Bangalore: Fifty-five-year-old Madhu Rao’s love for wrist watches is something of a legend in her family circle. The homemaker has a collection of more than 30 watches, mostly international brands, and she guards them as if they are heirlooms.
Now though she has more choices than the HMT and Titan brands that dominated the Indian market some time ago, she complains that most watches available still seem like smaller versions of men’s watches.
All that glitters:I ndia is a harder place to sell women’s watches than Western countries.
Women such as Madhu are raising the bar for watchmakers trying to target this segment. The Indian market for watches is estimated at about Rs2,500 crore by sales revenue, but only a third comes from sales of women’s watches.
This is despite women comprising half of India’s population and an increase number of working women, especially in urban areas. In some parts of the world, women’s watches contribute to approximately 65% of watch sales.
In an attempt to expand sales and cash in on women with fatter wallets, companies such as Titan Industries, and others such as Seiko Watch India Pvt. Ltd and Citizen Watches (India) Pvt. Ltd, Indian arms of international brands, are stepping up their offerings in terms of variants, new designs and innovative colours.
India’s largest watchmaker Titan plans to launch 100 new variants this year, of which 40% would be for women. Seiko Watch India, which has a collection of about 130 variants, has about 26 models exclusively for ladies.
It plans to have 20-25 more variants for women this year. Citizen, whose collection comprises 65% for men and 35% for women, intends to raise its feminine range to at least 40%. Titan also distributes watches of Hugo Boss AG in India and has an arrangement with Tommy Hilfiger through which it makes and sells watches under that brand here.
Still, India is a harder place to sell women’s watches than Western countries.
“Indian women are fascinated with jewellery and diamonds and it’s part of the investment for self and children. This trend remains (the) same for watches,” says Satish S. Halageri, manager, merchandising and advertising, Citizen. “That’s why we have introduced (the) diamond series of watches to satisfy women interested in jewellery and to increase the women segment.”
The companies also say Indian women who generally wear bangles on their wrists find it inconvenient to wear a watch along with that.
In the West, watches are a prominent accessory and in the absence of any other form of wrist jewellery, women prefer having a different watch for each occasion, or a very expensive one that would make a style and status statement. That, say watchmakers, is why men tend to dominate the watch-buying segment because typically, they have a more limited range of accessories to choose from, unlike women.
“The range of accessories for women is very large. They have a much wider range of products to enhance their look — jewellery, bags, shoes and perfumes. With so many other options in hand for females, it’s time for us (watchmakers) to think harder,” says Suparna Mitra, marketing head, Titan.
Innovative designs, eye-catching colours, jewel-set versions as well as do-it-yourself watches that can be assembled to suit any occasion are now there for women to pick. That’s beginning to have some effect as more women are no longer satisfied with a “one watch for all occasions” wardrobe. And watchmakers themselves are selling products using the fashion platform, saying their spring-summer collections this year will feature colours such as yellow, purple and green in watch dials and straps. However, increasing awareness on the part of consumers and more product launches by companies have resulted in another set of problems.
“I have been looking for a watch for the last four months. Well, as you see, there is no dearth of brands or varieties, but I still cannot make up my mind on which one to take. I wish there was some expert who could just tell me this is what goes with my personality,” says 25-year-old Sonia, who goes by just one name.