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Titan has designs for Zoya jewellery in the luxury segment

Having become a dominant player in India’s jewellery market with Tanishq, Titan is now looking to capture the opportunity in the luxury segment with Zoya, its premium brand.

In the past decade, a handful of high-end luxury jewellers such as Amrapali, Viren Bhagat and Hazoorilal Jewellers have essentially been one- or two-location companies or those catering to a local customer base with ethnic designs and Indian sensibilities.

If there was one Indian jeweller who went about building a brand with both scale and international designer sensibilities, it was Nirav Modi, but his operation imploded when it was discovered he had allegedly been funding his business fraudulently. His uncle Mehul Choksi tried to do the same in the Indian context with ethnic designs, but Gitanjali Gems also failed for the same reasons.

As Tanishq plans a major entry in the US, opening stores in Houston, Dallas, and Chicago in the next 12 months, Zoya itself will automatically get visibility, after which the momentum will build, said Titan managing director CK Venkataraman.

The next decade will see an “explosion” of the top two income segments in the country: the elite and the affluent, with a doubling in the share of the contribution of those segments, he said.

Niche and small

The Tata-backed company reported revenue of Rs 200 crore for Zoya for the past nine months, its highest ever. It was about Rs 135 crore for the same period a year ago. Titan's goal is to increase business for Zoya fivefold to Rs 1,000 crore by 2027, Venkataraman added.

Like all super luxury or premium brands, Zoya will be a niche and small volume offering and won’t compete with Tanishq, which operates 400-plus stores in over 200 cities and generates about $3 billion in revenue.

“So, in relative size, Zoya will be small, but I expect very strong acceleration capable of catching up for lost time in the next five years,” Venkataraman said.

Zoya has seven standalone stores as of now and another six or seven will be opened in the next couple years. It recently launched one at the Taj Palace Hotel in Mumbai.

The Tanishq backend for sourcing and materials for Zoya jewels and pieces will be the same, but the standards will be more stringent – a typical Zoya piece will take longer to come out from the design stage.

Gold and diamond prices tend to change, but at present, collections like Zoya's Samave start at Rs 1 lakh and other collections can go up to Rs 1.25 crore.

Still, cracking the luxury segment will not be an easy task, experts said.

“Zoya is a trusted name because of the Tata association and a lot of overseas shoppers and immigrants would want to buy from them. But challenges are that it's a highly fragmented market and also a very seasonal business for multiple reasons,” said Aziz Zaveri, a veteran high-end jeweller with operations in Mumbai and Dubai. “One seasonality is a shortage of workers in Mumbai because many have returned home and to other businesses.”

The other thing, he noted, is margins. An Italian designer ring will cost three times as much as what it could in India, which is barely 30 percent of total costs. So that's one hurdle, but it can be overcome if the business goes global.

That’s something Titan is aware of and assessing.

Outlet options

“Certainly, in our thinking, whether we should go the department store route or exclusive brand outlet route is still not clear to me. We have the Zoya shop-in-shops in some of our Dubai stores and may do that in every US store as well,” Venkataraman said.

The Tata Group’s Indian Hotels Company operates hotels internationally and that may work as a channel too, he said.

“But certainly a department store like Saks 5th Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman would be very possible,” he said.

Zoya will also have to pay heed to local nuances. Zaveri said local names that have scale such as Kalyan Jewellers and Malabar either specialise or go mainstream.

It’s also about choices, he said, because in the north, it’s not so much the quality of a diamond as the size of the stone, whereas in the south, it could be the very opposite and something totally different.

For example, Amrapali is in the space of traditional styles with a more ethnic look.

So, who is the customer that Zoya will target?

“A little older than a millennial. I would say, late 30s to mid-40s, perhaps is the centre of gravity for the customer base, and certainly willing to appreciate the finer things in life,” Venkataraman said.

Queries are more on the quality of the stone, the quality of the finish, the inspiration behind the story, he said.

“We opened our first store in 2009, but in the last three years, there has been a huge change in that trajectory as well, and we see that going really fast in the next 10 years,” he said.

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