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BY Saniya Sureka

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Subish Sudhakaran, Marketing Head, Sonata talks about Epic, Sonata’s collaboration with Flipkart and the appeal of affordable analogue watches

Q] Tell us about the insight behind launching Epic, a value- fashion range of watches by Sonata.
One of the opportunities we spotted was the explosion of awareness about fashion, even in the mass segment, the socio-economic classes of B2 and C1. This awareness to fashion was primarily driven by two things--access to smartphones, and nearly free internet. When it came to the watch category, we noticed that customers in the age group of 16 to 28 years are very fashion driven. They’re very value conscious and are deal hunters. They want the products at an extremely affordable price. This demand was being catered to by a whole set of unorganized players, there was no known brand doing that. We saw an opportunity here. That is how the journey of Epic started.

Q] How did you land on Flipkart as a good fit? Have you launched such a collaboration before?
We looked at what would be the best way to get these watches or this offer to the consumers sitting in the Tier II, Tier III and Tier IV towns of India. For this segment, one, we needed somebody who has a pan-India distribution, with a deep distribution into the heartlands of India and second, we were looking for a place where the consumer comes and spends time shopping. That is how the association with Flipkart came about and we found it to be a very good fit. There is a lot of overlap between Flipkart’s core audience and the core audience which we are targeting through Epic by Sonata. So, this is an exclusive partnership from Sonata and this is the first time we are doing something like this.

Q] Sonata is anyway the more affordable range from the Titan stable, and now you’re taking it a step further with Epic. How different will be the target audience for both?
We believe in democratizing fashion. We took on the journey of modernizing Sonata a couple of years ago. Sonata targets a slightly older target audience as compared to Epic. If I were to portray a Sonata customer, they would be in the age group of 25 to 40, their socio-economic class would be a CCB and not a CCC. In terms of value consciousness, there is a common thread, both the customers are highly value conscious. In the case of a Sonata customer; the trust and the assurance of Sonata is one of the first priorities. This is followed by price, and then, by style. Whereas for the Epic consumer, style is number one, prioritized over brand while price and deals are number two. And convenience is number three while brand would be number four. Sonata’s journey to modernize and contemporize itself will continue. Epic has a separate journey of democratizing fashion and reaching out to an audience which is much younger, one step lower in the socio-economic strata, and who like reaping the benefits of the opportunities we provide, especially, in the smaller towns of India. They’re two different opportunities- one tapped by the mother brand, one tapped by the sub brand, Epic.

Q] Smart phones & smart watches have to some extent replaced watches amongst millennials. How do you plan to lure these younger audiences back to the traditional watches?
The smart watches are a growing opportunity. But, if you see the Indian market, it’s a huge one, it is not one versus the other. The explosion of this fashion awareness looks at an analogue watch as something which completes their outfit. It is their style statement. This came out very strongly in our research, in which we would have spoken to more than 200 such customers, at various stages of the development of this project. We consciously chose to pursue this opportunity, because there are no branded players here; there’s no branded competition. There is no ‘one versus the other’; both are opportunities. Sonata as one brand chose to pursue this through Epic.

Q] What role are you hoping that Epic will play in #VocalforLocal
Both Sonata and Flipkart are homegrown brands, they are Indian brands. The other point, and this is an interesting point, is that these watches are manufactured in India. Hence, there are subsequent benefits in terms of employment, vendors and so on in India. It is a watch manufactured locally, and not imported.

Q] What kind of market share does Sonata currently have in the affordable watch category?
If you were to look at the less than Rs. 1000 price brand, a large part of it is unorganized. In terms of real numbers, it is very hard to track because of the unorganized players- there is no record of those numbers. In the organized market, Sonata is the largest player, that is something which we’re sure about, in the less than Rs. 1000 price band.

Q] With the pandemic, there has been a stay-at-home culture that has come up. What has been the effect of that on the market for watches?
I will talk specifically about Epic by Sonata, and Sonata. Whenever we launch any initiative; we take a slightly longer-term view. Yes, the pandemic is a reality. Yes, it has affected consumption, but we see it as a short-term occurrence. In the long term,in some of the key trends, we see a distinct uptick in spending and the per capita income of the mass segment. We feel that opportunity still exists. The pandemic may be a hurdle, like the ones long distance sprinters face. We will have to cross it.

Q] What kind of trends are you seeing on account of the pandemic?
There are various opportunities which the pandemic presented like the shift to online buying. A portion ofthe demand for watches has moved online. We saw an opportunity there. In fact, Epic by Sonata is something which corroborates that opportunity. Here, we are launching a sub brand which is sold only online, through Flipkart. Another trend, is a lot more value consciousness in the Sonata target audience. Even Sonata’s target audience which is in the 25- 40 age group has come online and are using the app economy.

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