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This article was first published 12 years ago

The secrets behind Titan's success

Last updated on: October 17, 2011 15:24 IST

Sayantani Kar in Mumbai

Not many brands live by what they preach. Taglines are often born out of a creative team's clever phrasing or a strategy team's eye on a certain positioning.

For Titan Industries' Fastrack 'Move on' is a way of life. From a sub-brand with a fuzzy identity to a bonafide youth brand, Fastrack sure has moved on.

The brand, which was conceived in 1998 as a flanker to fend off a competitor and insulate Titan from the fray, now contributes about 25 per cent to Titan Industries watch division's profits, raking in close to Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion).

Initially called Titan Fastrack, it was meant to be a brand of cool watches; but it soon became clear that defining cool was far from easy.


The secrets behind Titan's success

It started with funky packaging and then with steel bands to make the range look sharp. People into their first jobs were its targets.

However, around the same time, Titan Industries was also contemporising the Titan range, with similar metals and communication.

"Fastrack was then just a sub-brand of Titan. It was only in 2005-06 that the brand came into its own," says Bijou Kurien, who left the company as chief operating officer in 2006, after 19 years with Titan Industries. He is now president (lifestyle) at Reliance Retail.

Titan Industries had entered a joint venture with Timex Corporation, leading US fashion watch manufacturer, in 1992, which broke off in 1998.

"Timex had been conceived as a young brand while Titan would focus on premium watch buyers. After the JV ended, there was an opportunity for Fastrack to be launched as the youth brand from Titan," says Kurien.


The secrets behind Titan's success

In 2004, another division called the Accessories and Licensing Business launched sunglasses under the brand name Fastrack.

It had already been selling licensed eyewear by FCUK and Tommy Hilfiger. But it was only in 2005 that Titan Industries took the decisive call to hive off Fastrack as a separate business unit.

"In 2005, we saw the opportunity of bringing all the divisions under one umbrella," says Ronnie Talati, vice-president and business head, Fastrack & New Brands. By then, there were all of 1,500 products carrying the Fastrack tag.

The total turnover then was Rs 30 crore, from 1.5 lakh watches and 30,000-40,000 sunglasses being sold that year. Sunglasses accounted for about 25 per cent of the sales at that time.


The secrets behind Titan's success

Image: John Abraham as the celebrity ambassador for Titan

Making it happen

Kurien recalls, "We started investing a lot more in the brand, we signed up John Abraham as the celebrity ambassador." It started with defining the look (stress on design) and the price (introduced lower priced watches) of the products.

The company put in place a separate distribution network for Fastrack rather than let the brand piggy ride on Titan's network of stores and increased counter displays at all Titan showrooms.

Then of course, there was the decision to enter other categories, inspired by its successful foray into sunglasses.

"We weren't willing to run out of options for the youth and wanted to move beyond being a watch brand," says Kurien of Fastrack's transition to a full-fledged youth brand.

Titan put together dedicated teams for sourcing, marketing and sales for the products sold under the Fastrack umbrella. Talati says, "We even moved to a new office."


The secrets behind Titan's success

The first year of hiving off Fastrack as a separate business unit resulted in a 130 per cent increase in revenues, according to Talati.

The brand now sells 3 million watches and 1 million sunglasses a year. Bags, belts and wallets are the latest in the range of accessories launched in 2010. These accessories together account for 40 per cent of Fastrack's revenues on an average.

The year 2005 also saw the brand beefing up its retail muscle. Stores with around 500 square feet of retail space each were added. These stores get half their revenues from accessories.

Even though the bulk of Fastrack's sales (60-70 per cent) still come from multi-brand outlets, the like for like growth in sales at the exclusive stores has been 100 per cent over the last year with a conversion rate of 75 per cent (the total walk-ins at the 63 stores stand at 3,000 per month).

Streets near colleges and college towns such as Manipal have appeared on its store map along with high streets in metros and small cities such as Vizag and Kolhapur. Apart from Fastrack stores, each category is available in 1,000 to 3,000 multi-brand outlets.


The secrets behind Titan's success

Marketing to the youth is no child's play. Fastrack realised that when launching itself as an SBU (strategic business unit).

It made the logo more energetic, removed the upfront mention of Titan (seen by youngsters as a serious brand) and stopped using the Mozart tune.

Dheeraj Sinha, chief strategy officer at Bates 141, says youth brands need a single-minded effort rather than sit on the fence.

"The biggest challenge to build a youth brand is to avoid the trap of defining the audience as between 25-35 years old," says Sinha.

"There are just too many young-looking brands that talk to them. A youth brand should bite the bullet and let go of such a wide definition. It should be able to exclude all other age groups and look at only young people, talk to them like a 20 year old and not a 35 year old. As a result, the brand might have to say and do things which might shock older generations," he adds.


The secrets behind Titan's success

According to Sinha, brands such as Fastrack, Virgin Mobile and Indian Killer Jeans have managed to stay relevant to its target audience with edgy imagery.

Having said that, Fastrack is now targeting a lower age group than when it started. Earlier the target audience was 25-35 year-olds while now the core group is 18-20 year old.

"We are clear about our core target group. Our sense is that older people want to feel younger and the young want to feel older. We talk to people in their language," says Ronnie Talati.

The communication that followed in the wake of the rebranding in 2005 asked "How many you have?".

It referred to the urge for variety and constant change in accessories, including watches, among college students. It made way for the next campaign 'Move On' (to newer range of accessories) with couples swapping the watches and sunglasses they had gifted each other before breaking up.


The secrets behind Titan's success

Next came the series featuring young icons, cricketer Virat Kohli and actor Genelia D'Souza. The campaign highlighted the range of bags Fastrack launched last year, taking a cheeky look at how young people flirted with the opposite gender.

The current campaign, which features the same duo in racy ads in the next edition, gives us a take on why the world moved on to automatic contraptions such as auto-pilot, answering machines etc.

Of the total ad budget of Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million), Fastrack spends half on watches and the rest goes into sunglasses and the new accessories range.

Rajiv Chatterjee, vice-president, Lowe Lintas, the agency handling the Fastrack account, says, "We were clear that we had to attract the young college-goers, and we knew that if we chased this objective, it could possibly get a few raised eyebrows from their parents.

Both 'How many...' and 'Move on' refer to their habits in accessories and also their outlook towards attraction and desirability. We did not want to sound judgmental or tell them what to do. We have said, 'It is ok' in a conversational tone that has got the youth to relate to Fastrack."


The secrets behind Titan's success

Staying on top

Fastrack has stuck to its pegs of design and variety. Design boundaries have been pushed with different straps (made of denim, metal and synthetic materials), hands of the watches and cases. Themes have spanned bikes, army, beaches, outdoor sports and hip-hop music.

"We need to keep reinventing for the youth. Over the last five years, we have changed our brand ambassadors to keep it fresh. The audience's attention span is less and hence, we refresh our collections as well," points out Talati.

Sinha adds, "Fastrack has consistently leveraged the potent insight of young people's aversion to commitment, be it relationships, jobs or the accessories they flaunt. What has also helped them is the fact that a majority of the Indian youth does not have a penchant for international brands like they do in other countries. They would relate to an interesting brand that is real rather than hanker after a knockoff of an international brand."


The secrets behind Titan's success

While Fastrack has successfully walked the marketing tightrope of speaking exclusively to teenagers, it has also walked the talk of a teen brand by keeping prices firmly in check.

Its watches range between Rs 695 and Rs 3,500, sunglasses Rs 695-2,500, bags Rs 595-2,500 and belts Rs 195-1,095. Sinha says, "There has to be a sweet-spot of aspiration and affordability for the youth."

In effect, Fastrack has come to occupy the sub-Rs 1,500 slot in watches, with just 15-20 per cent of its range priced above it.

By virtue of being a stylish but affordable brand in sunglasses, it has filled a gap between the RayBans of the world at the upper end and the unbranded flea-market bargains at the lower end. With bags, belts and wallets, it has eschewed leather goods for materials that help keep the costs low, weather rough use and also look good.


The secrets behind Titan's success

Talati says, "We have kept a check on our costs by ensuring a lean team but one that means business. The average age in our office is 25-26 years. Having a young team helps us feel the youth's pulse."

While Titan watches would have strength of over 150 people, Fastrack has 60 people manning the various functions, with a brand manager for each category.

At the retail front, only 10 stores are company-owned, the rest managed by franchisees. The production of the accessories is outsourced while watches are a mix of in-house and third-party manufacturing.

Fastrack also ensures the materials used don't add to the price of the products but lend themselves to innovative designs.


The secrets behind Titan's success

Talati says the brand is the entry barrier for competition. "It will be difficult to beat the way youngsters relate to our brand," he points out.

"None of the other brands that operate in the accessories' space are solely focused on accessories; accessories are just one part of a larger portfolio. So they end up concentrating more on their flagship products such as sports shoes, luggage etc. In contrast, we have separate ad budgets and teams to service these product categories."

Sinha points out a challenge for Fastrack: "The challenge for Fastrack is to sustain its message of Move On. It has taken one aspect and stuck to it for so long. But how long before its target audience finds it repetitive?"

For its part, Fastrack is working on a new line of attack. Next up are helmets and fashion footwear. These could prove to be much more difficult to crack - with helmets offering little in terms of precedents and fashion footwear a problem of plenty. But then who said Fastrack was afraid of changing the rules of the game?

Source: source