Thomas Edison once famously said, “There is a way to do it better – find it.” It aptly describes the climate of innovation at Titan Industries where innovation and creativity clearly rule the roost. LR Natarajan, chief operating officer, new business, Titan Industries, talks to tata.com about Titan’s various processes to promote innovation and the company’s future plans.
What processes do you have in place for encouraging and managing innovations?
In 2005, we started an initiative called ‘What is new’ to capture novel processes being attempted in departments. The challenge was to come up with three new ideas every month. ‘What is new’ was all about improving existing processes, breaking the monotony and coming up with something totally novel. We have a process called SEED to collect innovative ideas from employees in the manufacturing plant; the best ideas are rewarded. Idea plus is the equivalent of SEED for corporate employees.
Next we decided to get our vendor partners on board as well. It takes about 30 days to manufacture a single piece of jewellery. The challenge was to bring it down to three days. We called this initiative ‘Three-day miracle’. The craftsmen had hitherto not been exposed to the corporate world of processes, inventories, technology, etc. It took a long drawn exercise to change their mindsets. While we have not reached the three-day mark yet (we are at eight days), a few vendors are able to successfully perform the ‘three-day miracle’.
Another interesting initiative was called ‘Ideas unlimited’ where we engaged with managers for innovative ideas and solutions. We also created a special HOD’s fund where employees can take up to Rs100,000 from the local finance department for any project.
In 2008, we launched the ‘Simplify and automate’ initiative to create easier, better and smarter processes. The diamond bagging automation is a result of this initiative. We zeroed down on nine projects as a result of this initiative and most of them will be implemented this year.
A bottom-up and top-down approach is required to integrate innovation into the strategy and business plan. Bhaskar Bhat, managing director, Titan, formed the Innovation Council in April 2010 with a view to spread innovation across Titan in a structured way. The Innovation Council cuts across brands and functions and its primary aim is to reinforce the culture of innovation and integrate innovation into business strategy.
As part of the innovation enablers’ initiative, the Innovation Council conducted an event called Innovation Bazaar, which was an idea market place. We had a two-day event in Hosur with 120 stalls to showcase the selected innovations. We had eight eminent external judges evaluating the best innovations and shortlisted 25 ideas, which had the potential to be deployed. It created buzz and enthusiasm across the company.
Titan Interweave was another innovation enabler that was aimed at cross-pollination. We created a platform to bring all the brands together and team members were given four tasks, to present: an innovative customer acquisition programme; an innovative customer retention programme, an innovative retail process improvement and an innovative advertisement. In all we had 24 presentations and the best innovations were felicitated.
We have an Innovation Champions programme for corporate employees. It is a two-week quasi-academic programme co-created with IIMB, where eminent innovation practitioners across India spoke to our 30 hand-picked managers on the importance of innovation. Mr Bhat crafted five business challenges and each group was given a challenge. Each group is progressing with their initiative, and expected to reach a logical conclusion soon.
We will be reconstituting the Innovation Council this year and I’m sure there will be new initiatives. The journey will go on.
Titan's Innovation School of Management has been recognised by a number
of forums. Please tell us about how it is driving innovation at Titan.
Titan’s automated diamond-bagging system for its jewellery brand
Tanishq won the Tata InnoVista 2011 award for ‘Promising Innovation’.
What are the benefits of using this automated system?
What are the other innovations implemented, or on the anvil, at Titan Industries?
One of the more exciting innovations on the anvil is software we have developed with Tata Technologies which will enable our customer to make her own design. We will be creating a kiosk of sorts where the customer keys in her preferences and her budget, based on which the system recommends several designs. The customer can then customise the jewellery according to her taste and order it. There is also an option to freeze the design, thus making that particular design unavailable for anybody else. Once the order is placed, the jewellery will be ready for delivery in 30 minutes (if ordered from our boutique).
We are also working on making lightweight jewellery entirely by machine. Handcrafted jewellery production is time-consuming, expensive and occupies a lot of our inventory. We are working on the technology with a US firm. What a craftsman takes three or four days to finish can be done in 10 minutes using this technology.
The watch division is setting up a manufacturing plant for stainless steel cases, which are very difficult to make.
Has the company filed for any patents? Is the company looking at IPR
as a business asset in any way?
Apart from product and process innovation, Titan also has a history
of successful business model innovations – jewellery, eyewear, accessories,
etc. How does the company promote this high-level innovative thinking?
In 2011, the goal was to become a 10-billion-dollar company by 2020. Four cross-functional teams were formed and a new theme ‘Future First’ was initiated. The four teams are:
Intuitively, we have always been aware of the potential of Titan. Ultimately, our aim is that Titan should not only be known for its excellent products, it should also be synonymous with innovation.