Abhishek Rastogi, Head of Design – Jewellery Division, Titan Company Limited

The fourth session of the event was about design, a bit of Bollywood, and lots of style. The topic was “Building a design-led retail strategy”, with the speaker being Abhishek Rastogi, Head of Design-Jewellery Division,  Titan Company Limited.

Rastogi started by giving details about his company.“At Titan, we create elevating experiences which are about touching people with our products and impacting the world we live in, in a significant manner. We have created several successful brands in the jewellery space, such as Tanishq, Mia, Zoya, Caratlane, and so forth. Today, the annual revenue of the company is$ 2.5 billion.”

Titan has been able to create large successful brands over the years because of its strong belief in the five pillars of the value chain, Rastogi explained. The first pillar, he added, is gaining insights about consumers.“At Titan, we feel it’s important to speak to consumers, listen to their voices, understand their changing needs, and then incorporate these findings in our business.”

The second pillar constitutes design and innovating accordingly so as to stay ahead of the curve, and also, at times, surprise the customers with company offerings.The third pillar is having strong product development that takes into account innovations. The fourth is strong brand building and marketing campaigns to support the product strategy.

The fifth pillar is enriching customer experience through retail channels.  Describing the strategy of his company, Rastogi said that Titan strategically creates business opportunities, with more than 3500 products in India every year. And all of these products are created to answer the needs of the customer. “We do it because we believe in the power of design,” he added.

Rastogi said that design is not limited to a function in the organization — it spreads across the company, and that’s what leads to success. “It also impacts the products we launch, raises the brand’s equity, and gives us a sustainable competitor edge,” he told the gathering.

He went on to say that good designs are critical to success in business. Design itself is a factor of several elements. For instance, a good design should be ergonomically sound. It should have a feel-good factor, and should sit well on customers. Besides, a large enough segment of the customer base should find it appealing. A good design has to be saleable; it should bring business to the organization.

Sharing the work culture of his company with the attendees, Rastogi said, “At Titan, we believe that human centricity is the core of the design, and it is human centricity that defines the product strategy. We go out in the market, and speak to a lot of customers. We hear what they have to say, we understand how the market is changing, and we come back to the drawing board with all our inputs and get down to work.”

Giving examples of three of the company’s initiatives, Avir, Padmavat and Queen of Hearts, he explained how the design strategy was built based on insights gleaned from consumers. Avir is a range of men’s jewellery that was launched one and a half years back. It was introduced after intensive market research, which revealed that Asian consumers have become wellness junkies, and the fitness industry is growing at a fast pace. Besides, there is a paradigm shift in the grooming industry in India. As per the SHM report, India’s male grooming industry is growing at 45% per year. It is fuelled by changing lifestyles, greater spending power, rise in media exposure and greater product choices. “This is how we defined our consumer segment. This segment is narcissistic, it believes in self-reward and believes that pampering the self is a birthright. We targeted this new-age man who projects a global image and has a personal style for self-expression, and he wants to demonstrate success and exclusivity in society,” Rastogi explained

The design story for the collection, said Rastogi, has been inspired by the need to display power, and effortless styling. The design language used involves speed and high-tech precision, coupled with staples in the men’s wear industry, namely, checks and stripes. There are a number of interactive elements in the products that convey a sense of speed and movement. Rastogi told the gathering that this collection has been doing extremely well.

The second initiative pertains to Padmavat, which resulted from Titan’s collaboration with the makers of the Hindi film of the same name. Rastogi said that this collection enabled the company to showcase Indian heritage and Indian jewellery in all its grandeur on a large screen. Padmavati is all about the traditional Indian bride. The key big influencers in the case of Padmavat were royal heirlooms, Bollywood, and the handcrafted era. “Today’s brides want to feel and look nothing less than princesses on their wedding day. Thanks to designers such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the princess look is not hard to create. In fact, it has become quite a trend to look like royalty on the wedding day. The Padmavat jewellery was all about recreating the old world charm and the royal grandeur with elements such as unshaped stones, a raw look, coloured Kundan, and a focus on handcraftsmanship. The movie, in a way, helped us establish these new trends, including bridal accessories such as the nath, manng tikka,etc,” Rastogi said.

The third initiative, Queen of Hearts, was all about innovation. It was launched as a high-value collection about five years back. “At that point of time, there were a number of synthetic coloured stones in the market, and we wanted create a niche for ourselves by giving our collection a premium look and making it appear as natural as possible,” said Rastogi. He added that when the company did its market research five years back, it realized that low-value synthetic stones were being used widely in high-value jewellery. The stones were large in size and provided a value-for-money proposition. In fact, there was no alternative to using them, as consumers seemed to desire them greatly.

As a result, Tanishq felt it should use these stones, but in a different way. The company put in a great deal of effort to bridge the gap between the natural stones and the synthetic ones in terms of appearance and feel. “We took the path of innovation, which took us three to four months. Our designers in Jaipur created a huge number of synthetic stones. We realized that a synthetic stone was cut in a way very similar to real stone. But the reflective index and properties of the two materials are very different. So, we thought the answer lay in cutting the synthetic stone in such a way that from the top it looked similar to natural stone, and at the bottom when it was turned around, it was designed in such a way as to reflect a certain amount of light back to the eyes. We also made the back of the stone in matte finish, which transformed its look. At Tanishq, we no longer call it the synthetic red; we have given it the name gorgeous red,” Rastogi told the gathering.

Tanishq has been using these synthetic stones for over four years now in collection after collection. It has been a very successful experiment for the company, and customers have lapped them up. Overall, the use of these stones has had a hugely positive impact on the business of the company, with Tanishq having used them in over 1500 products.