August 2016 | Nithin Rao

Time to watch this space

Titan Company expects to ride the Make in India wave in its efforts to reduce imports and maximise production

Encouraging Indian companies to increase production will provide a big boost to the business environment, and that is an important objective of the government’s Make in India push. “The initiative aims at cultivating innovation and developing skilled labour without compromising on quality,” says Bhaskar Bhat, managing director, Titan Company.

State-of-the-art equipment at Titan's lens manufacturing unit

The launch of Make in India has, according to Mr Bhat, come at an opportune time for the country, especially because the global economy has been seeing tremendous volatility. “Aimed at bringing India to the forefront of economic growth, we are confident that this crucial national effort, which is particularly focused on developing infrastructure, will help tackle this challenge.”

Titan Company has a legacy of creating world-class products through innovation and superior craftsmanship. The watches and accessories division of the company currently has a manufacturing unit in Hosur, along with assembling units in Roorkee, Pantnagar, Dehradun and Goa, while its eyewear business has a state-of-the-art lens manufacturing facility in Chikkaballapur near Bengaluru.

Innovation is a vital character in the Titan Company story. It has set up an innovation hub at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras to tap the talents of the research faculty there. Meanwhile, through its Tanishq karigar parks, the company provides local artisans with the necessary equipment and training to enhance their skills and create jewellery of the highest standards.

As a part of its growth journey, Titan is expanding its watch making and jewellery strengths and will be investing in four more lens manufacturing facilities. The company also plans to establish a hi-tech frame manufacturing unit that will create products to substitute imports in eyewear.

“This unit will enable Titan Eyeplus to create differentiated products such as nickel-free and lead-free frames, lightweight titanium as well as aluminium products,” says Mr Bhat. It will also enable the company to establish 100 percent laser welding for better precision and accuracy, as well as substitute the conventional hard tooling technology with hi-tech lasers and machining.

Indigenisation or import substitution is an aspect that Titan is focusing on. “We are pursuing a rapid indigenisation journey in the watches division, where we have invested in a stainless steel case manufacturing plant in Coimbatore to specifically reduce dependence on Chinese imports,” says Mr Bhat.

Cutting down its plastics import load is also on the agenda for Titan. Japanese companies had popularised the use of plastic in watches and Titan offers a range of products, including Super Fiber, TEES and Zoop, that are made of plastic.

Till 2013-14, Titan was importing around 3 million plastic watch cases from China, but has now set up its own production unit. In 2015-16, Titan’s production touched 400,000 watch cases and 900,000 watch straps. The initiative resulted in foreign exchange savings, capability-building in India and new job opportunities.

Apart from accessories, Titan is also present in precision engineering. It is expanding this production base to bag orders from global enterprises in the aerospace and medical equipment sectors.

“A crucial factor for any developing economy is robust infrastructure. Effective infrastructure ensures the smooth functioning of supply chains, and a harmonious, uninterrupted link between manufacturing centres and the end markets,” explains Mr Bhat.

“I am confident that India will increasingly focus on investing in infrastructure and that we will gradually transform our country into a global manufacturing hub,” he adds. “Success here will be critical in providing large-scale employment to Indians entering the workforce.”

For Titan, the Make in India initiative is an affirmation and a validation of its long-term business strategy, and its belief in the country’s potential.

Premiumisation journey
In 2015, Titan Company set up a new manufacturing facility in Coimbatore to produce world-class stainless steel cases in collaboration with Seiko Epson Corporation, Japan. The facility couldn’t have come up sooner.

“This is helping us enhance our own capabilities as our brands embark on a ‘premiumisation’ journey to cater to rising aspirations of the Indian middle class,” says Bhaskar Bhat, managing director, Titan Company. “The plant helps reduce dependence on Chinese imports, thereby increasing indigenisation. In addition, it will supply cases to Seiko Epson, our technical partners, and thereby build exports.”

Another recent initiative is the launch of Titan’s smartwatch Juxt, which has been designed in India. Juxt has an analogue, Titan-produced watch movement with enhanced ‘smart’ functionalities developed by technology partner HP. The product is already seeing success in India and abroad.

This article is part of the special report on the evolution and future of the concept of 'Make in India' in Tata companies, featured in the April 2016 issue of Tata Review:
Overview: Transforming India
India on the march
Tata Motors: Pathway pioneer
Tata Chemicals: Innovation attention
Tata Elxsi: Design rules
TAL Manufacturing Solutions: Source code
Tata Advanced Systems: World stage beckons