Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Seiko-Timing it Right

Susumu Kawanishi, president, Seiko Watch India, tells Forbes India that making the transition from economy to luxury market segment is not an easy task

Published: Feb 4, 2012 06:32:45 AM IST
Updated: Feb 6, 2012 12:31:37 PM IST
Seiko-Timing it Right

Susumu Kawanishi
Career: Has been with Seiko Watch Corporation for the past 30 years
Education: Graduated in economics from Keio University, Japan
Interests: Likes hiking and playing shogi (Japanese chess); is also an avid golfer and likes swimming

Q. Seiko Watch India was established as a subsidiary only four years ago. Why has it taken so long for Seiko to establish a subsidiary? Was it a conscious decision?

We have been preparing before establishing our base here. So, that’s one reason [for the delay]. We also believe that this is the right time. For the last four to five years, India has had huge amount of growth.

Q. You have had more than 25 years of experience at Seiko. How different would you say the challenges are or will be in India compared to your assignments in other countries?
I joined Seiko in 1982. I’ve worked for almost 30 years at Seiko and I’ve worked mainly for international marketing. I was stationed in Asian countries and was in charge of the entire area. The big thing for India right now is that it has huge potential. In developing countries, nobody knows what the future is. But we believe in India’s potential and growth. So, our main challenges would be how we set ourselves up here and also how we target customers through all of the comprehensive marketing activities.

We’re a global company, so we take the same strategy everywhere. But depending on the stage of development of the market, the acceptance is totally different. For instance, in the luxury market, India is still not so big. But it is probably expanding. We don’t know the pace, but the Indian luxury market can be similar to other developing markets like China. China has a way bigger luxury market, but it’s very much like India.

Q. Seiko has been the leader in innovation with the first LCD digital quartz, wrist quartz and spring drive watch. Each and every component of the watch is also manufactured by the company itself. When you expand, how difficult does this get?

It is difficult. Foremost for us is the quality of the product. We don’t want to jeopardise the quality by outsourcing. But we maintain our quality standard.

Q. A lot of the Swiss luxury watch brands have a certain cult status and in spite of Citizen and Seiko being big Japanese luxury watch brands, they don’t have the same cult status. Why do think there’s a differentiation?
We have a lot of innovation going on inside the company. But in India we still have to continue promoting the value of our brand. We have certain in-house technology and we have a certain strategy for innovation refinement.  We are trying to create a more prestigious design that is also more style-conscious. That, I believe, can certainly help us differentiate our brand from others.

Q. The competition is doing very well here. How do you intend to shake up the market and promote Seiko?
It’s not an easy challenge. For instance, in the Taiwan market, we have our range in the middle-priced segment. But we were able to successfully cover the premium segment too. So, that’s our direction. Of course, we need certain things. Now, depending on the product, depending on the collection, we believe we can cover the entire range.

Q. You just launched your first premium luxury collection, Ananta. How long before you launch the next one?

I hope not too long (smiles).