When Titan Industries decided to venture into making quartz watches in India 25
years ago, it was in many ways an enormous challenge. The market was dominated
by a limited range of mechanical watches, and the prevailing licence raj made
it difficult to set up and run one's own manufacturing unit. Moreover, companies
were not allowed to import freely if they did not have their own manufacturing
Undeterred by these difficulties, Titan Industries set out to manufacture watches
in 1986 and in the first week of 1987, it launched its first branded watches.
"One of our biggest milestones was starting our own assembling and manufacturing
facility. Watch manufacturing involves precision engineering — very high level
of quality measurements and manufacturing tolerances of micron levels, and that
was a very big challenge we overcame," explains HG Raghunath, CEO, watches and
accessories, Titan Industries.
timewear trends since 1987
Since then, the company has come a long way. Today, Titan Industries is a dominant
market leader, a company which in 2012 completed 25 successful years, a feat
achieved by steadfast commitment to its mantra of precision and innovation.
"Our watch making unit is considered as one of the best in the Global Watch
Industry," says Mr Raghunath.
Watch manufacturing differs greatly from other manufacturing industries. For
one, it revolves around both aesthetics and functionality. The beauty of a watch
is as much within as without — its story is as much in its look and beauty
as in its inner workings. A watch is manufactured with great care using precision
components which, though not visible to the naked eye, are responsible for the
accuracy of a watch. The accuracy of a Titan-made watch is as high as plus or
minus 15-20 seconds per month.
Yet early on, the company realised that simply making great watches was not
enough; the core competency had to be based on ideas and innovation. With this
in mind, Titan put together a team of people with strong expertise in manufacturing,
marketing and finance.
Titan's single biggest contribution has been in changing the way we perceive
watches. When the company entered the market, watches were utilitarian. But,
Titan decided to market the watch as a fashion accessory, one that could change
depending on the occasion, person, mood, etc. That was a powerful insight. By
turning the watch into an accessory, the potential of the watch market grew
tremendously. It also meant that Titan had to design new products in accordance
with the latest trends and create differentiation in its products. This gave
the company a fantastic opportunity to expand and grow.
One of its groundbreaking concepts was the Raga range of watches for women.
These watches were made keeping in mind the needs and sensibilities of Indian
women, and today, Raga has become one of the biggest watch brands for women.
Edge, the world's thinnest watch (just 3.6 mm thick), is another innovative
product. Recently, Titan launched HTSE (High Technology Self Energising) watches
powered by solar technology.
Revathi Kant, who headed the Titan Design Studio from 2005 to 2010, says, "We
believed that it was important to build a story around the product. We sat with
the designers and got them to immerse themselves in a particular theme, for
example 'Raga chocolate'. It is important to let the idea reside
with the designer, have them relate to it, be inspired. Then they interpret
it as per the needs and desires of the consumer."
Throughout its history, Titan's advertising campaign has complemented
its products. The company advertised watches as a style statement and was the
first to publish their prices. The campaign brought home the fact that people
need not go abroad and pay in dollars to buy a good watch.
Titan also made the shopping experience for its customers exciting and interesting
by introducing well-designed showrooms. This was a retail innovation which has
helped protect the company against competitors. "A very significant portion
of our sales – over 50 percent – comes directly from our showrooms,"
explains Mr Raghunath.
Titan also set up a strong franchisee network. "We take a lot of pride
in the way we do business with our associates and maintain relationships with
them," explains Mr Raghunath. Today the Titan network is one of India's
largest, covering 900 stores.
Another winning strategy for Titan has been to cater to several segments through
its various collections such as:
- Raga for women
- Fastrack for youth
- Sonata for the masses
- Zoop for children
Today Titan produces watches priced from Rs250 to Rs375,000. This wide product
range has also helped make the brand a bestseller. "All our brands come
out with flying colours during brand track surveys. We have won several advertising
awards and scored well on consumer feedback," explains Mr Raghunath.
Over the years the watch division has strengthened all aspects of the value
chain, including design, new product development, manufacturing, branding, service,
etc. For instance, Titan's Design team scans the latest trends in watches,
mobiles, technology, fabrics, apparels, colours, fashion, footwear, furniture
and so on, before setting out to develop a product. It works in advance on many
concepts, using inspiration from the cultures prevalent in India, yet infusing
them with a global touch. Before the final product is launched, feedback is
sought from potential customers and implemented.
Throughout its growth years, Titan has looked at making the business model as
sustainable as possible. In the factory at Hosur, the company has invested in
new technologies for the conservation of energy and water and a reduction in
their usage. The power requirement per watch has come down by 15 percent in
the past 6-7 years. At the same time, the overall power consumption in the plant,
even with increased production, has come down by 10 percent.
The factory operates on power generated by windmills and 50 percent of its
watch manufacturing today is driven by green power. By the end of 2014, company
officials expect the plant to be carbon-proof.
Today, Titan has an international presence in about 26 countries and is very
strong in UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri
Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives. As part of its international strategy, it recently
bought Favre Leuba, the second oldest heritage brand in the world.
In the near future, Titan is planning to focus on tapping middle India and
reaching out to consumers in tier 3 and tier 2 towns to sell its products. "In
the next five years, Titan will also be looking at the luxury watch segment
in the price range of Rs50,000 to Rs100,000. The luxury segment is growing fast
in India," Mr Raghunath said.
An unusual area of competition is the rapid growth of the mobile phone industry.
The company, it appears, is ready for that challenge too. Says Mr Raghunath,
"What helps us remain in consideration is our consumer segmentation of
the market and our breathtaking designs and new products. We continuously invest
in building powerful brands, creating desire, and keep injecting technology
into your product space. These are the strategic interventions we are doing
to make sure we overcome the threat from not only mobile phones but also other
From its future-focussed strategy to its design innovations, its creative marketing
approach to the strong supply chain, Titan, as a business, has relied on its
ability to connect with customers and deliver what the customer needs. This
has not only given the company an edge over its competitors, it has also helped
Titan become the fifth largest watch manufacturing company in the world.