We are open to making smartwatches: Niladri Mazumdar

Sieko has been one of the leading names in watchmaking since 1881.

Sieko has been one of the leading names in watchmaking since 1881. From the first quartz watch in 1969 to the latest spring drive movement, innovation has never gone out of fashion at the Japanese company. Here, Niladri Mazumdar, president, Seiko Watch India, tells Nitin Sreedhar what keeps them going and how the advent of smartwatches has had a positive fallout for them.

Edited excerpts:

Seiko recently launched a premier boutique in New Delhi. How has the response been so far?

The boutique has been doing extremely well. Seiko boutiques across the world are similar. The sizes may differ depending on the place or location, but overall, the look and get-up are very similar, be it a boutique in Ginza, Tokyo, New York or Delhi.

How do you see the luxury watch segment diversifying in India?

Seiko has the unique distinction of having watches in both the affordable luxury and luxury categories. We ensure that as soon as a new product is launched, it’s launched in India immediately. In fact, it’s launched earlier in India than many other places.

In India, with the economy growing, the definitions of affordable luxury and luxury are changing. Today’s luxury might become the affordable luxury of tomorrow. Internationally, anything above $1,000 is considered affordable luxury and anything above $5,000 is considered luxury. In India, the premium category is above R15,000. Below that there are brands like Titan, Timex, Casio and fashion brands.

India has almost caught on with the rest of the world. The traction in the affordable luxury and luxury categories is huge. The Indian consumer today is one of the most well-educated in the world. Before they buy a watch, they go through a lot of research. Every Indian consumer looks for substance and value in the product. We have been growing at a CAGR of 25% every year and that can’t happen without having the right kind of product or having touched a chord with the Indian consumer.

A lot of conventional watchmakers have entered the smartwatch arena. Does Seiko have similar plans?

The smartwatch is something which is going to remain. But the five most important letters as far as smartwatches go are ‘APPLE’. Those are the only five letters we should be worried about. The other brands are all offering the same thing.

Will Seiko come into the smartwatch paradigm? Time will tell. When we have something really differentiated, we’ll definitely come in with it. A lot of people ask, “How many consumers have smartwatches taken away from you?” There’s a flip side to it. There will be a certain segment who would now wear a smartwatch.

The unique thing in India and the subcontinent is that a lot of people had stopped wearing traditional watches because they had a smartphone, etc. Now, a lot of the IT guys, techies who had bought smartwatches or the Apple Watch are coming back and saying they want to buy two or three of our watches. They have got accustomed to wearing something on the wrist and don’t want to wear that Apple Watch everywhere. They want some real, classy products.

So while I’ve lost some customers on the one hand, I’ve actually gained some more on the other.

How big is your portfolio in India?

We launched here in June 2007 and thanks to Indian consumers, who understand the product, we are already among the top three in the premium and affordable luxury segment. Five years back, we launched Seiko clocks in India and we are the leaders in the premium segment. In clocks, anything above R3,000 is premium.

There are so many new houses being built in India and that’s an opportunity for us. People are spending lakhs and crores of rupees on interiors and the clock has now become a decorative item. They don’t want a cheap brand, they want a quality brand. So these two categories have been doing well for us here. Clocks and watches are our core DNA, but other brands will come into our portfolio as and when we think the time is right.

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