Creating a brand new business model while launching innovative products, Titan has disrupted design, retail, and advertising consistently in every lifestyle segment it has entered.
Known for being innovative ever since it upturned the timepiece market by introducing the new technology of quartz watches in the 80s, “the way Titan started its business itself was reasonably innovative”, Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director of Titan Industries Limited, tells Sandhya Mendonca. “Our first Managing Director, Xerxes Desai, created a company that has been blessed with innovative thinking. One of the reasons is because this company was incubated in a company that had no manufacturing experience, no marketing experience, no consumer base. It was created out of nothing at the Tata Press Ltd, the printing press where Desai was then the Managing Director. From Day 1, we have had to learn everything about an industry (watches).”
Titan was incorporated in 1984 through a joint venture between the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) and the TATA Group. Though its initial objective was to create a watch for every Indian, it went on to become the fifth largest integrated watch producer worldwide.
Product innovation is at the heart of what it does and led to the creation of the Edge, the world’s slimmest watch. “It is still unbeaten in terms of its slimness and had brought India great glory and fame”, Bhat beams with pride.
Even in jewellery, its big innovation was introducing a first-of-its-kind ‘Karatmeter’ which revolutionised the industry for both, customer and merchant. Devised with pioneering technology, it was among the earliest non-destructive and accurate means to check the purity of gold. Titan’s Karatmeter, through x-ray analysis, determines the elemental composition of all kinds of gold, platinum or silver, in under a minute. This device led the entire Indian jewellery industry to adopt a uniform and structured way of pricing old gold and adopting hallmark gold standards.
Other innovations by Titan in the realm of jewelry include its Chennai-based Innovation Hub getting 22-Carat gold to behave like 18-Carat gold by changing its very nanostructure and underlying architecture. The firm also has a patent for a Diamond Bagging Machine, the first machine of its kind, globally.
Passion for product innovation drives Titan to constantly build and adapt, pushing toward the next game-changer. Bringing in good design, branding and retailing elements into those sectors are its core competencies. Over the last 30 years, the company has created and worked towards perfecting the art of experiential retail in India. It has entered under-penetrated and unorganised markets and built a strong brand presence across different product categories. The company seeks to enter markets that have the 3 ‘U’s – Unorganised, Underserved and Underpenetrated. Bhat says that “it is a very conscious decision to unearth categories which have a significant unorganised play. Titan comes in and assures quality, after-sales service, good buying experience, transparency of pricing and nationally uniform pricing.” The company currently has 1600 stores across India.
An example is eyewear, which was an unorganised sector into which Titan brought value to the consumer through greater transparency of price, quality and delivering customer experience. Previously, the optical store was considered a store to go to only when you needed to get your eyes tested. Titan’s business model for ‘democratising eyewear’ was very innovative and successful.
Other brands launched by Titan, seeking to disrupt the lifestyle sector, include Titan Skinn and Taneira. Titan Skinn marked the company’s debut in the personal lifestyle segment of perfumes. High-quality ingredients are sourced internationally and crafted in India, leveraging French expertise, letting Titan offer exclusive choices to the Indian customer.
Taneira is the youngest Titan brand to hit the shelves. Indian craftsmanship and different textiles are curated to bring a range of stylish sarees to the modern Indian woman. Titan claims to offer an exceptional retailing experience for its women customers, providing them with the liberty to choose from more than 30,000 distinct sarees made using natural Indian fabrics. Its Style Studio offers products to complete the look by providing readymade blouses, falls and petticoats, along with the saree.
An innovation engine is powering Titan, say Kuruvilla Markose, Chief Digital Officer and Sumant Sood, Head, Innovation, to Subhalakshmi Roy. “Innovation is the outcome of culture and process. We have a strong culture of innovation and now, we have institutionalised the process using the Titan Innovation Engine (TIE),” says Markose.
TIE has four core steps, jointly called UnTangle, that include challenge identification, crowdsourcing solutions (UnThink), creation of pilot projects to apply selected solutions in pilot projects and track the progress (UnDo) and evaluation of outcomes that are practical and can be taken to fruition (UnLike).
Titan uses these to solve issues across departments, from manufacturing to merchandising and operations, with the Titan Innovation Centre in the Hosur factory, as one of the main hubs. “There is so much noise and chaos in a factory, it becomes impossible to generate ideas. Innovation Centre is a tranquil space where new ideas can grow,” says Sood.
Others include TataInnoverse, a web2.0 platform to crowdsource innovative solutions from employees across the Tata Group companies, and the Titan Innovation School of Management (TISM), a customised learning course for shop floor workers. “Innovations in our manufacturing process would come best from the people who are working on the floor. We needed to give them a platform to formalise their ideas,” says Sood.
Extending innovation to CSR, Titan has created a social entrepreneurship with The Titan Karigar’s Park bringing together indigenous jewellery craftsmen (karigars) under one roof and providing them with industrial tools for a healthy work environment, healthcare and saving schemes.
“Innovation is a continuous process,” says Markose. “We want to focus on entrenching this idea more strongly and strengthening all our teams. The main aim is that innovation functions independently of any individual.”
We don’t own innovation; we simply leverage it well. Our ethos is to question everything, and not take anything for granted. That is the way we have grown – Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan