C.K. Venkatraman, MD of India’s homegrown lifestyle major, Titan Company, believes that the time has arrived for Indian-made lifestyle/luxury brands to make their presence felt on the global arena. While its luxury jewellery brand, Zoya (that was launched in 2009), has touched a revenue of ₹200 crore, Venkatraman, in a chat with Fortune India, says the company is now looking at premiumising the good old Titan watch brand. “In the next two years you will see something magical happening to Titan. We are really stepping up the gas on Titan watches.”
The lifestyle major had launched its first limited edition luxury watch collection, Edge Mechanical’ in 2021. Priced at ₹1.95 lakh, the limited-edition collection was claimed to be the slimmest mechanical watch ever crafted by a watchmaker. The premiumisation journey would largely be in analogue watches. “Wearables will be mid-priced, as people change devices more often. For that segment we have a strong tech team, so there are a lot of innovations coming up. We are looking at high sales through innovation,” explains Venkatraman.
Why is it the right time for Indian brands to make their presence felt in the luxury market? Venkatraman attributes it to the confidence of Indians on the world stage. “A few years ago, if you were in an international airport, you would never hear Indians speak in vernacular languages, be it Tamil, Telugu or Bengali. They would hide their Indianness. Today, they are confidently speaking in their vernacular language. You have Indians heading global conglomerates, also the international pitching of India by the Government has helped in generating a pride around being Indian. Indians are willing to push and patronise Indian brands. Mind you, they are wearing Indian brands not because they are Indian, but they meet quality standards too.”
He believes that the discerning Indian luxury customer, who would typically opt for Tiffany or Cartier, would subconsciously be thinking about wearing a Zoya versus an international brand. Be it product quality to design inspiration and storytelling, the staff quality or ambience, we are up there, as good as international brands or even better. Of course a Cartier has been around for decades, but as years pass by I am confident Zoya would have as many patrons.”
The lifestyle major recently opened the first Tanishq store in the US (at Edison in New Jersey) which also houses its luxury brand, Zoya. In his presentation to the diaspora audience, Venkatraman called Tanishq the ‘Tiffany of the East’. “This was a phrase coined by our founder, Xerxes Desai. Since we have a store in the US, I said that the Tiffany of the East has come closer to the Tiffany of the west.” By the end of 2023, the US would have four Tanishq stores. “We have major international expansion plans for Tanishq and Zoya would travel all over with Tanishq. We already have 20 stores in the UAE.”
This is not the first time Tanishq has ventured into international markets. The brand had set up stores in the early 2000s but pulled out by 2006. “We had wrongly judged the longevity of the NRI there,” says Venkatraman. “We thought the young Indian would be assimilated into American culture, won’t be wearing sari or Indian jewellery, so we went the American way and sold fashion jewellery. It didn’t work,” he further adds.
He says Indians living abroad have become more Indian than the Indians in India. “They want to celebrate India, they are wealthier too. Therefore, this is the right time for Indian brands to be present globally.” Within India, the company has charted an expansion plan for its luxury jewellery brand, Zoya. It plans to open eight more exclusive Zoya stores by 2027. The number may not sound as big, but the investment that goes into each Zoya store is in the region of ₹40-50 crore and luxury is meant to be scarce and unique.