Design will play a very important role in making India Aatmanirbhar, says Revathi Kant of Titan
“Design is a science by itself, not just art. I would say it’s really a fine balance between the process and creativity,” says Revathi Kant, Chief Design Officer at Titan Company Ltd.
Revathi has been at the helm of design operations for Titan, the fifth largest watchmaker in the world. A Tata Group brand, it has also forayed into jewellery, eyewear, and fragrances. At the center of design for all of Titan’s products is the Design Excellence Center, headed by Revathi, who commands a team of 95 designers, product designers, technical designers, engineers, trend researchers, graphic designers, and UI/UX designers.
Revathi Kant, Chief Design Officer, Titan Company Ltd.
With a career spanning over 30 years and counting, all of which have been spent at Titan, Revathi has been working in the design space for over 15 years now. HerStory caught up with the design expert to understand design trends, the effect of the pandemic, the future of work, and more. Edited excerpts from the interview.
HerStory: What does the job description of a Chief Design Officer entail?
Revathi Kant (RK): It is like a film director who has a vision of the film. If I were to describe that’s my role, I need to have a vision of what the film is all about. And I have got great actors - my team members and talented designers - who go about creating that part, envisaging and putting the whole thing together, and making the whole package really desirable for the consumer.
HS: How has the pandemic affected your work, and how is the Design Excellence Centre adapting to the challenges of the new normal?
RK: The first one week was a little strange and difficult in terms of getting adjusted to it. But when we realised this was going for the long haul, we prepared ourselves so that the work does not suffer.
I must admit the first one week was difficult, but once we had our people, we put in a lot of discipline and work process. Once all the team members managed to have the right stationary, the hardware and software in place, working became smooth. In fact, we were actually working quite productively and coming up with good quality work.
So, as we speak today, we have a system in place where we work one week from office and one week from home to reduce the number of people at any one point in time in office, and it's working perfectly well. I would say this is a new learning because of COVID-19. It has taught us a new way and a productive way of working.
HS: Would you say productivity has increased?
RK: I would not say it’s gone up, but it has definitely not come down either.
HS: You have worked in the design space for 15 years. How have you seen design evolve over the years?
RK: In India, design was merely seen as a superficial thing. If something looks good, then it is designed well. It was just an aesthetic thing. But design is about problem solving. It is as much about form as it is about functionality. Design is far more integral to business than it was before. Earlier it was never seen like that and design as a function was a small category under marketing. But today, there is a big transformation, and I will definitely say I have worked hard to make that happen in my company. Now, design is being valued, it is being heard, and it is very clear that design is really the differentiator. With technology coming in, the convergence of design and technology will function as a true differentiator in the future.
HS: What changes has the pandemic enforced when it comes to design trends and capabilities?
RK: There has been a fundamental shift in retail. Digital retail has become very big and people are now purchasing online. The interaction design space has also seen a change - a boom. The trend is about simplifying things and decluttering. There is increased AR/VR experience, and there has been a lot of video calling to show products to customers.
HS: What have been the consumer mindset and trends during COVID? How is it affecting product design?
RK: There is an overall mindset change of ‘Less is more’. Minimalism as a design principle has come up now, thanks to COVID. I see this trend to remain for a while now, and hence what we create, even in terms of product design, is going to have an impact.
So, when we talk about less is more, the larger purpose is about moving into the world of sustainability. People want better products, with better longevity, and better quality. It was a trend even before the pandemic, but pandemic has made people realise how important it is.
HS: What does sustainability look like at Titan?
RK: Sustainability is about having a good life and leaving a better world for the generations to come. As a company, we have taken two key things that we are working on. One is the carbon footprint and the second is water. So, being water positive and a neutral carbon footprint company is really the journey we are on.
When you make this process change, the products one makes also follow the sustainable path. It’s not about calling a product sustainable, but it’s moving the entire ecosystem so that all parameters become far better than what they were yesterday, and at the same time not causing any negative impact on the environment.
HS: What part will technology play in shaping design in the future?
RK: The pandemic has forced upon us to actually accept and embrace technology. It was always there, but now we have no choice but to accept it, and technology is going to impact everything.
From a design point of view, when things move online, you start designing your products for virtual viewing - the way it is visible, the way it is shown, and the colour combination. So, making the product more suitable for virtual viewing will be an important parameter to be considered at the design stage.
Another aspect is the technology in the product itself like smartwatches and smart products. So, that is when the design also changes accordingly. Technology is influencing all our lives and it is influencing the products we create as well.
HS: What does the future of design look like?
RK: The future of design looks very optimistic and very promising because if we are talking about making India Aatmanirbhar and a sustainable manufacturing hub, then design plays a very important role in helping manufacturers achieve this. Design as a subject is gaining a lot of importance. Second, a lot of people are more appreciative of design.
It’s not that Indians are saying ‘anything is okay’. Design has become so important - whether you buy furniture, lighting, or anything - because everybody is viewing it through that lens. As a profession and as a subject this has become very important in India, and I would say more and more people should get into design study as well.