What India’s Largest Watch Maker Is Doing To Keep Itself Ticking
How can Titan survive the onslaught of Apple, Samsung and FitBit in the wearables space?
Over the last four years, tech behemoths like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics have ventured into the wearables space and traditional watchmakers are feeling the heat. India’s largest watchmaker Titan Company Ltd. is no different.
The jewellery-to-spectacles maker, part of the $108-billion Tata Group, has taken its first steps to defend its turf. Over the last one year, it launched an activity tracker and two smartwatches to tap a fast-growing market for wearables among millennials.
The wearables category is doing very well globally and adoption is growing in India as well, Somprabh Singh, head of design and technology at Titan, told BloombergQuint.
According to market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC), the wearables category in India grew 41.9 percent in the second quarter of 2016 over the previous three months.
The company’s latest smart device is an activity tracker ‘Reflex’, launched by its youth-focused brand Fastrack in March. Titan unveiled two smartwatches last year. Juxt Pro competes with Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear series. Its predecessor Juxt, designed in collaboration with Hewlett-Packard, is a traditional watch with a panel for notifications.
Beauty Or Brain?
Awareness is no longer a roadblock in the wearables market, said Raj Nimesh, senior market analyst, client devices at IDC. New vendors are entering the market and existing ones are offering better features, he said. “Though basic devices marked a sharp growth, the average price of over $190 has had a negative impact on smart wearables as it is still perceived as a premium device which not many consumers can afford,” Nimesh said.
That’s perhaps why devices from companies like FitBit and Garmin haven’t become ubiquitous in India. The market is dominated by wearables that cost less than $50. GOQii, Xiaomi’s MI Band 2 and Intex’s wrist devices have an 83 percent market share, according to IDC. Titan has priced the ‘Reflex’ at Rs 1,995 or less than $30.
Fitness freaks, however, would be dejected as Reflex doesn’t offer a heart rate sensor, a feature that most rivals embed in their devices. The Mi Band 2 comes with all the Reflex’s features along with a fairly accurate heart rate monitor at the same price. For Rs 3,000, GOQii offers a tracker with a heart rate monitor and this includes a six-month subscription to the company’s health management ecosystem with personal coaching.
Singh contends that the company has focused on creating a fashionable device for the youth rather than a serious fitness device. Reflex can track steps, calories burned, sleep data and display incoming call and text notifications. The company will consider a model with a heart rate sensor if it feels that’s a feature the customers want, he said.
“We found out in a recent consumer study that consumers are not looking for feature-loaded products. They’re looking for relevant features,” Singh said.
Not Smart Enough?
Titan priced its Juxt Pro smartwatch at Rs 22,995. That might sound steep, but it’s still cheaper than the Samsung Gear S3, which costs around Rs 28, 500. And for the more brand-conscious customers, there’s always the Apple Watch Series 2 which costs upwards of Rs 32, 000.
While Titan did not disclose how many smartwatches it has sold, brand expert Harish Bijoor said the Juxt and Juxt Pro might not be the best way for Titan to defend its turf and it needs to do more.
As a lifestyle product, watches have had both utilitarian and aesthetic functions, and in some cases, a significant snob appeal, said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at consulting firm Third Eyesight. “Unfortunately, on all three parameters, Titan Juxt seems to fall between the cracks, when compared with smartwatches and other wearables.”
Creating An Ecosystem
Companies such as Apple and Samsung have created not only products but usage ecosystems, with a far bigger brand footprint than Titan in this space, Dutta said.
With the Juxt series, Titan, however, took its first steps towards creating its own ecosystem for wearables. Instead of adopting Google’s Android Wear like several global rivals, the company chose to use its own operating system.
And that’s what Switzerland’s largest watchmaker Swatch Group is also attempting to do. Swatch said it’s developing an alternative to the iOS and Android operating systems, a Bloomberg report said. Its Tissot brand will unveil a smartwatch running on its own OS by 2018-end, Bloomberg quoted Swatch Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek as saying.
Titan’s Singh said Apple and Samsung will keep the Indian watchmaker “agile” but the company will not directly compete with technology giants. “As long as the watch remains a fashion accessory, it will still be very relevant.”