The two rules that Titan swears by when it considers getting into a new business — personal adornment and the potential to become an industry leader — were operational when the idea of Titan Eye+ came to be considered.
“We realised that eyewear was viewed by consumers as a functional product,” says S Ravi Kant, the chief operating officer of the division. That's not how it works in other parts of the world. “There they are style accessories. We sensed an opportunity to bring that thinking to India.”
The second factor was the state of the eyewear industry in India. It remains largely unorganised, with 70-80 per cent of the business being controlled by independent optical stores that lack professionals to test eyes and function without proper paraphernalia and products.
Worse, there is precious little transparency in the business. “The same product will be sold at different prices to different people,” says Mr Kant. “As for the lenses, the customer really is in the dark.”
Titan Eye+ commenced commercial operations in 2008. Today the division has 185 stores across 55 Indian cities — and plans to open a further 100 by March 2012 — a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and market leadership in the organised eyewear business.
The unorganised sector still commands the bulk of the market, but that share is falling fast as companies, Indian and foreign, vie to overhaul the way people in this country consider the spectacles they see the world through.
Where Titan has gone, others have followed. “There are many eyewear retailers who have followed our lead,” says Mr Kant. “Everybody has been put under pressure and the whole customer experience has been altered.”
Mr Kant goes the extra mile to point out that Titan's eyewear operation is significantly, if not fundamentally, different from its watches and jewellery businesses. “The biggest difference is with customer engagement, which is far greater in eyewear,” he says. “It is not just about the product; it is as much about service.”