Digital Delight - Redefining Customer Experiences: Ajoy Chawla

In a virtual dialogue, Ajoy Chawla, CEO Jewellery Division, Titan Company chats about the market share of its brands, its individual brand identities, the switch from locker kept to daily wear jewellery, usage of tech innovations, riding on customer experiences, and more.

I have enough jewellery, said no woman ever. Striking the right chord with women in India and overseas, is Titan Jewellery through its various brands. Titan Jewellery, comprising renowned brands such as Tanishq, Zoya, Mia, and CaratLane, leads the industry with innovative advertising and marketing strategies, seamlessly integrating digital channels to elevate customer experiences.

Including international presence, Titan Jewellery runs about 455 stores across 250 plus towns under Tanishq. For Mia there are 151 stores, but mostly in the top 30 - 35 towns. Caratlane is at 250 plus stores across 97 towns. Zoya has eight stores across four towns.

In a virtual dialogue, BW Marketing World spoke to Ajoy Chawla, CEO Jewellery Division, Titan Company about the market share of its brands, its individual brand identities, the switch from locker kept to daily wear jewellery, usage of tech innovations, riding on customer experiences, and more.

Edited excerpts:

Titan Jewellery overall has four brands - Zoya Tanishq, CaratLane and Mia. What is the total market share that Titan Jewellery (with its four brands together) holds in the Indian jewellery market?

Our estimate in the last fiscal year was around 7.2 or 7.3 per cent because frankly, the denominator is a very difficult one. We might have inched up to 7.5 per cent in the first half this year. Our estimate was about 4,50,000 - 4, 80,000 crores last year. And this year, we don't know where it will end, but we think it may be closer to 5.5 lakh crores or so.

We are aiming at a 1 per cent share gain every year, and hopefully by FY’27 get to at least a ten 10 – 11 per cent market share, that is our ambition and aspiration.

Each of these brands - Zoya, Mia, Tanishq and CaratLane have their own brand individuality. Please elaborate.

So in terms of scale, obviously Tanishq is on a very different scale. It's in a market opportunity which is much wider. Tanishq would be 96 – 97 per cent of the total business. In a way they target different segments. And if I think of it from number of customers, Tanishq, this year may end up having 2,50,000 to 3,000,000 customers in the year. Whereas if I think of Mia, it may be closer to 4,50,000 to half a million in the year. And the ticket value is different – in Tanishq the ticket value will be around 1,40,000 whereas in Mia it'll be around 31,000 – 32,000.

And if I think of CaratLane, it is likely to be over a million customers. But again, at an average ticket size of 27,000 - 28000. And Zoya, very small - this year, maybe we may have around 5000 odd customers and the ticket size will be in the 6 – 6.5 lakh space.

So they are very different. Tanishq is certainly very popular because it is catering to a wider range of customers and it's playing in the mainstream jewellery space, whereas CaratLane is in a space where it is shaping a segment of customers, which is younger, modern - working professionals, everyday adornment. I mean in that space even Tanishq has got a good collection, good offering because Tanishq was into democratizing diamonds, so many years ago. Tanishq has a good space – so does CaratLane as well as Mia. All of them are catering to this modern consumer who is adornment driven, who is more inclined to studded, so it's a different segment there.

But Tanishq appeals to wedding on the one hand to high value studded on the other to mainstream traditional jewellery, antique jewellery, occasion wear, so on and so forth.

How and what has instigated a switch in the mindset of the consumer from keeping jewellery in the locker to utilising it for daily wear?

There are many forces that play. So one of them is a secular force over a period of time that people are seeking, adornment as opposed to investment. It is a clear trend. There are so many other ways to invest your money, right? You don't have to really invest it through jewellery.

I'd rather use jewellery to wear and express myself, so that's the second one. Self-expression is really at the heart of it. Every woman, every male - everybody wants to express themselves uniquely and I think that's typically the trend of an evolving economy as people become more evolved consumers, they're looking at different ways to express themselves, from grooming to fashion to lifestyle. And therefore jewellery was also part of that very much part of that.

The third angle that I'm seeing is that post pandemic, there is a certain shift in the mind. This is my theory. It's not borne out by some data and it's not a thesis, but it's a theory, which says that I believe that the customer is wanting to live for today much more. She doesn't know what tomorrow will bring life and the uncertainty of life has gone up on many fronts. So live for the moment. Live for today. Enjoy your holidays. Enjoy your eating. Do what do you want to do, now. Who knows what you will face. So I think that subconsciously the customer is also shifted in her mind.

And of course the third angle to this is gold prices. When gold prices go up so significantly. You know, people also want to buy something lighter and something which is more wearable as opposed to keeping in the locker.

Tanishq has introduced its Dharohar Metaverse Store. A lot of other brands in the market have shown a keen interest in the utilisation of technology, AR, VR, Metaverse. How is the Dharohar Metaverse Store going to be different from what the other players are doing in the market? In what way is Titan Jewellery going to improve on its technological muscle across its brands?

I would think that Dharohar is not something which everybody is doing. It is a unique, immersive experience. It's a unique way to get customers introduced to the collection online in an immersive and interactive manner.

And virtual try-ons are something which people have done. But not in this - here the virtual try-on is just one element of the entire experience.

The second piece is that for us, innovation in the way we connect with customers and the way we introduce our brand messaging and marketing stories to customers is an ongoing thing. So we keep doing innovative things in media, marketing, our stores, but using technology also is now a new lever.

So we are doing a lot of work when it comes to AI and ML be it in terms of customising and personalising messaging, be it in terms of leveraging AI even for interacting with customers online. Though, we prefer a lot more physical chats with customers which are by real people, but we have experimented with that as well. Let's say for Mia, we've done that in the form of a AI bot.

So we have done a lot of work on the technology front. Besides the regular omni commerce and improvements, we are working on a platform - the CRM platform salesforce and integrating that with our website on the one side. And the POS on the other side, which is in the store - integrating the physical store with the digital asset and leveraging the CRM platform in between, we've done a lot of work on that.

We've also done a fair amount of work on Endless Aisle - it is something which is now an integral part of every store, so that if customers don't find what they're looking for, they can look up on the virtual Endless Aisle. If they like something, they can place an order for it. We'll order it within two days. It'll be in our store and the person can then come and check it out or complete the transaction.  So a fair amount of work on many dimensions of customer experience and customer convenience has been happening and we will continue to invest in digital. It's a very big space and I would believe we have, there's only started scratching the surface. There's a lot more which the digital interface will bring and opportunities will be very high.

Customisation, personalisation and premiumisation are the keywords in the jewellery market today. So how are you looking at building the four brands across Titan jewellery on these pointers?

I think customisation is something that the jewellery industry has done all its life, to be honest. Being able to personalise messaging, personalised memory, being stored etc, those are many things which different brands are doing. Currently Mia is doing some work on personalisation of saying when you buy something as a gift or you get a gift, you also get a QR code, that has a message from the gifter to the giftee for posterity. So that's an interesting way to look at it.

But in Zoya for example, we're doing a lot of bespoke. We do create products which are specifically sometimes Co created with the customer and with a with a designer working and we completely new products and they are unique to them. We don't create that for anybody else then.

In Tanishq we have a lot of customisation. As in, we do take a lot of customer orders, even if we leave aside the ones related to sizing of rings and bangles, which is a common piece. We do a lot of custom orders which are unique and you know, designed with our designers, with the customers’ inputs. Sometimes the customer will come and say I want to do a product like this brand. Then we say no, we cannot do another brand. But then we understand what she's looking for, and then we try to give her options. And then we do a co-creation to say does this sound exciting you?

So we do create and a lot of customisation of orders happens for occasions, for weddings, for anniversaries, for special occasions.

Premiumisation - I think that's a larger trend. We're seeing a lot of premiumisation in the Indian economy be it across categories whether it is jewellery, whether it's watches, whether it's perfumes or eyewear, hotels, cars, garments, fashion wherever you take. I think that's because there is a substantial chunk of customers who have a higher disposable income. Their per capita incomes have gone up and people want to indulge and splurge on themselves so that is an enduring theme. And I think that will continue to grow at a rapid pace because as India's economy grows and the per capita GDP grows from $2000, maybe going to $4000. That is something which we will see like every other economy has seen internationally.

So I think we'll see a lot more of premiumisation and we are seeing it in Tanishq - about 11 – 12 per cent ticket size growth in the first half of the year, and we're seeing higher growth rates in the higher price points.

So yes, we are seeing premiumisation in the Indian economy and in jewellery for Tanishq, for sure.

The wedding season coupled with the festive season - what kind of trends and innovations are expected to disrupt the market?

The innovations that we are actively pursuing is that of product innovation. So if you're able to give people exciting products, this whole collection based strategy in jewellery category, which is very uncommon as something which Titan and Tanishq has done. Before Tanishq, most jewellers would simply advertise products in occasions and discounts.

But Tanishq has led the way with the seeing every season some new collection. In fact, we launched 7 or 8 collections in a year and that is what keeps customers excited. So it's kind of enable the category to move from investment to adornment or from status to adornment. And that is something which we continue to do.

The second big thing which is I don't know if it's an innovation or it's something which is reinforcing trust or it is also, solving the customer challenge. Actively encouraging and promoting exchange in our stores - we see it as a growth driver. We see it as something which solves the customers’ problem, especially when gold prices are so high.

We want to solve the problem of people by saying bring your old gold or your non Tanishq gold or Tanishq gold and get a fair and transparent valuation which are very clearly policy-driven. It is not individual driven and I think that reinforces trust, but it also solves a customer problem. So this year, during the Navratri - Dussehra period, we saw 40 per cent contribution of gold exchange and another 15 per cent contribution with Tanishq exchange. So 55 per cent of our sales came through exchange in the 10 days of Navratri, which is much higher than what it usually is. Usually it'll be in the 32 – 33 per cent range plus another 10-15 per cent. So we saw clear 5-6 percentage jump during the 10 days of festivities and I think it's to do with gold price as well as highlighting this in every communication. Exchanging your gold - it's good for the planet, good for the customer and it's good for us. So it's good all round and it's good for the country. We'll  import less gold if you're able to recycle more gold.

What is going to be the focus of the advertising and marketing strategy for Titan Jewellery brands, be it across Zoya, Mia, Caratlane and Tanishq - because obviously they are individualistic brands?

So if I think of the next three months, there's a lot of advertising which will keep happening as we launch collections and as we do different things. So in Tanishq, the focus right now, after the festive will move on to wedding - we will do a lot of wedding-related communication and within that, exchange will play continue to play a big role.

So wedding and exchange will go hand in hand over the next couple of months. And then by December end, or January we'll probably launch a new collection etc.

So everything that will keep the growth engine flowing and establishing the brand Tanishq in a very respected space. We will continue to target different segments, some in the premium space, some in the modern space, etc. But something which is trustworthy, respectable and exciting designs will be the thrust of our advertising.

And during festive and during wedding, we will do a lot of work on exchange as well. So exchange will continue to play a big role along with wedding as we go forward, in the next couple of months.

If I look at the Mia, it has launched a collection called the Starburst Collection for the festive season and it'll keep launching new collections. It is targeting a much younger customer and a much more fashion-conscious customer. So the segment will continue to pursue that, thebrand advertising will go in that direction and most of it is digital advertising.

When it comes to CaratLane, the brand is playing an interesting space on emotions as well as in terms of gifting and design-driven. So, but these are the three pillars on which CaratLane is operating, and a lot of the marketing is on these mini occasions that customers have, and how does Caratlane be the right gift for self or for others.

Mia's talking about self-expression in jewellery, but Caroline is saying this is something which I deserve, which I owe to myself.

So I would want to buy CaratLane as a self reward, you know for an important occasion - it could be something small, it could be something big. So there's a lot of emotion and there is a fair amount of design differentiation as well because it helps me to express myself as well in unique ways.

But it's a lot about, you know, how do I feel about it? I feel good about myself and therefore I want to celebrate by wearing a CaratLane.

Zoya is in the space of targeting a customer who's been there, done that. So she is also in a way, talking about her own self-expression. There it's about being I as a woman. I'm complete. I'm an achiever. I'm well-travelled, well exposed. I embrace my femininity. And it's all lot about self-love, self-indulgence, if I may say so, because this is the journey of the heroine and all of Zoya's campaigns are based on that theme.

It is a heroine's journey, which is a myth which where the woman starts off as somebody who's looking up to her father figure, who is an achiever. She goes there, does that and has achieved everything. And then as she matures, she realises that she is not just an achiever, but also a woman. And she accepts her femininity and embraces it and becomes complete - it's a cycle. It's a journey she undergoes, and that journey is what Zoya is targeting - the heroine’s journey. There was a campaign - My Embrace, and there was another one - Her Becoming. Both these campaigns will play on that.

The brand Tanishq, as a strategy, always champions the protagonist.

The woman in the Tanishq brand speaks to and for the woman as a progressive woman.

From a broad strategy point of view, Tanishq is targeting a progressive woman who is playing an important role in society. She is self-expressive, but she's also carrying and nurturing newer traditions in society. She's both the keeper of culture as well as taking it forward and creating a legacy for the future. So she's she's playing an interesting role. She's modern in her thinking. She is inheriting some interesting cultural legacies, but interpreting it in her ways and trying to create a narrative which is unique to her. That's the underlying theme of the Tanishq campaigns.

With the rising purchasing power of people in the tier II and tier III markets, how do you plan to tap the growing demand of these markets and what kind of cultural nuances are kept in mind while catering to this particular TG in these markets?

So first and foremost, presents in those stores in those cities is something which we are constantly expanding. We are present in close to 250 towns, and many of them are 1,00,000, 2,00,000 and 3,00,000 population towns. So our presence in many towns has gone up and it will continue to go up. So, that’s middle India for you.

Second is we are doing a lot of regionalisation. So the products that we create are appropriate for that market.

And thirdly, the campaigns are not just adapted, but it is created for that market. So for example, when we do Pudhumai Penn as a theme for Tamil Nadu, it is about the pride that the Tamil woman has for being the Keeper of Culture, and yet, being the change agent.

But when we do Aishani in Bengal, it is about the real power of the woman is within her, and as opposed to being a destructive power, it is a power to influence that we are celebrating. And in the case of the Telugu customer, when we launch the Kakatiya collection it is the pride in her cultural legacy, little bit similar to what we did for Tamil Nadu except that here it is more in the architectural beauty and cultural richness of that particular collection.

We did the Chola collection in for Tamil Nadu. So this is not for small towns, as much as for communities. The community nuances are what we need to get. The town may be small or big. If you are from that community, you'll connect with it.

But for the small town it's about stores and products, and ensuring that we have the right kind of experience inside - the store is a very welcoming experience.