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Titan's X range from Rs 10k-33K
Deepshikha Monga in New Delhi | February 23, 2006
By guarding its upper flank against Swiss watches with Xylys, Titan has made a strategic move. Xylys. Two syllables. Distinctive. Almost palindromic. One idea: the "power of X". That's how Titan Industries, leader of the Indian wristwatches market, describes its newly launched upper-end brand.
This marks Titan's "entry into a wholly new and exciting space" in the words of Bhaskar Bhat, managing director. India's market for high-end watches - priced at Rs 10,000 a piece and above - is estimated in the region of Rs 250 crore (Rs 2.5 billion). Swatch Group is the dominant player here, followed by LVMH.
The launch marks an irony as well. Titan is credited with having turned the watch from a timekeeping device into a fashion statement in India.
But by doing this, it also turned itself vulnerable at the market's upper end to the global brands from Switzerland, which came later and have taken strong brand positions (think Omega, Tissot, Tag Heuer...) in recent years.
This, even as Titan's Europe entry petered out in the 1990s (despite what was on balance a gaze-worthy global ad).
Titan's first response was to head lower. So it launched Sonata, a workman's brand. Now at last, it has Xylys. Priced in a range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 33,000, it may not swing away anyone sold on any of the Swiss brands, but it can certainly create buffer space - and perhaps develop an equally appealing personality of its own. Titan talks of a "paradigm shift in the premium watch segment".
But can it do it?
According to Bijou Kurien, Titan's chief operating officer, Xylys is for watch wearer with an attitude - "that indefinable X factor". Hence, the set of brand endorsers.
One, actor and non-compromising achiever Rahul Bose; two, model and passionate dream-chaser Saira Mohan; and three, tennis player and on-the-edge-life-liver Carlos Moya.
Product wise, Xylys boasts of Swiss craftsmanship and assembly, and a Swiss designer too in Laurent Rufenacht, who assists the team at Titan Design Studio led by Michael Foley.
The brand reflects international style tempered with an Indian touch, according to Foley. The watches for women, for example, are somewhat more ornamental than other Swiss equivalents. The watches also take into account the comparatively smaller Indian wrists.
To be retailed at Titan World shops as well as exclusive stores (coming up in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Mumbai to begin with), Xylys has 61 designs on offer in three styles: contemporary, classic and sports.
The watches indeed look smart. But whether Xylys saves Titan from becoming a victim of its own success as a fashion brand could well depend on the advertising.
For that, there'll surely be eager eyes. Enterprise Bates is handling the account, and it faces a rare challenge.