Unravelling nuggets of innovation

Vinay Kamath | Updated on March 21, 2021

The journey of Tanishq’s mass market brand GoldPlus

There’s a scene in the classic animated movie, Ratatouille, when chef Colette Tatou is careening on a motor bike, aghast at knowing that her restaurant’s super chef is actually a rat. However, Colette returns to the restaurant, when at a road signal, she sees her mentor, chef Auguste Gusteau’s book, with his motto, ‘Anyone can cook.’

To take a leaf from this analogy to LR Natarajan’s book, The 9 Nuggets of Innovation, he insists that anyone can innovate and that innovation is simple and inspiration is the origin of innovation. Now, there have been tomes written on innovation, as LRN, as he’s popularly known, himself says in the book. So what does yet another book on innovation bring?

For starters, the book is by an innovation practitioner who in his long years in the jewellery division, Tanishq, of Titan Co Ltd, brought many innovative practices to bear. The book abounds in examples of extraordinary results of innovation by seemingly ordinary people.

While there are many definitions of innovations, LRN says that for a business innovation, it is up to the organisation to define its own innovation, which can be arrived at through a what (product); how (process) and why (motivation).

Three-step process

The ‘why innovate’ can give much clarity as the organisation can decide what it needs to do from a portfolio of choices: increase profitability, achieve market leadership, rapid revenue growth, customer value delight, employee loyalty or customer delight. This three-step process, LRN says, can bring clarity to all employees and also have their ownership.

There is a general misconception that innovation means product innovation. As LRN explains in his book, innovation can be in any field, from customer empathy and satisfaction to process innovation. LRN writes about how Titan’s jewellery division started a mass market brand, GoldPlus, to cater to tier 3 and 4 towns.

The challenge was to wean custom away from traditional family jewellers. This they did through an unusual customer loyalty programme called Ananta by treating customers as family members.

Data was collected on customers’ families on their visits. If a customer said his or her father was an ardent devotee of Lord Balaji, then on the father’s birthday, a laddu from Tirupati would be delivered to him. Or, if someone said their son is a huge Rajinikanth fan, the entire family would be given tickets by the store staff for a new movie release. GoldPlus even arranged pilgrimage trips for senior citizens from customer families, counselling sessions for students, involved NGOs working with special children to create greeting cards and carry bags for the Ananta gift given to customers, and so on.

The innovation in interacting with customers in a different and empathetic way helped GoldPlus become the first brand in the Titan stable to be profitable in its first year of operations. The brand won many awards for its Ananta initiative, including being amongst the top five at the World Retail Congress held in Berlin in 2009. “It was indeed a proud moment for a small brand from south of India, with a ₹800 crore turnover, when we shared the dais with heavyweights like Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger,” recalls LRN.

LRN classifies his nine nuggets of innovation into three main heads: identifying pertinent innovation opportunities; creating the drive in enabling an innovation portfolio and lastly, making innovation happen by empowering and through collaborations. These thoughts are further sub-divided into specific steps to go through the process of innovation.

Delving into his various experiences at Tanishq, LRN describes how Titan Co took steps also to democratise innovation in the company where all employees are involved in the innovation journey. Employees, he says, have learnt to do two jobs simultaneously: how do I do my job better and secondly, how do I find new ways to do my job. Putting its money where its mouth is, Titan established an Innovation School of Management within the company in 2009 to formalise the process where employees undergo a six months programme, leading to a diploma in innovation to the employee.

With illustrative and practical examples, LRN has tried to reinforce the point that anyone can innovate with a bit of the right orientation and guidance. Of course, as he concludes, it needs the buy-in of the senior leadership. The top leader’s involvement should be 100 per cent and anything less may not yield the desired results. “Leaders who have made the choice in systematically implementing the culture of innovation in their business have mostly succeeded,” says LRN.

Published on March 21, 2021

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