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NEW DELHI : Covid-19 has impacted the global watch industry with companies across the world seeing sluggish sales and supply chain disruptions in the past 18 months. Timex Group India, too, is no exception. 

The company closed at a net loss of 8.11 crore for the year ended March 2021, but it is now inching back to normalcy. The company's global president and CEO, Tobias Reiss-Schmidt was recently in India to review the company's performance and to look at long-term growth strategies. Schmidt said India will see strong growth in the fashion watch category. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How was the past year and a half for watches globally?

For every country, there is a unique story to tell of how the pandemic influenced and impacted consumer demand and retail. The pandemic outbreak was an unprecedented event. There was obviously a severe impact on the business simply because of a complete lockdown in many markets. In markets where lockdowns are disappearing now, we can really see that consumers are excited and have a very high interest in the categories in which we operate. We are very happy about how things are coming back (to normal) and are very optimistic about the future.

Is this true for India as well?

Absolutely. Sales and consumer demand has exceeded our expectations in India as well. For 2022, when we talk to our retail partners about how they view the future, we are quite optimistic. We are also quite confident that Timex Group will be able to gain the same across our brand portfolios and outperform the market in the coming 12 to 18 months. In India, the impact of the pandemic on the country itself was quite severe. India, like many other markets, is really coming back in a strong way.

How does India compare with China in terms of watch market size?

India has a population of 1.4 billion and we have been in the country for a very long time. When we look at our priorities, we have to look at the opportunity from the market size. We see that the Indian consumer has not only has high awareness, but also a high appreciation for our brand. This makes India a very high priority for us, and probably, a higher priority than China. We see a very strong recovery across the globe, specifically also in the U.S., which has been extremely strong for us. But when we look two to three years ahead, there's probably not a single market where we expect as much growth as India.

Are good quality luxury watches like Rolex facing a shortage?

Rolex, obviously, is a completely different segment. It is not the one where were are playing. I am aware that the demand for Rolex is exceeding the supply. That's great for them. In general, there's a lot of great brands out there. I don't think there's a fundamental shortage. But there is a supply chain disruption right now across categories. So, there are supply issues, but I don't think there's a fundamental shortage of great products, great brands in the watch category.

How are fashion watches doing globally across brands?

The fashion watch segment will enjoy growth on a global scale. There are some markets where the category is clearly stable. In markets like China and India, we will see high single-digit growth, perhaps even double-digit growth in this space. Specific to India, it is a market where we foresee very strong growth in this category across all retail segments.

How big is your luxury watches portfolio in India? Is fashion a big component of your business here?

The luxury part of our portfolio, at this point, is still very small. When we talk about luxury, we specifically talk about Swiss-made watches like Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Missoni etc. (Timex makes these in Switzerland). The luxury part is still relatively small, but we are starting to see some really strong traction, specifically with the Versace brand. And, we are expanding distribution there. But at this point, it's still a small part of the business. The vast majority of our business is still under the Timex brand and other brands related to Timex such as Helix, which is going after a younger customer. We are starting to see some good traction on the fashion side. We are now covering a very broad segment from basic watches at 2,000 or below and are selling automatics at much higher price points too.

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