Flipkart team for about a year now. We started working on deepening our understanding of the consumers, the kinds of watches these consumers buy, what brands they buy from, etc. We were very clear that this would be a sub-brand under the Sonata name, so some values would be shared across both. Once we established what the brand would stand for, we began to work on the watches themselves — the look, the pricing, the different offerings for men and women, getting the design and quality right. There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into developing Epic by both Sonata and Flipkart and all of this took nearly six to eight months to make this Epic launch possible.
What were some of the market opportunities that necessitated this partnership?
Flipkart has a customer base of over 350 million, which is huge, and when we looked at the watches category and we studied the value segment to understand their needs and aspirations to create something that truly appeals to these young customers.
What were some of the challenges that Flipkart helped address in the lead up to this launch?
We had to get a very sharp understanding of the consumer and the category – what’s doing well, what’s currently available, price points, etc – this whole process was a very deep and involved collaborative effort with the Flipkart team, who gave us the insights needed to create a successful sub-brand and how to differentiate the brand from the rest of the market while staying relevant. The Flipkart team also helped us put together a platform-specific marketing approach in terms of what would work, what wouldn’t, what to keep in the product mix and what to leave out. In many ways, it was more about coming together with a new business model rather than a product line.
What impact has the partnership been able to make in terms of benefits to customers?
The foremost benefit is quality — a lot of customers were already shopping within this price segment but lacked an offering that could promise quality at an affordable price, from a trusted brand name like Sonata. Of course the additional benefits of style, affordability, and appeal are part of the package as well.