Time runs out for 'timekeepers of the nation' HMT Watches, to be shut soon

The watchmaker was set up to compete against the Swiss watch industry and at one point was the dominant watch manufacturer in the country.

Arun George September 11, 2014 11:25:46 IST
Time runs out for 'timekeepers of the nation' HMT Watches, to be shut soon

Finally, time isup for HMT Watches, for the company has miserably failed to keepup with the changingtimes.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the government has decided to shut down the subsidiary of HMT, which has been running up losses since 2000 as itlost out in a fiercely competitive space, now dominated by classy global and other local private brands.

The government, however, has approved the payment of salaries for its employees.

TheIEreportquoted a senior government official as saying that the governmentwould begin winding down the company soon.

"The government has decided to shut down HMT Watches and HMT Chinar Watches Ltd. The Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises (BRPSE) has already recommended it and the board of directors has also given the go-ahead," the official was quoted as saying.

While the machine tool manufacturing unit of HMT was set up in the 1950s to cater to the nation's requirement, the first watch manufacturing unit of the company was set up in Bangalore in collaboration with Japanese watch manufacturer Citizen Watch company and the first batch of watches was released by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Created to compete against the secretive Swiss watch company, HMT watchesclaim credit for introducing India's first automatic day-date watch Quartz, Braille watch, first ana-digi watch and other models.

The company was even at the forefront of the Indian state's battle against foreign watch brands that were being smuggled into the country and was told to double its production in the 1970s by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

However, unimaginative designs - the company was accused of copying designs from foreign competitors initially - and factors like having select retail outlets are said to have gone against the company that at one point had a 34 percent market share of the watch market in India, this detailedcase study by R Srinivasan notes. It also pointed out how internal red tape resulted in HMT reacting slower to its competitors' moves.

The watch making unit was restructured as a wholly owned subsidiary of HMT Limited in 2000 and it was already flagging as competition like Titan began to attack its dominance in the low cost watch market as well. The company at present has four plants: in Srinagar, Tumkur and Ranibagh and employs over 1,000 people.

As losses mounted, a revival plan was drawn up for the company which was approved by the BRPSEin 2006, but it didn't get the support of the Ministry of Finance and Planning Commission. Asked to get a consultant to check their plans on marketing and product diversification, the company appointed ICRA management consultancy and came up with a new revival plan.

The new revival plan said a cash infusion of Rs 252 crore was needed and non-cash assistance of Rs. 1247 crore. However, despite approving the payment of salaries of employees, the government has reportedly decided against keeping the loss making venture fromthe socialist era alive and willinsteadbring down curtains on a company that dominated the watch market for decades.

If you're still interested in a piece of nostalgia, the watches of the company are still available on various online platforms and the company's website and should be for some time.

Updated Date:

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