Titan Company’s Chief Design Officer Revathi Kant shares what goes behind designing a Titan product
- The Chief Design Officer at Titan, Revathi Kant, has been helping Titan create aesthetic products for 15 years now.
- Kant first joined Titan when she was 22 and hasn’t left the company since.
- We caught up with her to discuss Titan’s design evolution, how COVID-19 pushed the brand towards digitalisation and changed its traditional designing process.
At Titan, ‘Design to Inspire’ has been its core design philosophy. It is considered a valuable and strategic asset because it helps companies remain relevant in a world that is undergoing unprecedented change, connect with consumers at a personal level and stand out in a sea of competitors. According to Kant, Titan was the first brand in India to come up with innovative design solutions and trendy products. It was an era where watches served a functional purpose and Titan’s design team decided to disrupt the industry by launching watches as a fashion accessory. Today, designs are created not just keeping the aesthetics in mind but also the functionality of the product, which has helped the brand become the world's 5th largest watchmaker.
Walking us through the process of product designing and development, Kant said, “There are three key aspects to our design process. The first is the consumer, for whom you are designing, what are the needs, what are our aspirations, what is the new thing we are going to bring to the table. Second is finding key trends. We are all influenced by trends in a very big way. And especially, the pandemic has changed long-held mindsets: our attitude, behaviour and actions are all influenced by trends. So it's very important for us to be constantly looking at how trends influence our categories. And third, and the most important thing is whenever we create a design, it is not just the product we create, we create a story, we create a narrative, and this whole thing is dependent on what we call the ‘Design Stories.’”
Kant and her team are living the dream. They travel to different destinations to incorporate real-life insights into their product designs. They call it, ‘immersion trips’. She is required to spend time at various locations of India to bring in a new, immersive perspective into her product designs. However, her job is not all play. Every new product that Titan works on requires thorough research, diligent execution that pays equal attention to both ergonomics and style. A Chief Designer Officer is also required to supervise customer orientation and excel management skills.
“We immerse ourselves in the theme, which could be online immersion, and if things are fine, we always believe in immersing ourselves in that particular situation. For example, if temple architecture or a palace is the inspiration, you really need to be there -- we visit these places, look at them, experience its touch and feel, try to understand the nuances, gathering all that could which could inspire an individual,” shared Kant.
“After interpreting it, we consider various constraints that could affect the manufacturing and designing process: it could be the manufacturing or budgetary constraints, we bring the business reality into it. The team then comes back, ideates and decides on a design for a particular product, be it watches, eyewear, fragrances or jewellery. Then it is fleshed out in the form of a product, which is shared with the internal stakeholders. Then we look at the feedback, if there are any, and look at it from a marketing point of view: how differentiated it's likely to be, what is its purpose in the market, how is it going to take on competition, is it going to be an image builder, is it going to act to the core. So, there are a lot of things which go around it. And once it is accepted collectively by both the design team and our internal stakeholder, it goes into this process of development,” she added.
To bring this vision into reality, Kant then supervises the development process which starts with 2D sketching, 3D drawings, 3D prototyping, matching the product with the original inspiration, designer’s vision and then marketing comes into the picture. At Titan, the amount of time invested in ideation and conceptualisation differs from category to category but generally takes about 2-3 months.
Evolving with changing times
While design has always been a part of Titan’s DNA, the process itself has undergone a lot of change over the years. It has evolved from being a look-good factor to solving a problem for consumers.
Walking us through design’s evolution, Kant said, “Fundamentally, if you look at design from a macro perspective, it was just considered a feel-good factor in the early days. It was not seen as an integral aspect, design was seen as something which is aesthetically good but the fact is design is much beyond aesthetics, it is not just something which looks good. The purpose of design is to solve problems today and looking good is a very important part of it but it has to function fabulously and meet with the user's needs. The whole thing about comfort, about safety about ergonomics is such an important part in design. For example, for jewellery, security also plays an important role -- how secure is it? Even a small thing can’t fall off.”
Today, as gen-z and millennials prefer comfort over fashion, Titan’s design has also started expanding its product range. They prefer light jewellery and minimal watches. Titan has always tried to keep consumer research and trends at its forefront to stay ahead of the curve and cater to a wide set of audiences.
On how a traditional company like Titan has evolved with time, Kant said, “As we progress, we will be catering to the alpha kids, kids of millennials and to the generation coming after that, because we are a company which keeps pace with the consumer. Consumer behaviour is constantly changing and that has an impact on what we create because we are very clear that we are creating for the consumer. So if you are talking about the millennials and the Gen Z, to whom the Fastrack Run caters to or it could be our Zoop, which will cater to much younger TG, it is all about keeping pace and understanding the consumer. So it comes easily because there are two things which are constantly changing, which is at the root of our process, consumer and trends. As long as we track them closely, we can create a product for anyone and anywhere.”
There’s a lot of pressure on a Design Officer to bring in differentiation in each product launch. Kant says that finding the fine balance between differentiation and relevance is what will give any business success.
COVID’s impact on product designing process
Titan’s immersive trips have come to a halt after COVID. Consumers have become more price-conscious and started caring about the environment more than ever before. Titan is also focusing on minimalism, sustainability and well-being. On a fundamental level, Titan had to move its whole designing process online.
Sharing how COVID impacted Titan, Kant said, “We are trying to approve products, get this whole piece done online and that is a shift and we’re all getting used to it. And moving forward, I'm sure we will see a lot of benefits in this particular process which we will adapt even when we come back to a normal situation. It could be in terms of cutting down on travel cost, cutting down on time, faster approvals, saving a lot of time, there’s clarity in decision, these are the plus points of possibly doing it online. We will take the benefits of this and incorporate it and come up with a hybrid way of working, which will work well for us.”
Titan is also experimenting with more colours and trying to bring in self-expression and optimism in its pieces. At the same time, it is trying to offer its consumers a little comfort zone that takes them down a memory lane and reminds of better days.
“From August to September last year, there was a lot more optimism and people were looking up to doing things. So if I were to talk from the lifestyle space, there's a little more color because people are waiting to breathe, open out and do things which we have not been doing for the last many months. This whole thing of expressing oneself is getting translated. So when I talk from a jewelry point of view, it's more of a little more of a color, a little more of a celebration, more of optimism, a little more of positivity, all of that is sitting there, which as we move forward, and as things also around us kind of become better is something which will certainly happen. And nostalgia is another big piece, which I see continuing for a while. So all of these will certainly have a big impact on what we create and how we design,” said Kant.
Apart from creating trendy products for Titan, this year, Kant’s focus would be to stick to fundamentals and help her team navigate the challenges that COVID throws in their way. A lot of her teammates live alone or are feeling isolated and as a leader, she will focus on motivating the team, looking optimistically at the future, and really charging them up.