“The Tatas would never be allowed to make watches as this sector was reserved for public and small-scale industries.” said the license raj prevailing in the country.
But they did and made it a resounding success….how? That journey is detailed in the book by Vinay Kamath – TITAN – Inside India’s Most Successful Consumer Brand.
Titan story starts in the pre-liberalisation era in India; there was little choice for the aspiring middle class; and in watches the only major local manufacturer was HMT; but not making enough to meet the demand. The import of watches was banned and the smuggling process, well organised.
The protagonist of the story is Xerxes Desai “The Tatas offered a working environment that no other organisation in India could equal. And there was also the sobering fact that after working for 13 years, I had no savings whatsoever; in fact I was in debt.”… Xerxes was a mortal too 😊
Xerxes joined Tata Press as General manager and was on the look out for new ventures -“There were reports for all kinds of projects, from ophthalmic glass to granite tombstones to mechanised fishing boats. And then there were watches.”
With French collaboration and Titan began as a joint venture between the Tatas and TIDCO (Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation) and the rest is history – detailed in the book. The gestation period for the Watch Project of Tata Press was almost 8 years and it is remarkable journey. You would think that bureaucracy and red tape can crush entrepreneurship, but luck favours the prepared✨
The book outlines the reasons for the surprising popularity of the analogue watches over the digital ones. The Watch project with quartz watches grew and the baton was then taken over by the jewellery business under Tanishq brand as the largest contributor of revenue at Titan and still the momentum continues. Like me if you ever wondered why Tanishq has more stone studded jewellery than plain gold ones, this book has the answer. 😊
The book traces journey explaining the rationale for setting up the first factory in Hosur, the first retail outlet in Safina Plaza, Bangalore; branching into jewellery, not venturing into apparel or footwear; reasons for entering eyewear and fragrance and finally handloom saris.
A fabulous read into the making of this unique brand, the design and marketing strategy, the distribution model – you would be surprised that “Titan would supply only against advance payment, a practice unprecedented until then..”
It was not all smooth sailing, at each turn, it’s proved time and again that, it’s the drive and passion of the people involved that makes companies what they are. Choosing the right people stands at the apex of any company’s success story and Titan is no exception; the vision of the people at the helm and their ability to galvanise people to action is exemplified in the book.
This year, change is afoot at Titan as its current MD, Bhaskar Bhat retires after being at the helm from 2002; an IIT-IIM graduate, he took the company from under 500 crores to over 1 lakh crore in market cap; phenomenal innings.
That’s two stories of Titan, the last post as a customer and the book providing the ringside view. Now, if only I had invested in some shares of the company🙃