Saturday, November 12, 2011

Managing innovation: journey of Tanishq, jewelry division of Titan

I got an opportunity to listen to Mr. L. R. Natarajan (LRN), head of innovation council at Titan and Chief Manufacturing Officer of Tanishq, Titan’s jewelry division. He was one of the guest speakers at our workshop on innovation management at IIM Bangalore. The first thing you notice about LRN is the passion he carries for building a culture of innovation. After listening to the seven year journey LRN presented, most of us felt, “There is a lot more we can do in my organization”. What kinds of innovation management practices are followed at Tanishq? Here is a short summary.

“What’s new” campaign (2004): The journey at Tanishq began in 2004 where each of the 14 manufacturing departments was given a structured white board. Each team was supposed to write “What’s new” they are attempting on the whiteboard given to them. Competitive spirit was created by defining a review process and attaching rewards. This simple and effective process is still active after seven years of its launch.

Dreaming workshop & HOD fund (2006): In 2006, Titan had a workshop called “future shock” in which the MD asked 600 managers to dream about “Where do you see Titan 5 years down the road?” More than 130 new business ideas were generated. Through a selection process they were narrowed down to 2 new brands to be launched: Goldplus and Eyeplus.

“HOD fund” was initiated after observing that purchase of any capital item goes through a long chain of approvals – Sr. Manager, Deputy GM, GM, VP, COO, Corporate finance, Corp purchase & finally MD. By then the person who initiated the process loses interest. HOD fund created a shorter route for innovative ideas. Each Head of the Dept (HOD) was given a budget of upto Rs. 1 Lakh which he can approve himself.

Innovation school of management (2008): Between 2004 and 2008, many ideas got implemented. However, a closer look revealed that ideas had come from only 10% of the employees. Innovation school of management was started to involve every employee in this journey. A six month course was created and a written test & viva were conducted to select the first batch of 30 participants. For the first 3 days, the participants are taught about what, why and tools and techniques on how to think creatively. Then they were given a challenge to work on. If the inventory is 1 crore the challenge could be “How can we manage with 10 lakh inventory?” All HODs are trained mentors and they mentor the participants. Each participant is given 6 hrs per week to work on the challenge. There is a review once a month. At the end of the course, the MD hands over the certificates. The goal is to have all the employees as trained innovators by 2014-15. So far 187 out of 400 employees in the factory have been certified through the school.

Currently innovation group in Tanishq has 9 full-time members with 1 division manager, 3 managers and 5 executives.

3 success stories: (out of several LRN presented)

1.      Diamond setting: The process for preparing the casting mould was improved so that a highly skilled job of diamond setting becomes easier. In place of 100 to 150 stones a karigar is now setting 1500 stones every day. This process improvement idea has been patented.

2.      Diamond bagging: Diamond bagging is a process of starting with a work order, picking the right set of diamonds from hundred different varieties, putting it in a bag and giving it to the production to put it in the necklace. The idea of automating this process came from the theme that was launched in 2007: “Simplify and automate”. After about 4 years of working closely with the machine building division, a robotic arm was created that automated diamond bagging. This may be first time diamond bagging got automated in the world.

3.      Gold out of stone: Hard silicon carbide crucibles were lying around the factory. People knew that these might contain gold. However, people didn’t know what to do. One day, Rajsekhar, one of the operators got a road-roller from his neighbor and crushed the crucibles. About four and a half kilos of gold was recovered.


  1. arati.mohanram@gmail.comDecember 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Thanks. What struck me was the combined role of LRN "Head of Innovation Council and Chief Manufacturing Officer". To an outsider, manufacturing is about scale, JIT inventory and implementation of innovation perhaps,,,, But double hatting by the same person......

  2. I agree, Arati. Innovation is typically synonymous with new product or business development. However, in a place like Tanishq it seems to encompass all aspects of business including improvements to process and brand. In fact, LRN wears a third hat that of managing the brand GoldPlus. He was responsible for conceiving & commencing the brand.

  3. I think it is sheer innovation & commitment that a project which began in the corridors of Tata Press - initially with mass watches went on to become India most successful Lifestyle branding story, and still counting.. Infact i would myself like to take a sabattical & join a month course at School of innovation at titan!- harish gupta

    1. Thanks, Harish for sharing your information. I didn't know that Titan mass market watch idea was originated in the corridors of Tata Press. As the saying goes, "Don't go looking for the root of an idea..."

  4. Hello,Thanks for useful blog. I'd like to add. While many people believe that process and structure stifle creativity – the center of gravity for sourcing and inspiring innovation – this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, planning ahead streamlines the process and surfaces any potential bottlenecks ahead of time, resulting in a program that is more apt to produce meaningful outcomes and return on investment for organizations. Thanks all.