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Salil Sadanandan

Senior Vice President (Sales & Marketing) | 08 Mar 2007

We are uniquely positioned as a brand. I personally think nobody has this kind of technology to offer, we have a heritage where the consumers see us as sporty.
One of the hallmarks of Timex worldwide as a brand is that they bring in really good technology to make it accessible. There is no other brand in the market that can offer that combination of design, technology and pricing.

A management graduate from IIM, Ahmedabad and a Bachelor of Engineering in Metallurgy from IIT, Roorkee, Salil Sadanandan, Senior VP-Sales & Marketing, Timex Watches Ltd, has over 14 years of diverse experience in marketing of consumer goods, both FMCG and durables. He has a strong cross-functional experience across marketing, sales, communication and consumer service.

Sadanandan began his career with Lintas (now Lowe) in 1991-96 and worked on a diverse portfolio of clients, including Hindustan Lever. He was involved in several key global and local developmental projects in the area of launching new concepts and products in India.

Sadanandan joined Timex Watches from Whirlpool of India Ltd, where he held various positions in trade marketing, sales and marketing of the cooking category and the company’s initiatives in customer loyalty and business development. During his tenure at Whirlpool, he was responsible for setting up processes to drive retail strategy and execution and has successful product launches to his credit. Prior to his last appointment, he was working as Brand Manager with Braun, a division of Gillette, for four years.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Sumita Patra, Sadanandan shares more about Timex, the brand, and the watch market in India. Excerpts:

Q. What is the size of the branded watch market in India?

It’s between Rs 1,400 crore and Rs 1,500 crore in value.

Q. What is your market share at present?

Our share by value is around 22 per cent in India. We should be ending about close to a third by value by 2008.

Q. What is the growth you have earmarked for the future?

Our target is to double the business by 2008.

Q. How are you planning to achieve that growth?

It’s a two-pronged strategy. One is the front end of the business and one at the back end. Let me start with the front end. Our first initiative is retailing. We have started concepts like Time Factory, which is a very cool, contemporary, look and feel destination watch store. I personally feel that retail is the biggest medium of advertising and marketing. It gives us an opportunity to catch the consumers at the point of consumption. One of the objectives of setting up the Time Factory is to use the retailing opportunity to tell the consumers about our heritage of a global brand.

Q. What kind of business do you expect your retail stores to contribute?

Close to 25 per cent will be coming in from these stores by year three.

Q. What kind of investment have you done for your retail concept?

It’s a franchisee led operation. So, our investment is in the form of marketing.

Q. What are the other strategies that you would be looking at to achieve the growth that you have earmarked?

Apart from retailing, we will also invest in the brand. We spend close to 12-13 per cent of our turnover on advertising and marketing and also bringing in new products. For instance, in this edition of the Hero Honda Indian Open we have launched a new collection of very high-end watches, including a digital watch where a golfer can actually record his scores.

Q. Are you also looking at event partnerships?

Yes, this is one of the things that we are looking at. You are aware that we are a ‘sporty’ brand, we are now looking to marry sports and lifestyle. I think golf is a wonderful sport and that is why we have become the official sponsors of the Hero Honda Indian Open, which is one of the biggest sporting events. I see golf as a sunrise sport, there is a lot of money in the sport, there is a lot of snob appeal and it’s a sport where technical skills are very important, it’s an intelligent man’s sport. I think Indian players are doing very well in the international circuit, so that is going to fuel interest in the game and we want to be a part of that game.

Q. How do associations with events like Hero Honda Indian Open help Timex as a brand?

I go back to our DNA. Our DNA is sporty, our DNA is about being active. So, it basically reinforces that.

Q. Which watch segment contributes most to your business?

Those priced in the Rs 1,000-Rs 5000 range.

Q. What do you think is the USP of Timex watches?

We are uniquely positioned as a brand. I personally think nobody has this kind of technology to offer, we have a heritage where the consumers see us as sporty. One of the hallmarks of Timex worldwide as a brand is that they bring in really good technology to make it accessible. There is no other brand in the market that can offer that combination of design, technology and pricing. Our focus in 2004 was to make our business model profitable, and after doing that we needed to look at the second phase of growth, and that was to invest in the brand. We have the products, we believe now the retail muscle will be able to push our growth forward.

Q. Till what level is the watch industry growing in India?

Let me confess, till about 2004 and first half of 2005 it was kind of flat, 4-5 per cent. Last 18 months it has seen a growth of 10-12 per cent, which is very good for a category like this.

Q. Do you also do experiential marketing?

That’s the area where we want to get into. The store has to be an experiential area, consumers should have their own free will. The credibility of that communication is far greater than anything else, that’s what I believe.

Q. You are currently on the lookout for a female brand ambassador. What has been happening in that direction?

We are looking at it. We are now enhancing the range for women and introducing new styles. So, we are definitely considering the opportunity of having a female brand ambassador.

Q. What attributes would you be looking at while selecting one?

Active glamour, I don’t want passive glamour. We want a person who has a glamorous approach because we are a fashion product. We will look at a person who is persona wise very active.

Q. You have Brett Lee as your brand ambassador. Why did you choose an international celebrity?

As a marketer, I am very wary about using brand ambassadors. You have to be very clear that the ambassador is not overexposed. We wanted to also start setting a message that we are an international brand. Thirdly, we wanted a multi-faceted personality. Most often Indian sportsmen are only good at sports and nothing beyond that. Brett Lee, if you see, has got a rock star look and is a great sportsman too. We thought he fitted the bill perfectly.

Q. Being an international brand, what does it take to build the brand in the Indian market?

As a marketer I believe that consumers have evolved much faster than we expected. I am of the firm belief that David Ogilvy had – that half of all advertising is wasted, I don’t know which half. The only thing that I can say is that about 80 per cent is wasted, so we have to find unique ways of targeting the consumer when he is ready to accept it, which is why the retailing stuff is important as part of the marketing initiative.

If you don’t have the right retail, the way you display products, the way you do the ambience, if you don’t get that right, 2-3 years down the line you will be meaningless, like I said, more than 50 per cent watch purchase is an impulse, and impulse happens at the point of purchase so you have to look at innovative ways of reaching out to your consumers. Our spends are going up on unconventional areas, for instance, golf as an event, we are approaching it very differently, we are building products around that. We are also focusing on the area where we can build loyalty through retailing, through channels, which we believe can deliver far better returns. We put together programmes, which give us the opportunity to build the brand in an unobtrusive fashion, thereby making it more meaningful.

Q. How would you differentiate between the watch market in India vis-à-vis the global market?

It is evolving along the same lines. There will be room for a general watchmaker like a Timex or a Rolex, there will also be room for fashion/lifestyle brands like a Dior. Both will continue to co-exist. So, the evolution path is similar.

Q. Give us some details on the marketing activities that you have undertaken in the past.

We attempted to achieve two things – to reposition our brand as something which the youth aspire to have. Secondly, we wanted to make a point about the fact that we are very different. Thirdly, there is the whole aspect of our heritage that we are international. In advertising terms, we decided to focus on products which are uniquely designed. We started the concept of perpetual calendar advertising in 2005, which became very successful. We evolved from there into focusing on our first 2-3 assortment of products which no else has – one is the expedition (outdoor) range and second is our sporty range, third is our specialist range. So, we focused on products which are very different. Then separately we have also looked at tying up with some outdoor sporting events. We are looking at some good properties, which can basically enhance our brand imagery.

Q. Going forward, what kind of marketing push would you be giving to your brand? What kind of innovations can we look forward to?

I would not like to comment on it because there are still no concrete plans to talk about. I am a great believer that advertising is not the solution. The consumer’s mindset is changing very fast, so you need much better answers.

Q. You’ve said that you spend around 13 per cent of your turnover on advertising and marketing. What is the ratio like?

Unfortunately, 60 per cent is still advertising.

Q. What kind of spends have you earmarked for this year?

Right now we will continue with 13 per cent. As the business grows, the quantum will also increase.

Q. How has the advent of technological devices like mobiles impacted the watch sector?

It has impacted to some extent because there are people who don’t wear watches, so it is imperative for manufacturers and marketers to present watches in a new light. We are targeting an audience that is potentially likely to buy more than one watch, that is why it’s not easy to find my target audience.

Q. Is Timex more of a sporty brand or a fashion brand?

(Laughs) Within the two, it is more sporty than fashion. We use a phrase, we call it sporty fashion.

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