The recent announcement of Apple Watch brought back fond memories. Twenty five years ago, I worked for Titan Watches in India. At the time, it was a young company, seeking to disrupt the watch industry in India. Before Titan entered the market, watches in the Indian market were plain, boring and functional. There was limited choice and a lack of creativity. After all, a watch is an instrument to tell time, isn't it? Not according to Xerxes Desai, the CEO of Titan and a true design genius. Xerxes saw watches very differently. He defined a watch as a “fashion accessory that happens to tell the time”. Titan brought a breathtaking array of attractive designs to the market and swiftly became the market leader in India. To this day, Titan is a leader in its category and has since leveraged its design roots into other lifestyle products like jewelry and eye-wear.
Titan’s success was in significant part rooted in Xerxes’ belief that we were a fashion and lifestyle company. He insisted that everything we did – our retail stores, our kiosks, our packaging, our factory, our salespeople, our corporate headquarters – had to speak the same design language of our products. One time, I found him spending an hour with the landscaper at our factory in Hosur, going over in excruciating detail with him what plants and flowers we would have in the factory. I was puzzled. I gathered up the guts to ask him – “Sir, don’t you have better things to do as the CEO of a large company?” Xerxes smiled and said – “We bring our partners here. We bring dignitaries here. Our employees who make our watches come here every day. How can an ugly factory make beautiful watches?”