Titan has its manufacturing facility in Hosur in the Krishnagiri district of Karnataka. The district is a drought-prone, backward area that suffers from multiple social problems: low literacy rates, gender inequality, female child labour and high female infanticide rates. To address some of these issues, Titan has been working since 1992 with MYRADA (formerly the Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency), a non-government organisation that facilitates women’s self-help groups, to combat gender inequality.
In 1996, Titan along with MYRADA set up Project Meadow (Management of Enterprise and Development of Women) with the aim of providing employment opportunities to young women. What started informally with 24 girls with just a high school education has evolved into a registered company (Meadow, set up in 1998) with 343 women members as owner-managers and workers in their own enterprise. The profits are shared equally among members with a significant amount being added every year to the corpus fund. This takes care of the company’s various needs and also benefits the employees’ families.
Titan extensively trained the women in the required skills and also in material accounting and documentation procedures. They were provided worktables and tools, and also introduced to the SAP system. The company collaborated with Meadow to create the infrastructure by contributing 50 per cent of the initial investment (to be recovered over a specific period) and also provided the technical training and expertise to run the business.
By 2005, Titan’s jewellery division began outsourcing to Meadow some of the key activities in the manufacture of studded jewellery, primarily in the area of waxing, stone-setting and alloying (some of these activities are normally carried out by skilled workers). The first batch of 40 women was trained intensively by Titan for more than a year to hone their skills in jewellery-making. Starting with the single task of bracelet link assembly, the women have acquired skills to undertake 16 different tasks such as case buffing, hand press and gold plating, strapping, movement assembly, jewellery and strap masking, at multiple locations.
Going beyond building a sustainable livelihood, these women are proud of the fact that they are running their own company. Rajeshwari was among the first members of Meadow and is also a shareholder. The only earning member of her family, she supports the education of her younger siblings. “Working with Meadow, I have gained experience in handling a wide variety of production as well as administrative activities. I am now confident and independent, and have a sense of financial security. I am respected by my family and the community.”
The spirit of building livelihoods while doing business has enriched Titan with the satisfaction of empowering rural women to form a micro-enterprise and run it effectively. At the same time this engagement has led to the establishment of a cost-effective, reliable and flexible skill base for the company.