IJ EXCLUSIVE: “Consumers are moving away from conspicuous consumption, to more purposeful brands” – Ajoy Chawla, CEO Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited

In an exclusive interview with Indian Jeweller, Ajoy Chawla, CEO Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited, talks about how Zoya has always embraced technology and digital media to stay ahead of the curve and how for Titan market research and customer feedback are of utmost importance 

Post By : Vijetha Rangabashyam On 21 October 2020 9:38 AM

Ajoy Chawla, CEO Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited

1. How has Zoya capitalised on the digital channels to sell its jewellery to its discerning customers during this pandemic?

With Zoya we want to build a personalised and purposeful brand through our online and offline customer interactions. Our digital brand strategy is based on storytelling and driving engagement to build a community of women that resonate with the brand. Storytelling communicates Zoya’s philosophy, inspiration, design and craftsmanship, while relevant and meaningful content engages them. Brand stories are shared across channels – from our stores to our main website and social media accounts, creating a seamless and tailored experience for the customers. While home visits and appointment selling have been practiced in Zoya since its inception, we have also been doing video call selling since our boutiques reopened.It has helped us service customers across cities where we do not even have boutiques like Alwar, Jabalpur, Goa and so on.


2. Augmented reality is coming up in a big way in the jewellery industry - are Indian consumers ready for a contactless way of buying, especially when it comes to high-end jewellery?

Jewellery is a high involvement purchase so while remote selling has increased, customers often like to examine the products physically before making the purchase decision. We are trying to make the transition from offline to online as seamless as possible with customer convenience in mind, by having the better part of the transaction done virtually, but I believe the final decision making is still done in physically. This is why we have implemented a #SafetyinEighty protocol at all Zoya boutiques which addresses over 80 safety checkpoints to ensure customer safety and peace of mind.

3. The jewellery industry in India is by and large been lackadaisical when it comes to embracing technology – do you think this pandemic will change that?

The pandemic has made it necessary to embrace technology and remote selling has become very important in the last few months.Appointment selling and home visits have been a way for life for Zoya ever since the brand’s inception. We have also been doing video calls with our customers and taking them on virtual walkthroughs of our collections based on their preferences. Our focus has always been on personalisation and exclusivity, and this is why our jewellery advisors put in effort to understand individual requirements of customers in advance, so that a major part of the sales process is completed without the customers having to step out of the comfort of their homes.


4.  Zoya's new Bangalore store sales have touched 85% YOY for July and August - what has made this possible – and how have stores in Delhi and Mumbai performed?

Zoya is bought for the celebration of personal milestones and that is not going away. The customer segment for Zoya is also not as affected by the pandemic, and  with limited avenues to spend, people have more disposable income and they are looking to purchase jewellery to celebrate their accomplishments and commemorate special milestones. Since Bangalore is a new store, we don’t have figures to compare its performance with from last year, but have been encouraged by the walks ins and sales from our new store. It’s situated on Vittal Mallya Road, which is the hub of luxury in Bengaluru, and has received very good word of mouth and social media buzz, which has helped.  Considering the fact that people were hesitant to step out of their homes, we are happy to have seen a recovery rate of 85% YOY for July and August for Delhi and Mumbai. This has also been possible because of video calls and remote selling. It has helped us increase our reach across cities where we do not have boutiques and offer our personalised services to our customers.


5.What are some of the major changes/trends spurred by this pandemic in consumer behaviour?

The increase in digital buying is one change, that I think is here to stay. It’s very convenient to not have to drive out, find parking etc. and shop from the convenience of your homes.  In addition, from Zoya’s point of view, we have seen a shift in purchase behaviour. Consumers are moving away from conspicuous consumption, to more purposeful brands.

6. As a brand, Titan has always managed to understand what the consumer wants – how do you manage to do this?

While market research is an ongoing process, customer feedback is of utmost importance. In India, jewellery is not just considered as an asset, it also has emotional value. Therefore, customer relationship management not only helps us retain our customers but also encourages us to think differently to connect with the sentiment underlying the purchase. It helps us understand their needs and preferences as well as come up with innovative ideas to cater to the dynamic environment.

7. On one end we are talking about how consumers’ have more disposable income to spend towards jewellery from saving on other entertainment expenses like travel, eating out etc. On the other, we are also finding them to tread cautiously when it comes to spending on luxury, as it is not a necessity. What are your thoughts?

In my opinion, these thoughts are for customers on opposite ends of a spectrum. The first statement is applicable to the Zoya customer. Zoya is a luxury brand and its customers are HNIs, first generation businessmen, corporate czars, self-made people who are,in many ways, the modern version of royalty. The impact of the pandemic on them is more humanitarian than economic. They now have limited avenues to spend, have more disposable income so they can spend more on jewellery, which is an investment, and eternal. On the other hand, the second statement is applicable to a brand that caters to the masses and has a wide appeal like Tanishq where we have a different strategy, that addresses their concerns through product inventory and designs.

8. When do you believe the jewellery industry will crawl back to normalcy, when do you think it will go back to the pre-covid days?

It is difficult to predict exactly when we can go back to pre-covid days. However, we are hoping that after being locked at home for the last several months, with the upcoming festive season, customers will want to celebrate. Since jewellery is also considered as an asset, we are hoping the recovery will be faster as compared to other industries.

10. As one of India’s biggest corporate jewellers, what are your biggest mantras to stay resilient in these tough times and sail through it successfully?

Firstly, I believe it is important to take care of the people in the ecosystem, including your employees, vendor partners, franchisees and karigars and engaging them toavoid uncertainty and manage anxiety from their end. Secondly, having a positive outlook and being optimistic is extremely important in trying times like these when hope is what keeps one going. Lastly, being balanced is critical in such a situation because it requires both managing the short terms goals while plotting for the medium term. Resilience and learning to manage under extreme uncertainty is the key to sail through this successfully.

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