Xerxes Desai began his career with the Tata group as a member of the Tata Administrative Service, and worked in Tata Chemicals, Tata Industries, Indian Hotels and Tata Press. He started Titan Industries in the early 1980s, revolutionised the watch industry in India and made Titan the most admired Indian watch brand. He was on the boards of the National Institute of Advanced Studies, the National Centre for the Performing Arts and the Titan Foundation for Education. In 1994, he was inducted into the Advertising and Marketing Hall of Fame. In 1997 he was rated India’s 5th best CEO in a survey conducted by Business World. In 2007, he received a lifetime achievement award from the National Institute of Design and Business World.
Xerxes Desai was passionate about urban issues in India. On loan from the Tata Group, he was part of the New Bombay Project with Shirish B Patel and Charles Correa in the early 1970s. In the 1980s, he also served on the National Commission on Urbanisation constituted by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Xerxes’ interest in urban affairs was seen in the newspaper articles authored by him and in his active involvement in urban issues pertaining to Bengaluru. Art and architecture, books, western classical music and dogs occupied his somewhat limited leisure hours.