SHARLEEN D’SOUZA, Business Standard
Mumbai, 10 October 2022
In early 1994, Titan started selling watches with precious stones in them and called this new line, Tanishq. It went on to become a separate division of Titan Company and grew into the country’s largest branded jewellery outfit, helping raise Titan’s sales to ~28,799 crore last financial year.
Thirteen years later, in 2007, Titan Eye+ set out to shake up the eyewear market. Though it also sells sunglasses of other brands, it is the prescription segment that Titan redefined and now, according to its website, has 550 Eye+ exclusive stores in 229 cities.
In 2017, Titan sought to do an encore in yet another large market in which the demand, as in jewellery and eyewear, was almost recession-proof and largely commoditised, leaving ample space for a pan-Indian branded chain. Thus was born Taneira, with an avowed intent to become the country’s largest organised saree retailer.
“Titan had earlier tried to organise the jewellery market through Tanishq, which is successful, and this is an attempt by Titan to organise the saree market,” Ambuj Narayan, chief executive officer (CEO) of Taneira, told Business Standard.
What is unsaid is that jewellery to sarees can also be seen as a horizontal brand extension, the two do go together on occasion.
The Indian wear market is a 5,000-year old segment estimated to be worth ₹50,000 crore a year and growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6 to 8 per cent. Sarees account for 80 to 85 per cent of its sales, with kurta sets, blouses, and lehengas comprising the rest. Yet, despite the size and growth, there is hardly any nationally known brand in this segment, with Nalli Silks being one of the notable exceptions.
Titan insiders say the company believed sarees to be a natural extension for it, given its past success with design-led lifestyle brands. They say the company organised an internal competition to see who came up with the best expansion strategy.
The result is a bouquet of design-differentiated products — primarily sarees and kurta sets — made from pure natural fabrics sourced from all over India. The company put together more than 100 craft clusters representing the diverse weaves. These include the Banarasi sarees from Uttar Pradesh, Kanjivaram from Tamil Nadu, Chanderi and Maheshwari from Madhya Pradesh, and Jamdani from West Bengal. The output is a mix of contemporary ethnic wear for women across life stages and occasions — college, office wear, party wear, festivals, and weddings, with bridal sarees being the speciality. The prices range from ₹1,000 to ₹2,00,000.
“The Tata group’s ventures have always been consistent with their approach — they stay the course beyond initial hiccups and eventually scale up the business. This is very much how Titan and Tanishq worked their way from initial struggles to eventually scale and become nationwide brands,” said retail expert Devangshu Dutta, CEO at Third Eyesight.
To say that Taneira has had initial hiccups would be an understatement. Three years after its launch, the Covid-induced lockdowns and restrictions brought the entire retail sector down to its knees.
Baptism by Covid
“Pandemic restrictions and high Covid-19 anxiety among the people kept socialising and weddings at a very low level of activity over the past couple of years. For Taneira, being a nascent brand with a yet-to-be-established customer base, the operating environment has been particularly tough,” Titan Company said in its FY22 annual report.
Taneira used this time to realign its strategy of connecting with customers. Thus, during 2021-22, which braved the second Covid wave in its first quarter — the dreadful Delta — and saw the third wave creep into its fourth quarter, sales at Titan’s Indian dress wear division grew by 55 per cent.
Narayan, the CEO, attributes this growth to initiatives that included staying close to the customer through e-commerce. “We really drove e-commerce out and reached out to our customers through video calling and try-at-home activities,” he said.
As consumer sentiment started to improve, Taneira already had two collections ready — wedding weave and the summer collection — which boosted sales. During 2021-22, it also increased its store count to 20 by adding six more. During the fourth quarter, Taneira sales rose 4 per cent.
Today, there are 27 Taneira stores in 11 cities across India. It plans to expand to Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in the first phase and then to Tier 3 in the second phase of its store expansion.
However, Vishal Gutka, vice-president of research (consumer and retail sector) at Phillip Capital, said: “Taneira follows the same principle Titan used for Tanishq, where it entered an unorganised category and expanded it. But it is still early days to gauge how Taneira will pan out. Also, the company needs to give more clarity on the unit economics of each store.”
Weaving an expansion plan Titan’s annual report talks of a robust expansion plan for Taneira this financial year: “We plan to grow at an exponential rate and make our store count around 60 by the end of the current fiscal year and open overseas stores in markets having an Indian diaspora such as the US.” It adds that Taneira will become a more significant contributor to the overall revenue of Titan in the medium term.
At the heart of this grand ambition lies the humble weaver. Taneira now has close to 1,200 dedicated looms and has a programme called Weaver Shala to support them with technical expertise and in modernising their facilities. It has introduced frame looms along with basic workspace facilities for the weavers in collaboration with the localised weaver-led organisations.
The brand has closely worked with the weavers in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, and Champa, Chhattisgarh, and aims to take Weaver Shala to other parts of the country.
Taneira leverages Tanishq’s brand strength; mannequins at Tanishq stores, for instance, are dressed in Taneira sarees.
However, Narayan said Taneira and Tanishq will not be sold under the same roof because Titan wants to establish Taneira as a distinct brand in its own right.
(Published in the Business Standard)