Master’s from Oxford in philosophy, economics and politics will certainly imbue the student with a sense of history. You wouldn’t expect him to make timepieces. But Xerxes Desai only took a step in tune with the times when he set up the Titan Industries Limited. The motivation was simple, as Desai once said. The only brand available was the state-run HMT. India of the 1970s was an economy of scarcity, hemmed in by ‘licence raj’, which capped the output of most products. One had to book a watch. Without decent watches, and clockwork, how could a nation chart its success?
Desai gave India its first quartz watches, a respite from watches that had to be set up and wound every day. J.R.D. Tata, doyen of the Tata Group, instantly liked the idea of launching a watch brand. By then, he had gained wide experience in various Tata verticals, such as chemicals, hotels and steel.