WTI: Have you always been into watches?
VR: I've been involved with the industry for a little under two decades now. I started my career in it and have been hooked since then. It has been a fascinating journey so far and the experience and opportunities I've gotten, through my work in all the various departments be it sales, marketing, research, development, business development etc, has made it a good and interesting ride. Although, a lot of it was largely in the mid-segment of the market, which operates under $300 retail price.
When the brands Titan and TATA acquired Favre-Leuba, I though it was a fantastic opportunity to try and apply for a position to head the brand and the last few months since I've joined has been a certain reorientation of sorts in the industry, considering the segment is towards the higher end of the industry. So, it is quite exciting to be a part of such a niche brand.
WTI: Who are the Favre-Leuba consumers?
VR: If you go back to the history of Favre-Leuba, the brand is 282-years old and has been a pioneer in the industry. It started moving overseas fairly early, in the 1820's-30's so historically it has always had a wide spectrum of audiences. The attempt that Titan has made now in the last few years has been towards creating differentiated offerings for their audience.
In order to define the audience, we went back to the core and started from there. We did not think from the consumers point of view but from the point of view of the brand's core. We are trying to reach out to an audience who can resonate with our spirit making it a more psychological connect with the consumer. Although our consumer can be from multiple sections of demography the spirit is most important and I think has helped create a certain niche for the brand in terms of the product offerings we have today.
WTI: Are you also targeting the younger audience?
VR: We have noticed, yes, that increasingly there is a much more affluent market today which has come up. Especially in the younger audience segment. If you look at some of the watches we have, the interest in some of those specific features is shown more by the younger audience. Today, since the availability of information is at their fingertips and the consumers are so much more informed and well travelled, more than the retailers as well, you know, when they come to buy the piece, they have a better analysis of the market and the competition.
Therefore, if you are differentiated and unique, it makes a difference. So we certainly do have them at the core of our clients in the future. At the same time, given the brand's legacy in a country like India, for example, we have a more younger audience than we did in the past which was around 40 – 45 years old.
WTI: What about in the collectors market?
VR: So, there are two aspects. One is the whole deal with vintage pieces and the other is with pre-owned pieces. Sometimes the two overlap.
We have a lot of consumers writing to us about some of the pieces they have and they'd like to give it to us. There are some who reach out to us requesting to buy some of the pieces. Therefore, currently, we have a program going on about how we can possibly acquire some of the historically famous designs from the past which I think can make a great story in itself.
Also, for a brand like ours, it helps us in learning our own history. You learn so much more about what went into creating those pieces then. Our design philosophy is about linking the past with the current trends for the future. It's an important segment, it's a serious segment which will remain timeless no matter the changes in the environment.
WTI: Any specific marketing strategies for India?
VR: There are two pillars that are crucial for Favre-Leuba. One is the legacy that the brand holds and the second is the expression of the brand in the form of the upcoming products. I think we are using a combination of this to create some captivating visuals which will go as mainstream advertising. India is a very crucial market for us, apart from the bigger markets. India is unique from a share growth point of view. I think the size of the watch market is likely to witness a growth and a confirmation of the overall market here. It's a compelling prophecy. Multiply that with the population of the country, no matter the challenges, it's still a large number.
But it all comes down to capturing the imagination of the consumers. It's all about story telling. So if you go into today's modern age of social media, our strategy is to be open to these mediums. It's to present ourselves in a compelling manner using these modern media. It may not be a largely mainline, print-kind of approach, but more of a step-by-step approach.
We could also tie up with some of the ambassadors here. If you look at the friends of Favre-Leuba, they are not your conventional personalities. They are people from real walks of life who have with passion and pride achieved incredible heights. They are legends. They take the brand to extreme climatic conditions and confirm the quality we have to offer in a more genuine manner. These things matter a lot more the audience. You'll see a lot more of this kind of visibility from Favre-Leuba this year.
WTI: Why are you not at Baselworld this year?
VR:These fairs are, I feel, undergoing a kind of evolution. We wanted to take a break to see how it evolves and gauge whether there is any genuine value that we can get out of it and then decide how to take it forward.
WTI: Which is your favourite collection from the brand?
VR:There are a lot of good watches we have but the two which stand out for me are the Bivouac especially because of the altimeter concept; and the other one is the Bathy. All I can say is, that the brand has switched me to an automatic and mechanical sort of man.