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The man behind India’sbest-selling watches and timeless lifestyle range Up Close with Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan Company Limited

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The man behind India’sbest-selling watches and timeless lifestyle range

Up Close with Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan Company Limited

Titan, a household name today, isone of India’s largest and most trusted brands in lifestyle products. Titan Company Limited was formed as a joint venture between the TATA Group and the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) in 1984, and commenced operations under the name Titan Watches Limited. Today, Titan is the fifth largest integrated own-brand watch manufacturer in the world.

The easing of economic policiesin 1984 enabled Titan to make revolutionary changes to their product mix. Titan introduced the then-futuristic ‘Quartz Technology’, along with breakthrough product design and international styling. In doing so, Titan disrupted the market and transformed watches into a style accessory. While others were watchmakers, Titan became the ‘wrist stylist’.

A LEADER AND PIONEER IN WATCH-MAKING

Today, Titan is the leading manufacturer of a wide range of timepieces across different price segments. ‘Sonata’ byTitan is India’s largest-selling watch brand – one that promises great quality and unbeatable value for the customer. Following the success of Sonata, Titan Company launched Fastrack in 1998, and became an independent urban youth brand in 2005. Fastrack has since carved a niche for itself in the watches and eyewear segment, and is a popular brand amongst the youth in the country. In 2009, Fastrack expanded its footprint to cover accessories with a stylish range of bags, belts, and wallets.

Having secured a license for premium fashion watches of global brands, Titan reprised its pioneering act by bringing international brands into the Indian market with its own Swiss-made watch brand Xylys.

Today, Titan has a distribution network comprising of over 451 World of Titan exclusive outlets, 697 service centers, a dealer base of over 11000,and presence in more than 30 countries. With a domestic market share of 60 percent, Titan is the clear leader in India’s organized watch market.Titan credits its consumers for its success and growth and for inspiring it to become the business superpower that it is today.

PRESENCE IN OTHER PRODUCT SEGMENTS

Jewellery: Tanishq

Launched by Titan in 1994, Tanishq is India’s largest and most trusted brand in the organized jewellery market. It is synonymous with superior craftsmanship, exclusive designs, and guaranteed product quality. The Tanishq retail chain currently has over 200 exclusive boutiques in over 115 cities. Zoya, the luxury diamond and gold jewelry boutique chain, and Carat Lane, the online jewelry shopping store, complete Titan’s jewelry brand portfolio.

Eyewear: Titan EyePlus

Titan EyePlus, the third major line of consumer business for Titan, offers a variety of differentiated eyewear products – frames, lenses, contact lenses, and sunglasses. Benchmarked against the best in the world, Titan EyePlus heralds standardization in the eyewear industry.

Fragrance: SKINN

Titan’s entered the fragrance market in 2013, with launching SKINNfor the urban, well-traveled Indian men and women. Designed by award-winningmaster perfumers, SKINN’s fragrances are manufactured and packaged in France.

Apparel: Taneira

Titan has also ventured into a relatively unexplored market by adding Taneira, a range of handloom sarees, to its portfolio of businesses.

TEAL

Leveraging its core competencies in precision engineering from its watchmaking business, Titan initiated TEAL (erstwhile PED) in 2005, to cater to global majors across industry verticals like aerospace, automotive, oil & gas, engineering, hydraulics, solar and medical instruments.

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THE LEADER OF THIS CONGLOMERATE: BHASKAR BHAT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, TITAN COMPANY LTD.

The ace investorRakesh Jhunjhunwala,who is often referred to as Dalal Street’s Warren Buffett, and who holds a little over 8 percent stake in the company according to latest shareholding data, recalls his meeting with Mr.Bhat, “Bhaskar was extremely blunt and truthful. He said that the task [of turning around Titan] wasn’t easy, but he would do it. Bhat brought it from the jaws of death onto the road to success, and now, Titan is best positioned to capture the mega-retail opportunity that India presents.”

An alumnus of IIT & IIM, Mr. Bhat assumed his position as Titan’s Managing Director on 1stApril 2002. His association with the company, which began with the Tata Watch Project and eventually led to the creation of Titan, has continued for more than three decades, during which he has seen the Titan brand expand from watches into jewelry, eyewear, and precision engineering. One of the most admired CEOs in the Tata Group, Mr. Bhat travels out of Bangalore at least twice a week and, surprisingly, prefers public buses to commute to and from the airport. Buses are better, safer, and convenient, and you have one every ten minutes from Mekhri Circle (in Bangalore),” he says. This sagacity from a man who is credited with Titan’s success, shows the simplicity of Mr.Bhat. 

Today, Mr.Bhat shares his views with The CEO Magazine’s Editor Pooja Kundoo, over a host of topics pertaining to Titan.

Edited Excerpts…

Just to have an idea of where Titan is today, which are your main markets?

Today, with a retail footprint of over 1400 stores and a total retail area spanning 1.8 million square feet, Titan Company has India’s largest specialty retail network spread over 240 towns. It is the Tata Group’s largest consumer company, and India’s most trusted producer and retailer of watches, jewelry, eyewear, and accessories. Titan has firmly established itself as one of the leading lifestyle companies in the Indian retail market as well as in some international markets. Our recent tie-up with Amazon.com to cater to our growing customer base in North America is another statement of intent that Titan is set to become one of the world’s leading lifestyle company.

Why is Titan so successful in the market? How does the company build a successful customer base?

Titan Company Limited is driven by innovation and design with a strong focus on the consumer. With that as the crux, our philosophy is to offer best-in-class products keeping in mind the needs of the evolving customer base, products that have revolutionized categories through end-to-end design thinking. We do this with a pioneering spirit and a caring, value-driven culture that fosters innovation, drives performance, and ensures the highest global standards in everything we do. Customers take precedence over all else, always. With a thorough understanding of various consumer segments such as women, millennials, and the youth, Titan Company Limited has established iconic brands that have created a niche for themselves in the market. Today, there is a Titan product for every Indian. That is how we have become India’s largest lifestyle company.

What makes Titan different compared to any other brand?

Titan Company Limited brought about a paradigm shift in the Indian watch market and is now the world’s fifth largest integrated own-brand watch manufacturer. Backed by diligent marketing, consumer research, manufacturing, design, quality, retail, and effective communication, the company has entered into new markets and revolutionized product categories in the lifestyle space over the years.

What differentiates us is that, with innovation being an everyday way of thinking, a significant number of our incubator ideas have led to revolutionary achievements. For example, quartz watches changed the way the Indian watch industry has evolved. In jewellery, the business model of Tanishq is unique, innovative, and disruptive. In eyewear, Titan Eye Plus has become the market leader by bringing quality, price transparency,and superior design. Initially, innovation at Titan was limited to the product design team and the manufacturing R&D function. Now, the company is increasingly driving the idea of innovation deeper and wider across the business and its brands.Our employees themselves have come up with breakthrough product ideas which are instrumental in transforming the company into a frontrunner.

As people demand quality and sophistication, is price a factor too?

Products under the Titan umbrella have always been guided by sophisticated design and unmatched quality. However, the pricing model of Titan across categories has made it a very attractive destination for a large number of middle and upper middle-class Indians.

What would you say about your main competitors and who they are?

In watches initially, the competition was from local public sector brands like HMT and Allwyn. In the late 90’s, the competition was predominantly grey market brands. In the last ten years international brands like Seiko, Casio, Fossil, and Timex have emerged as competitors. In jewelry, the competitors are large jewelers like GRT, Kaylan, Joy Alukkas, TBZ, P.C.Chandra, etc., who have a strong local presence. The Eyewear business also has strong local players as competitors (Gangar, Himalaya, BonTonetc). There are however a few national competitors like Lawrence & Mayo, GKB, Lenskart and Vision Express.

What does Titan have in store for 2018? Any new launches to look forward to?

With Carat Lane, we recently launched a whole online program and extended the capabilities to eyewear division. Watches, as a business, will be driven by new-age, smart products. That is something to look forward to. The technology used in those products will be something new to witness. Tanishq has a galaxy of new product launches lined up.

Your favorite Titan watches?

It’s not watches, but the brand Titan that’s my favourite. The name of the company, the name of our watch brand, the name of our eyewear brand – everythingflows from there; as do the quality systems, the design ethics, the culture, the service orientation, and the store design.

A message for the Indian watch lovers?

Watches are eventually getting back to being functional wear. Titan, as a company, is looking at catering to the consumer needs with more functional watches along with watches that can be worn as accessories on special occasions.

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THE MANAGEMENT WING OF TITAN

Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director, Titan Company Limited

Mr. C K Venkataraman, Chief Executive Officer – Jewellery

Mr. S Ravi Kant, Chief Executive Officer – Watches & Accessories & EVP Corporate Communications

Mr. Ronnie Talati, Chief Executive Officer- Eyewear

Mr. S Subramaniam, Chief Financial Officer & Head of IT Function

Mr. Rajnarayan, Chief Human Resource Officer

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A TIMELINE OF TITAN’S AWARDS & ACCOLADES

Over the years Titan Company has received several prestigious awards and distinctions. Some of the more recent and noteworthy recognitions are:

Corporate

  • Selected as Best Employer for ‘National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities – 2014’ by Government of India
  • Ranked among the 100 most sustainable corporations in Asia in the Channel News Asia Sustainability Ranking, 2014
  • ‘Hall of Fame’ award at 12thFranchisee Awards, 2014 by Franchisee India
  • Dun & Bradstreet in association with Airtel business presented to Titan – India’s Top 500 companies & Corporates Awards 2015
  • Titan Company Limited was awarded the Excellence in Community Impact Award by SHRM
  • Titan Company Awarded Asian Most Admired Knowledge enterprise (MAKE) award for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
  • Titan Encircle won the Direct Marketing Campaign Award at 9th Loyalty Summit
  • Titan Company won the “DARE to TRY” award at the finals of Tata Innovista 2016
  • Titan Company Limited was awarded theBest Company for Excellence in Communication in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 at the Tata Brand Corporate Communicators Meet   

Watches

  • Won the prestigious JRD-QV award in 2006
  • Award at the CII 24thKaizen national awards for assembly casing team
  • ‘Best Product design of the year – Watches& Jewellery’ award by Red Dot for Skeletal Edge in 2013 &2014
  • ‘Good Design Award 2014’ by design Council of Japan for Skeletal Edge
  • Titan Company won the first prize at 27th Qimpro Qualtech Innovation Awards 2015
  • Titan Company was declared winner under Implemented Innovation category at the finals of Tata Innovista 2015 &2017
  • Titan Company Limited is the winner in the “Deployment of Lean at Suppliers Place” category at the National Lean Practice Competition organised by The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Bangalore, that was held on 23rd May, 2017
  • Watches ISCM teams have won 2 Par Excellence, 4 Excellence and 2 Distinguish Awards at the 31st National Convention on Quality Concepts held at Mysore on 1st – 4th December 2017
  • Manufacturing Today has announced Titan Company Limited as a Winner under Excellence in Innovation Category.
  • Three Watches, JUXT, JUXT Pro and Regalia Rome received the coveted “India Design Mark award” in 2017

Jewellery

  • Won the prestigious JRD-QV Award in 2012
  • ‘Most Admired Retailer of the Year’ award in Jewellery Category at the Images Retail Awards-Concept Store category
  • Tanishq is the first Indian Brand to enter the list of Top 30 Best Retail Brands in Asia Pacific and stands at #13 as per Interbrand
  • Diamond procurement team won the “Procurement Excellence Award” in Jewellery Industry for its best procurement practices by Kamikaze B2B Media Group.The team has bagged this prestigious “Procurement Excellence Award” for the 3rd consecutive time in a row.

Eyewear

  • Award for Customer Service Excellence at Golden Globe Tigers Award
  • Gold & Silver Awards at TRRAIN(Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India) Retail Awards
  • Gold Award in the Outdoor Advertising Convention, 2014
  • Titan EyePlus honoured at TRRAIN Awards 2015 for Excellence in Customer Service
  • Titan EyePluswas awarded the Retailer of the year in Lifestyle and fashion category at the 6th CMO Asia awards
  • Eyewear division of Titan Company Ltd won the first prize for innovation at the 29th Edition of Qimpro Qualtech Award 2017&at the 7th AIMA Innovation Practitioners Summit 2017.

Precision Engineering

  • Precision Engineering, Hosur wins three State Safety Awards announced by Tamil Nadu Government in 2013
  • Titan Automation wins the Best Industrialization support Award
  • Titan Automation solutions was declared the Platinum winner at the 1st LAPP INNOVATION Award 2017
  • TEAL Automation Solutions Unit have won 1 Excellence, 3 Meritorious and 4 Distinguish Awardsat the 31st National Convention on Quality Concepts held at Mysore on 1st – 4th December 2017

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TITAN’S CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES: CREATING BETTER PRODUCTS AND A BETTER SOCIETY

Inspired by the overarching vision of creating elevating experiences for the people it touches and of making a significant impact on the world it works in, Titan’s commitment towards the community and society can be reflected in the several initiatives.

The CSR focus at Titan is driven by four broad themes, i.e. upliftment of the underprivileged girl child, skill development (for underprivileged youth),support for Indian Arts, Crafts and Indian Heritage and responsible citizenship.Some of the initiatives are as follows

Focus on Girl Child& Education

  • Educating the underprivileged girl child :Coveringclose to 13500 girls across Krishnagiri, Uttarakhand, and other regions
  • Educating the tribal child :Supporting education for tribal children and building capacity through teacher education training near Mysore
  • Scholarships for the needy and meritorious: Close to 150 scholarships awarded each year , and this program in place over 30 years
  • A sharp focused effort towards ensuring holistic engagement with the girl child tin two most backward locations in TN and Karnataka over 5-7 year period

Skill Development

  • Piloting Skill centers at Bangalore and Chennai , targeting employability-led skilling of 12000 underprivileged youth in areas of retail, animation, etc
  • Adoption of ITI, having close to 900 students and 100 faculty, building skills, and capacity
  • Skilling the underprivileged differently abled children and enable gainful employment. Skilled and placed over 300 children last year

Supporting Arts Crafts Heritage / Celebrating Indian Heritage

  • Working with Porgai Artisans association, supporting revival of craft by Lambadi women and skilling them
  • Restoration of Finial of Humayun Tomb
  • Engaging in supporting craft revival in Benares and also craft revival in Kashmir (for the youth) with  Commitment to Kashmir
  • Supporting Arts research through IFA and also developing young directors through Rangashankara

Titan:Design Impact Awards for Social Change with Tata Trusts 

  • A first of its kind program that seeks to recognize, and engage with individuals / grass root entrepreneurs to design products that will enable social change in the country. An engagement driven and not just an award program

Support towards local and National Causes –ResponsibleCitizenship

  • Construction of complete sanitation solutions for girl children as part of Swachh Vidyalaya project of Govt.of India in 57 schools (224 toilet units) in Krishnagiri district
  • Long term engagement towards Uttarakhand Rehabilitation Program
  • Happy Eyes: Eye screening and supporting cataract operations for underprivileged children and adults
  • Working with Govt. of Sikkim to support prevention of Drug abuse amongst children in Sikkim
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