Iconic Tata Group brand set to be a multi-category lifestyle company after pandemic
When CK Venkataraman took over as Managing Director of Titan Company in October 2019, he had no idea he would face one of the toughest challenges of his career in the next six months.
A 30-year veteran of the Tata Group, Venkat had served as CEO of Titan’s jewelry business since 2005, before replacing the longtime CEO. Bhaskar Bhat who retired.
As India entered a strict lockdown from March 2020, Venkat had to find ways to create the desire to Titan Lifestyle Products among consumers confined to their homes. The company’s diverse offerings – from watches, jewelry and ethnic clothing to sunglasses, bags, perfumes, wearable clothing – may not be on the list of essentials for the pandemic.
Even though Titan’s outlets began to gradually reopen towards the end of 2020, the second wave of 2021 hurt the business even more.
“It’s been a big shock in all of our lives. We were looking at the worst quarter (Q1 FY21) in the history of Titan. Even at the start we knew it was going to be a terrible quarter, ”said Venkat. Your story Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma in an exclusive interview.
U-shaped recovery and long-term vision
But because of Titan’s legacy status and its trusted relationships with customers, distributors, franchisees, supplier partners, and the community, it could be “resilient.”
Venkat shares: “Even when we were making huge losses month after month, we doubled our CSR efforts. Titan, because of its overall strength and competitive advantages, was in a strong position. While the other stakeholders were relatively weaker, and we lent them a hand in the short term. No salary cuts, no layoffs, subsidized loans to partner suppliers, subsidies to franchisees and NGOss. This went a long way in relieving their misery and creating goodwill for the company. These stakeholders repaid more by working harder to recover sales. “
Even though Titan’s stock has nearly doubled over the past year, its activity retake was a bit slow. But the MD is not “worried”. Instead, he chooses to take a medium to long term seen.
He explains: “We are witnessing a U curve against a V-shaped one. But we don’t think much about the speed of recovery. Because as a company we usually have focus more on the medium term, rather than on a quarterly basisSo when we look at our overall competitive situation, we know we are in a good position. And so, if July and August don’t turn out as good as we thought, that’s okay. Our point of view is more for the set of FY22 and FY23 rather than a quarter or two. “
CK Venkataraman, MD, Titan Company in conversation with the founder and CEO of YourStory Shradha sharma
A lifestyle, not a luxury business
Venkat claims Titan is not a luxury company. At least not anymore.
“We see ourselves more as a lifestyle businessy. All the products we manufacture are intended for people feel good and look good, “he said.” So we want to dress up and feel confident and gain some momentum. And this opportunity is very big as India is getting richer and richer and the GDP per capita is increasing. “
Titan believes that hundreds of millions of Indians are migrating to the “Acquisition consumption category” due to an increase in per capita income. And this is the opportunity he wants to seize in this decade.
The MD says that Titan’s recognition of the “Opportunity of central India” happened over a decade ago, with Tanishq (his high-end jewelry brand launched in 1995) opening outlets in non-metropolitan cities.
He shares: “Tanishq went to towns we hadn’t even heard of. And it’s been a decade of this development. We are going stronger in more and more cities over the next few years. Because India’s desire for jewelry is deeply rooted in our culture. The Tanishq brand has become connected with all kinds of people across the country. He is no longer the niche brand it used to be, perhaps, in 2000.
Titan Tanishq’s jewelry business was launched in 1995
Titan’s perfume brand Skinn, launched in 2013, is an extension of its corporate lifestyle positioning. It bridges the gap between luxury and aspiration, according to the MD.
“With the launch of Skinn seven years ago, we have created a beautiful bridge between expensive international perfume brands and affordable deodorants at the bottom. This space was empty. And we succeeded but in a limited way, because the category itself has not yet exploded, ”he says.
“It has been complicated by the situation at the WFH over the past 18 months because the need to spray perfumes at home is less. But within five years, I would expect the Titan fragrances to contribute more customer share and sales.
Among the Titans the youngest of the brands is Taneira, which sells ethnic clothes and looms. Launched in 2017, Taneira is expected to grow into a leading company over the next five years.
Venkat says: “We wish to make a big impact with Taneira and our ethnic clothing business. We want to get more and more women not only to buy a lot of sarees, but also to wear a lot of them, and make young women fall in love with exclusive sarees. “
Taneira, launched in 2017, is Titan’s ethnic clothing company
Analog and wearable watches
In the age of mobile phones, smartwatches and fitness trackers – all of which are more than enough to keep track of time – can the good old analog watch find a taker?
Venkat thinks so. But, maybe as lifestyle accessory.
“I am convinced that there is a continuous market for watches as an accessory. And over the next few years we want that to happen and get people to celebrating the beauty of an analog watch. It is an accessory that complements your attire and the rest of the things you put on.
Titan continues to create a wide range of analog watches targeting diverse customer segments including Fastrack (youth and millennials), Raga (working women) and Zoya (luxury users). “From a portfolio perspective, we captured several parts,” says Venkat.
Titan hopes to become a leading player in the wearable market over the next two years
In step with changing consumer trends, Titan is now bet big on wearables.
The CEO says, “Our wearable clothing business is about four or five years old. We acquired a technology company [Hyderabad-based wearables startup HUG Innovations] in 2020, and launched our first product Fastrack Reflex 3.0 [a fitness band-cum smartwatch] in February of this year. Titan has been a bit slow to get into the clothing business because it wais not a natural part of our thinking. Today, given our global capabilities, we are convinced of our future in the wearable market.
Despite its late entry into the category, Titan is confident of becoming a “leading player in the wearable market over the next 18-24 months”.
Even though it has entered several categories over the past 10 years, the share of new businesses has remained low.
“Titan has remained primarily a jewelry and watch business. But, we think the opportunity for other companies is great. That’s taking up a lot of leadership attention right now, ”says Venkat.
The future of lifestyle retail
Like all sectors, the pandemic has also changed retailing.
Not only are people buying more online, resulting in the boom in D2C brands, but they are also choosing differently. This led to, what Venkat calls, “Keyboard cover”.
“It’s a whole new term in our business,” he says. “Most of us sit in front of keyboards (laptops or phones) all day. Therefore, what is captured on the screen is highlighted more, and we’re less worried about what the camera doesn’t see.
Venkat remembers the time he suggested (during a webinar) that “Raymonds should launch a new product which is a suit, but the bottom is shorts”.
“Because people are at home and have to wear a suit because it’s a formal call. But, they don’t want pants, because it’s too much to do at home, ”he says.
This decade will see Titan grow from a simple “watch and jewelry company” to a full-fledged lifestyle brand.
Inspired by this thought, the Titan company strives to offer innovative products aligned with the keyboard trim.
“We created some jewelry for an over the keyboard view, which women would want to wear on a Zoom call. This approach may not work in all categories. But as far as possible, our product and design teams see ‘above the keyboard’ as the new normal as we move towards a hybrid working model. Therefore, this [trend] is here to stay. “
CEO draws parallels with growing apparel industry request Smart premium t-shirts after the pandemic. And that’s because “more and more people have started wearing t-shirts on Zoom calls.” he says.
“But at the same time, they realize that their previous collection of t-shirts is a bit low in terms of style quotient. Therefore, there was a huge increase for smart premium t-shirts. Instead of buying a Rs 500 t-shirt, people started looking for Rs 2,500 tees. And clothing manufacturers started to create one. line of expensive t shirts,” he adds.
It is likely that the Titan Company will follow a similar path over the next 1-2 years. There is also international expansion on maps, especially in places with a large NRI population. Add to that, the new categories of companies that he entered, and he could be a decade of transformation for the old company.
Venkat sums it up by saying: “There is a lot of excitement and ambition for all new categories [ethnic wear, perfumes, wearables, handbags]. It’s a huge opportunity from a 5-10 year point of view. And that’s the time frame in which we look at things rather than worrying about what’s going to happen in August 2021. “
(With contributions from Meha Agarwal)
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