By IANSlife Features
September 29, 2020 (IANSlife) After a tough six months of pandemic (and continuing) wherein most of us were resigned to our homes and restrained ourselves from socialising, finally festive season ushers in hope and good cheer.
During a typical Diwali and wedding season, there is always a rush for gold, jewellery and gems. can we expect to see the same investment even when the big fat Indian has dramatically slimmed down? Will Diwali festivities lack the lustre of gifting due to restrained and cautious socialising?
IANSlife speaks to Ajoy H Chawla, Chief Executive Officer of Titan’s Jewellery business that houses iconic brands such as Tanishq, Mia, Zoya and CaratLane. Titan's Jewellery arm today has a network strength of 450+ exclusive retail outlets in 200+ towns and an extensive manufacturing and geographically dispersed sourcing network in India. Zoya, introduced its new collection, Rooted— an exquisite lineup of over 45 pieces for the modern sophisticate. Seeking cues from the inner strength of the feminine spirit, the collection is in keeping with the brand's deep commitment to fine design and impeccable craftsmanship.
The Big Fat Indian wedding has become a lighter affair, do you think this will impact jewellery trends?
Chawla: In general, we feel that weddings will continue to be a major occasion for jewellery purchase. Our luxury brand Zoya is not really a bridal jewellery brand. It is bought for the celebration of personal milestones, and that includes gifts for weddings where customers may be looking for something eternal, beautifully crafted and meaningful to commemorate the special occasion. The target audience that Zoya caters to is also not as economically impacted as much as they are impacted by sentiment. Thus, they would not hold back on purchasing jewellery, at least we have not seen any evidence of that. Since precious jewellery is seen as an asset that appreciates in value over time unlike other expenditures in a wedding that are solely experiential, it is likely that people are going to spend as much, if not more on jewellery, hence gaining significantly in share of wallet.
Rooted is a lineup of over 45 modern pieces do you think these are pieces in keeping with the new age bride who wants to be able to re-wear jewellery often?
Chawla: Zoya in many ways is redefining the luxury jewellery segment, with a focus on aesthetic and craftsmanship. It is not really targeting the wedding / bridal market. Rooted is a collection that celebrates the journey of the Zoya woman as she reconnects with her feminine self. It seeks to enable the woman who plays multiple roles in her life including that of a nurturer, caregiver, and an ambitious go-getter to embark on a journey of rediscovering her authentic self.
The Zoya woman is well travelled, exposed to the best in the world and aesthetically astute. She is a mature individual and this collection symbolises her resilience and mirrors her attitude to break free from the confines of societal expectations, delving deep within to draw strength. The collection’s design has been inspired by motifs from the rainforest, which is a metaphor for this inner strength, and is an exquisite line up of colourful and spirited pieces to suit the different occasions.
The collection draws on motifs from the world’s rainforests, is this the brands way of showing support for environment and sustainability in the new normal?
Chawla: Each collection at Zoya takes between nine months to a year from concept to delivery. So, this collection was also planned almost a year ago, with designs inspired by the inner strength and resilience possessed by the rainforests in the face of climatic upheavals. It is serendipitous that we are launching it at a time when nature is teaching us a few things and the theme is more relevant than ever. There is more consciousness towards the environment and the planet, and there could not have been a better time to launch ‘Rooted’.
You have used the entire spectrum of gemstones, including emeralds, sapphires, tanzanites, etc Is this the brands attempt to bring joy and colour back into lives of women who have faced the brunt of the COVID-19 impact.
Chawla: Since the inception of the pandemic in March, people have had very limited social contact and there is a sense of frustration having to sit confined at home for so long, being unable to lead their lives as they previously did. They are seeking a release. The upcoming festive season gives people a reason to celebrate and connect; the colour and exuberance of this collection befits the celebratory experiences that we are all looking forward to.
Spearheading iconic brands such as Tanishq, Mia, Zoya and CaratLane, do you believe that luxury and jewellery are recession proof?
Chawla: It would be inappropriate for me to make such a sweeping conclusion. What I can share is that we have observed that when it comes to jewellery, people see it as an asset, whether it is gold or studded. It is timeless, precious and it appreciates in value over time. Further, In India, jewellery is deeply connected to rituals and sentiment; it is symbolic of the eternal love that binds a father and a daughter, welcoming a daughter in law in the family by gifting her a jewellery piece, celebrations of milestones and so on.
For the Zoya and the Tanishq customer, the impact is more humanitarian and on sentiment and not economic. Therefore, it is not about whether it is recession proof, it is about how the sentiment may be impacted. We are fortunate that this not so for our brands. In the last few months, we have seen a 90 percent recovery in Zoya and Tanishq and we are hoping it will continue through the festive season.
With the strength of 450+ exclusive retail outlets, do you think that online is now essential and the company has to re-focus its online strategy, or do you believe when it comes to jewellery nothing can replace touch and feel?
Chawla: I’d say the combination of online or physical is working well for us, a ‘phy-gital’ strategy. Being physically present in smaller towns has been beneficial for us because different classes have been impacted differently. Our presence in middle India has especially benefitted Tanishq, protecting us from the higher impact of Covid in metros and bigger cities.
For Zoya as a luxury brand, our focus has always been on personalisation and ensuring the comfort of the customer. Here also the ‘phy-gital’ strategy has actually worked well because jewellery is a high involvement purchase. Appointment based selling and home visits have been a way for life ever since the brand’s inception, and this continues with the addition of video and whatsapp call options for customers with our sales executives who not only act as jewellery advisors but put in a lot of effort to know the customers and understand their specific preferences. In order to make their special occasions memorable, we continue to curate experiences for our customers that are meaningful. Quite recently, we had a customer who wanted to make his spouse’s birthday special but did not want to step out of the house due to the situation. We arranged for a specially curated lunch for the couple from Taj with their favourite cuisine. This is how we personalise and provide bespoke services for our customers from the comfort and convenience of their homes.
In terms of sales during the upcoming festive season, what financial impact (in percentage or figures) do you think the COVID-19 will have?
Chawla: We will be able to share more information on the financials only after the Quarter-2 results are out.
Do you think we will find a spurt of revenge buying in the months of October through December as similar to what happened in China once everything was back up and running.
Chawla: Revenge buying is yet another piece of jargon that has been heavily used! I would simply call it about wanting to feel self-indulgent. Since people have been locked away for a while now, they would want to express themselves indulgently, celebrating the upcoming festive season. Coincidentally, ‘Rooted’ from Zoya is colourful, spirited and fluid – an exquisite symbol of self-expression. Further, Zoya is bought for celebrating personal milestones and special occasions and these are not going away, hence we are confident that the Zoya woman will want to acquire this exotic and unique collection as soon as she sets her eyes on it.
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