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Management Of Innovation Titan Edge History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Innovation is defined as the process by which new products, services, materials and processes are developed and introduced into the market for commercialization. Thus, Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas.

There are 4P’s of Innovation which are as follows:

Product Innovation- Changes in the products/services offered by the company

Process Innovation- Changes the way in which the products are created & delivered to the customers

Position Innovation- Changes the manner in which the product is introduced in the market

Paradigm Innovation- Changes the underlying model which changes the way in which the company functions

Innovation is very critical for all the businesses in order to grow and survive the fierce competition in the marketplace. Thus companies continuously bring about innovation and introduce a lot of new products and services to gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. The companies do this by investing a lot of money in their R&D department.

There are companies which have the greatest ideas in the world but that do not make them innovative. A starting point of a breakthrough innovation is not an idea but it is an orbit-shifting challenge. Ideas are certainly important as far as innovation is considered but it is not the starting point of the innovation process.

To bring about a breakthrough innovation the most important thing for a company is to get a team in place, enroll team members, create strategies, convince stake holders to invest money and finally to create route in order to reach the destination which did not exist before.

Problem Statement:

The objective of Titan Watch Industries was to design and make the slimmest water-resistant watch in the world. This was the orbit shifting challenge which Mr. Xerxes Desai, the managing director at that time had put forward to his team in the year 1994.

To create the slimmest watch in the world it needed to be just 3.5mm thick which is as thick as the edge of the floppy disc. In order to achieve this objective the Titan team went to the Swiss who are known as the master of watch making in order to get a deep insight and get help in developing the watch. But to their dismay, the Swiss said that it is impossible. The major reason behind this was that a watch could either be ultra-slim or either it could be water-resistant. The Swiss themselves had made an effort in the year 1982 but they had failed to make the world’s slimmest water-resistant watch.

Although they were disappointed but the Titan team took on the challenge and said that if the Swiss could not do it than they would do it. It took them four long years to make a breakthrough innovation and do the impossible by challenging almost all the parameters of watch making.

Thus, the slimmest water-resistant in the world wad conceptualized, designed and manufactured not in Switzerland or Japan but was done right here in India.

Objectives of the study:

The main objective of this study was to understand that how the innovation process was carried out and managed by Titan Watch Industries in order to make the slimmest water-resistant watch in world- Titan Edge.

The Titan story is a classic example of an Indian company achieving an amazing feat by making a truly global innovative product successfully. Hence, studying its success story becomes all the more important.

Thus, I selected the Titan Edge case study as the topic of my seminar paper wherein I could learn the way the innovation process was managed effectively by Titan and which made it a global player in the field of watch making.

The Beginning:

It all started way back in 1985 when Titan Watch Industries was set up as a joint venture between the Tata Group and Tamil Nadu Industries Development Corporation. It began with French collaboration from where they got the watch movements and the technology used to develop them. The production of watches began in the year 1987. By the year 1992, Titan started to surpass their French collaborators and started to improve their own creations. At this time Xeres Desai gave a call to develop the slimmest water-resistant watch in order to become a global player by proposing an orbit-shifting challenge to his team. Titan felt the need to make this innovation because they realized that just being the marketing leaders won’t help but to earn the respect as the best in the world it was necessary to become the technology leader.

In 1994 Desai gave the R&D team the challenge of developing the slimmest movement in the world which would 1.15mm thin- as thin as a credit card. The current movement developed by Titan was 3.4mm thick and the challenge was to develop 1.15mm which was a challenging task for the team considering the fact that it was just the second movement which would be developed in-house.

Desai further raised the challenge by asking the team to put the movement in the case and create a watch out of it. And in India it needed to be water-resistant as Indians do not prefer to buy watches which are not water-resistant. This was an impossible challenge because till date there was no ultra-slim watch which was water-resistant.

The Challenges:

There were various challenges which Desai had to face during the development of Titan Edge. The greatest challenges were internal as the mindset of deference to the development world is the key reason which prevents breakthrough innovation in a developing country like India. The various challenges faced during the project were as follows:

Challenge 1: Enrolling to the cause

While making a radical innovation the biggest challenge is to create self-belief within the team members. The engineering challenge would have been impossible to achieve unless the self-belief and enrolment had not happened.

When the team returned from Switzerland without any progress the reaction of the people within the organization was that if the Swiss cannot do it than how can we do it and if Swiss cannot do it than no one can do it.

Thus it was this mindset of deference to the developed world which was the major challenge which Desai had to tackle. The watch manufacturing has three main departments which are case manufacture, movement manufacture and assembly. In addition to this even R&D department had to been enrolled and energized. The usual response the manufacturing department gives to the design department is that you give us the drawings and we will work according to it. If it works, it works and if does not work than we cannot do anything about it. But once the true alignment had happened at Titan people take ownership for their work and in this case the response from the manufacturing department to the design people was that you provide us with the drawings and we will figure a way out and see to it that things work out properly.

Thus, this is how the entire team was motivated and energized in order to enroll them into the cause of making the slimmest water-resistant watch in the world.

Challenge 2: The Movement Challenge

The team at Titan kicked off with the watch movement in the R&D department which was headed by Subramanya Bhatt. During that point of time there were no benchmarks available in the world because the movement of that thickness did not exist. It was a big challenge for the team as they had to make the movement of that thickness from scratch since reengineering was not possible.

It was an astronomical challenge in front of the team and it needed a paradigm shift to bring down the size of the movement from 3.4mm to 1.15mm thickness. There were many technological challenges right from the manufacturing department, assembly department and the testing department.

The biggest challenge was to accommodate the components in the available space and mainly the battery and the step motor. For this they had to miniaturize the size of the components drastically. The problem with the battery was that reducing the size of the battery would reduce the power of the battery considerably and would thus reduce the power backup considerably. Thus it’s a trade-off between the size and the power of the battery. You can either have an ultra-slim battery or else you can have a battery with a long-life. It’s an either/or challenge but innovation is all about the ‘and’.

In the initial survey all the usual battery suppliers said that it is impossible to make a battery of this size and it can’t be done. But then the team conducted an intense secondary research and was able to find a supplier located in USA who was able to make the battery which was 1.05mm thick and had a backup for a considerably longer time.

But still this was not enough because for the watch to be water-resistant the back cover needs to be opened as infrequently as possible. Thus, this needed that the battery should have backup of comparatively a longer battery life. The team had to reduce the power consumption of the battery by half in order to double the battery life. The step motor is the heart of the watch and it is the component which consumes the maximum amount of power. Hence, they had to somehow crash the power consumption of the step motor.

For this challenge a silicon chip was developed and simultaneously the step motor was worked on to reduce the consumption of power. The net result was that the life of the battery doubled. There were number of innovations made in terms of tooling, equipment and production facilities in order to create the slimmest movement in the world. Thus, finally the movement of 1.15mm thickness was ready and the next challenge was to make a case around it and which needed to be waterproof.

Challenge 3: The Case Challenge

After the movement was developed Desai brought in B.V. Nagraj who was the head of the product engineering in order to tackle the challenge of making the case. With the working prototypes of the movement the team members decided to go to Switzerland to the famous Watch Fair in Basel, to meet the Swiss who are considered the master of watch making and ask them to make a waterproof case around the movement. In terms of styling, design, reliability and quality everything is with reference to the Swiss in the watch industry. Even the Titan team believed that the Swiss were the ultimate and they would have the solution to their problem. But to their shock the Swiss were actually surprised that an Indian manufacturer had made the movement. When Titan team members asked them to make a casing of 3.5mm thickness many of them told them that they had gone crazy.

Many of the manufacturers took the prototype back to their factories but they came back and said that it’s not possible. Some of the VP’s were quite surprised that an Indian company could even think of something of such a high magnitude. Thus, the team had to return back to India without any progress.

The challenges were that the casing had to serve three functions simultaneously. The first one was that it needed to be just 3.5mm in thickness. Secondly, it would have to be water-resistant and lastly it should be good looking in design parameters as well. Thus for this breakthrough was required for the case: the top glass, the back cover and the crown which is the winding key on the side of the watch.

The usual thickness of the glass is around 1-1.2 mm but for a watch of 3.5mm thickness the glass would have to be around 0.3mm which is 75 per cent reduction in the thickness. The glass should have the same strength as the standard glass and in addition it should be water-resistant as well.

The team met Desai and said that Swiss cannot do it. So Desai asked his famous question to the team that “What are you going to do about it? How will you overcome the problem?” The team members told him that if the Swiss cannot make it than we will make it. Desai was confident that they will be able to make the case in-hose but the rest of the organization was not. It took some time for the organization to believe that it was possible. “If the Swiss can’t do it, than we will” became the rallying cry”. The fact that the Swiss could not make it energized them instead of de-energizing them.

The design team had to be convinced and inspired in order to make the case which would be 3.5mm thick and the tolerances would be as thick as a single hair. The case had to look aesthetically pleasing as well. Thus a complete paradigm shift was required in order to design the case for the movement.

The next stage was manufacturing. Hari Rao was the chief manufacturing officer and he was very passionate about Indian manufacturing skills. When he was told that the Swiss could not make it, he promptly said that we will make it and took it as a challenge. Getting Hari Rao on board was a simple challenge but getting the general managers of the case manufacturing and assembly was a tough task. Rafique Ahmed the GM of the case manufacturing was a practical kind of a person and he would prefer to maximize the productivity rather than trying something new. It was not east to enroll him but when he was told the fact that even Swiss could not do it struck a chord and he agreed to make the case provided that the design team would crack the glass challenge.

The problem with the glass was its thickness. No glass existed at 0.3mm which could withstand the rigors of daily wearing. The solution was found with sapphire glass as it was far sturdier and more reliable than the normal glass. It could be made much thinner and still it would not break. The team located a niche sapphire making glass-company called Steatlar in Switzerland which was able to make the glass of required thickness for the case.

Challenge 4: Prototype Challenges

There were several challenges faced while making the prototype. The biggest challenge was that the metal was thin on all the sides. Fixing the glass so that the watch would be waterproof was another challenge which the team faced. This was because of the thickness of the case between the glass and the watch needed to be in proportion with the thickness of the entire watch in order to make the watch aesthetically good looking. Drilling the hole for the crown was another challenge because the thickness of metal below the hole was just 0.1mm and hence it kept splitting. Finally the team figured out a way to do both the things. At no point of time reengineering was possible because there were no references available. Everything needed to be innovated like new jigs and new tools in order to make the case.

Even the strap was a challenge. Making the strap was also a paradigm shift. The strap needed to be thin enough in order to match the thickness of edge. The strap supplier had never made such a thin strap before but today he thanks Titan because he can sell these ultra-slim straps abroad at premium rates.

There were several such challenges to be overcome. And one by one they were. Finally the case was ready and it was given for the final assembly. Assembling the entire watch together was another major challenge. The clearances had come down drastically. Initially for other watches the clearances were around 150 microns but for the Edge the clearances came down to 100 microns. The challenges multiplied with a factor of ten as very fine clearance between the hands caused them to clash with each other and this needed to be tackled too.

Finally, the watch began to come together. It wasn’t easy for the team to handle the fights and arguments which used to come up due to frustration. There were constant fights due to the tolerances. Everyone wanted to increase the tolerance but then they were explained the significance of Titan Edge and they were told that it is not like any other watch.

After all the hard times finally the watch was ready. The Titan team manufactured about fifteen to twenty “Edge” watches in thirteen different shape variations which were then sent to Switzerland for testing.


The prototypes were sent to Chronofiable SA, Switzerland for testing which is a world renowned independent Horological testing Agency. The watches were subjected to various types of testing such as high temperature test, low temperature test, temperature shock tests, bump tests and drop tests etc. all spread over a period of eight weeks. After all the tests were conducted, the Titan Edge was certified as not only reliable but it was also certified as water-resistant up to 30 meters.

The watch was also tested internally at Titan and the interesting thing is the manner in which they were tested by Dwarkanath. He was of the opinion that the agencies can check the watch thoroughly but they cannot replicate the real life conditions. He threw the Edge against a wall, and then threw it in the floor at different angles in order to check whether it’s safe. He chucks it into the swimming pool in order to check whether it is water-resistant or not. Finally he tied the watch to the shock absorbers of his car and made several trips on the terrible roads between Bangalore and Hosur, covering 200 km in all. The “Edge” passed these tests too.


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