TW Steel Brings Premium Branding and Affordable Luxury to India
Watches by TW Steel
Netherlands-based watch company TW Steel is all set to make an Indian advent in June 2013. Selling a quarter of a million watches a year via six and a half thousand retail points since only 2005, the company’s rapid success signals the threat of a fierce competitor in the Indian luxury watch market. While we talk to CCO Stewart Bain, we suggest you brace yourself for the changing times
What prompted your move to India?
Well to be honest, India didn’t just happen overnight. Yes, we’ve had amazing global success with the masses and with celebrities like Jay-Z and Kelly Rowland, but we are only seven-years-old. In India, we’re starting off on a blank slate. Our initiation was when I came down here last year and we started scouring the Indian market, even before we discussed a tie-up with Sahara Force India. There was a lot of energy in the fashion, lifestyle and luxury sector, and more importantly, here was a community that was extremely open to an over-sized watch product, which is part of our brand DNA. The Indian market appreciates nice things, but they like things for what they are, not how much they cost. That’s what had me sold on the market as a potential venture.
We’re not going to come in independently, that was never on our agenda. How can we be so arrogant to think that we know the Indian market better than the local established entrepreneurs? We will be here in partnership and via various tie-ups. We know a lot of brands are opting for the FDI provision, but we don’t intend to be one of them because that’s our standard strategy world over.
What sets you apart from the competition?
Celebrities like us because we’re a brand they’re happy to sport, but also a brand they know their fans can fathom buying. Other contributors to our success are accessibility, design and price points. We consider ourselves a coveted, affordable luxury. That’s our positioning. It’s not the price tag, but our individuality that makes us aspirational. Here’s how I see it. For those who have a big line-up of luxury cars like the Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini, etc, we’re like the Mini Cooper. You buy the Mini to appreciate the craftsmanship and make a statement, not just the price tag and snob value.
Typically, who is the TW Steel buyer?
Our buyer is aged between 25-45, but in the UK our buyers get younger like 18-19-year-olds who are looking for their first branded watch. It’s the young influencer who is upwardly successful, follows global trends, and wants something locally accessible to purchase.
Over-sized watches would largely attract male buyers, wouldn’t it?
Even though our watches are all about the big size, we have as many female patrons as we do men. There are many women who consciously opt for, or prefer the boyfriend jacket, the boyfriend shirt, the boyfriend cologne… same is the case with the watch. The Cool Black, a 50 mm watch that was designed for men did just as well with the women, even though it was extremely stealth looking. I think it’s for the women who want to make a bold, individualistic statement.
Stewart Bain, chief commercial officer, TW Steel
How do you position yourself against other luxury watch brands in the market?
We play in the luxury watch world, but we’re an ‘affordable luxury’ brand, and to be honest we don’t want to pretend to be something we’re not. People who have a Rolex, Panerai, Hublot, Audemar Piguet, also have us in their cache. Everyone is a competitor, competition is healthy. All the big brands are here in the Indian market already, and we too, are here to make our place. I think the individualism that TW Steel watches have in terms of look and feel will help us carve ourselves through the clutter.We play in the luxury watch world, but we’re an ‘affordable luxury’ brand, and to be honest we don’t want to pretend to be something we’re not. I think the individualism that TW Steel watches have in terms of look and feel will help us carve ourselves through the clutter.
Which collection do you think will work well in the Indian market?
Something to the tune of the Kelly Rowland Colour Edition.
Your price points?
We’re looking to roll out the $250-$300 range (approximately Rs 13,000-Rs 17,000).
What’s on the agenda for your first year?
On the agenda all of next year is publicity, brand building, and creating awareness. Also we will establish multiple tie-ups, put our watches on the right people, and make most of our partnership with Sahara Force India. As we are a lifestyle brand, it makes complete sense for us to forge alliances in the entertainment industry and also sponsor music events and parties.
Who will be the face of TW Steel in India?
We haven’t found our India face yet, but we don’t want to rush. Although, to be honest, observing the cricket craze in India brings a few players to mind.
Can you tell us about your partnership with Sahara Force India?
Our partnership with the team was a strategic move. Think about it, how else would you tap into one of the biggest potential watch markets but to join forces with the formula one team whose heritage is rooted in the home country. It’s not that complicated. It’s a popular sport that is gaining attention in this market and will take us up with it, the way we will them. It’s a win-win.
Would you consider tie-ups with Indian designers and country specific editions?
Our very first, The Force India watch has been worked on in tandem with Dr Mallya. And even though we’re confident that our portfolio has something for everyone, it’ll be interesting to tie-up with Indian designers and artists and create special editions to suit the local tastes.
When can we expect to see TW Steel in the Indian market?
Our first collection with Sahara Force India will be released in June. However, we’re still in discussion about dealerships and retail chains so those details will be available shortly.