Titan has different sets of employees for different functions and verticals, ranging from the shopfloor to the retail stores. How do you bring in a homogeneity in culture? Is there any way to bind them all together in a ‘monoculture’?
Yes, I agree. At Titan Company, we work in different value chains and have different businesses in eye care, watches, jewellery and saris. We also have a vertical in the B2B space. With each one at a different stage of its business lifecycle, we require different kinds of people. They are bound together by common values — ‘Titan Values’, as we call them. It is about unconditional regard for people, trust and transparency, openness, ethical behaviour and so on.
These elements are present in every function and even in our leadership-building and training competencies. To make this happen, leaders need to role-play these elements. Take transparency and accessibility — We make sure that all our leaders are approachable, even at the shopfloor. This also ensures transparency. There are multiple feedback systems and strict action is taken in case of any behavioural or ethical issue.
When it comes to hiring specialised talent — say jewellery designers, trend-spotters for watches, or a super-specialised technician — what is your talent-acquisition strategy?
We believe in ‘growing our own kingdom’. That means, a lot of hiring is done at the bottom of the pyramid—designers and management trainees are groomed into future leaders. We generally avoid lateral hiring, but if needed we do that for middle- management positions.
We recruit designers from the best institutes, such as the National Institute of Fashion Technology and the National Institute of Design. Management trainees and interns are hired through internship programmes from the best B schools. Our conversion rate with the interns is high, because they experience the culture of our organisation after working with us for six months.
Apart from this, our campus-connect programmes allow students to work on projects and present their results to a jury of CXOs. The winners are offered internships and jobs. In B-schools, the programme is called ‘Elevate’; for design schools we have ‘Nvisage’.
“At Titan, people working in housekeeping and security roles are contractual. They enjoy free food. Bonuses given to the regular employees are extended to them as well, as we consider them a part of our ecosystem”
Manufacturing watches is all about precision and can be done better by an intelligent machine, especially when it comes to repetitive jobs. Will we see a reduced workforce or super-specialised people on the shopfloor in the near future?
There has been no significant drop in the headcount in our manufacturing units. In some plants, such as the one at Hosur, the numbers have dipped a little because of automation. I do not think the numbers in watch manufacturing will fall. However, because of the digitisation of many jobs, we certainly need to enhance the digital quotient of our employees. Automation and digitisation will replace certain jobs, not just in manufacturing but in other industries as well, such as services.
Organisations will need to work on skilling or reskilling employees for future jobs.
Do popular brands attract better talent, especially at the entry level?
It certainly gives an edge, but it’s more important for organisations to focus on the employer brand and employee-value proposition and how to position it externally. After all, we live in a networking community. Students ask their seniors — who have worked with us earlier — about the organisation.
I would say that youngsters today think differently and are ready to work for unknown brands, which give them space, better work-life balance and the liberty to experiment. Such benefits attract better talent than brand popularity, and therefore, organisations need to work on these.
Working on the shopfloor can be quite challenging for women. Do you have a special policy to help them overcome these challenges?
We have always had women working on our shopfloors and we are aware that in some roles they work better than men. The assembly team comprises about 90 to 95 per cent women. We do have special policies for women. At the corporate offices, we have maternity leave and work-from-home. In divisions where work-from-home policies do not apply, such as in the retail stores, we give them longer breaks. These benefits, however, cannot be given to women on the shopfloors because the work there is continuous.
How close are we to a robust gig economy? After all, the number of contractual employees on the shopfloor is increasing across sectors. What’s the scene at Tanishq?
Most of our employees are on our payroll — not on contract. However, the concept of gig economy will catch on with time. People want to do more than one job at a time and businesses can also look to take out 20 hours of work in a week. Already, at our retail stores, people often work for four to five hours a day, because on certain days the footfall is not that high. So, we are experimenting and readying ourselves for the gig economy. I do not see people seeking to work on a project-term basis yet, but if that happens we have policies to enable them.
The assembly team comprises about 90 to 95 per cent women. We do have special policies for women. At the corporate offices, we have maternity leave and work-from-home. In divisions where work-from-home policies do not apply, such as in the retail stores, we give them longer breaks. However, these benefits cannot be given to women on the shopfloors, because the work there is continuous.
The biggest concerns for contractual employees are benefits and security. Where do you think this is heading?
I think contractual workers should also get the same benefits as regular employees. The gap between the two will narrow down over the years. Most of the organisations work on long-term benefits and rewards, and contractual work is short term. At Titan, people working in housekeeping and security roles are contractual. They enjoy free food. When the Company performs well, bonuses are given to employees. This is extended to contractual employees as well, as we consider them a part of our ecosystem. Some of them are also provided insurance cover.
Before joining Titan, you worked in sectors such as retail, logistics, oil & gas, and online retail. How has this shaped you as a professional?
From the time of my trainee days, I had been curious to understand how a business works. This understanding of different businesses in different sectors at that time gave me the ability to think strategically and operationally. First, I got to work closely with the business, and second, it gave me the ability to understand diverse sections of people. However, more than working in different sectors, what matters is the actual work we do in our previous organisations. It is important to understand general as well as specialist roles. For instance, my experience in leadership development has helped me give prominence to developing talent and leaders in my current organisation.
What’s the role of engagement in a manufacturing setup? How different is it in a corporate setup?
First and foremost, we should understand the needs of the people working in a manufacturing setup. The need for recognition is there for both sets of employees, but the ways are different. In a manufacturing setup, people tend to volunteer for organisation-driven programmes, such as CSR, but youngsters in the corporate setup prefer to do that in their own time and space.
In manufacturing, it is more about an employee’s long association with an organisation. Manufacturing employees do not need independence. They seek instructions on daily tasks and how they can increase their productivity and link it to their bonuses.
Corporate employees, on the other hand, need to discuss career development. At Titan, our HR teams integrate with the function heads and design HR policies tailored to suit the different kinds of workforce.
(This article was first published in HRKatha Print Magazine)