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Titan acqui-hires smart devices maker Hug Innovations
Ravi Kant, CEO of the watches and wearables business at Titan Company

Titan Co. Ltd, the Tata Group’s watch and jewellery retailing arm, has acqui-hired smart devices manufacturer Hug Innovations Inc. as part of its strategy to focus on the fast-growing wearables market.

As part of the transaction,the company has purchased patented advanced geture recognition technology from Hug Innovations founder and CEO Raj Neravati has already joined Titan along with 23 other members of his team, according to a stock-exchange filing.

Bengaluru-based Titan said the move would give it access to Hug’s consumer platform and intellectual property. However, it declined to divulge the value at which it acquired the technology from Hug Innovations.

S Ravi Kant, CEO for watches and accessories at Titan, said the firm will look for coming up with between four to five products in the wearables segment every year. It is also open to more acquisitions in the future, Kant added.

The Hyderabad- and California-based Hug was incorporated in 2015. The firm says its mission is to bridge the gap between people and technology through the use of intuitive and sustainable devices, according to its website.

Apart from smartwatches and fitness bands, the company also runs a smart solutions platform that provides services to various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, utilities, transport, and hospitality. It also operates a gesture-based internet-of-things (IoT) platform that it says can be integrated into different devices.

Separately, Titan has also launched a smartwatch, the Titan Connected X, in the Indian market, according to the reports.

Titan originally commenced operations in 1984 under the Titan Watches brand. The company says it is the fifth-largest integrated own-brand watch manufacturer in the world. It operates several brands targeting different audience segments in the watches and jewellery space, including Titan, Sonata, Fastrack, Tanishq, Mia and CaratLane, according to its corporate website.

In April last year, VCCircle reported that Titan Company Ltd had increased its stake in CaratLane at twice the valuation it had paid when it purchased investment firm Tiger Global’s stake in it in 2016. It had originally picked up a 66.5% stake, valuing CaratLane at around Rs 567 crore.

Titan’s acquisition of Hug Innovations is the latest sign of investor and strategic interest in the wearables segment, which has seen a giant leap in popularity because of products from the likes of Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung.

However, the mid-range to the premium focus of these brands has led to other startups and companies attempting to fill in the gaps. For example, in June last year, wearable fitness device maker GOQii Inc. raised an undisclosed sum of money in funding from Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar.

In 2016, GOQii had also raised funding from Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata. That year, the firm raised an undisclosed amount from the venture capital arm of Edelweiss Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. The round saw Edelweiss becoming a strategic partner to the startup.

In August 2017, VCCircle reported that Silicon Valley accelerator HAX Growth had agreed to back the Gurugram-based DAZL, which builds connected devices focussed on women’s safety.

Note: A previous version of this report said that Titan had fully acquired Hug Innovations. However, the company has clarified in a stock exchange filing that the move was only limited to the purchase of the advanced gesture recognition technology from the company and hiring its entire team. The error is regretted.

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