It was back in the year 1936, when Carrier installed India’s first ever air-conditioning system at Rambagh Palace in Jaipur. The brand went on to establish itself as the major air-conditioning brand in 1987 in the country and then there was no looking back. In 1988 Carrier inaugurated its first state-of-the-art, manufacturing facility in Gurgaon, Haryana. The lavish premises of the unit also boast of an excellent Technology Development Centre and an advanced quality clinic. Today the company is indulged in offering cassettes, ducted splits, package units, air-cooled and water-cooled screw chillers, fan coil units, air handling units and commercial refrigeration products. With more than 550 sales and service channel partners throughout the country, the company aims to launch more advanced solutions for its customers. “At Carrier, it is always ‘solution’ over ‘product’, says Farokh Madan, Director - Marketing & Strategy, Carrier India. In a recent conversation with Surfaces Reporter’s Editor-in-Chief, Vertica Dvivedi, Farokh spoke about their latest and customized offerings for India, company’s collaboration with Toshiba, and much more... Here are the excerpts.
Take us briefly through your journey and career graph so far?
I have been in this field of HVACR for over 20 years. I started my career with this company way back in 1996 and since then have been associated with different profiles in sales, product management and key account management within the company. Then I transited into a different industry of commercial refrigeration, where I had international roles. I was based in Europe for few years, handled some global key accounts for the prior company and since last two years I’m back to my first company – Carrier, for a second inning. This time, I head marketing and strategy wherein we look at product management, new product development, advertising and promotions for our brands, channel management and CSR. I also have a separate team that focuses on building relationship with key influencers like architects and HVAC consultants.
With more than a century of history of this company, what are the primary differentiating factors with the close competitors?
We are known as experts in the field of air-conditioning. Our philosophy and goal is always to give the right solution amongst multiple solutions available to customers. It is important for us as solution providers to give the right solution which benefits the customer, both in terms of initial costs and more importantly after acquisition costs. This is because these equipments typically have a life of 10 to 30 years depending on the equipment; so both the costs are important for the customer. The energy cost which is multifold of the initial cost is a very important factor. We have products which are very innovative and futuristic that integrates into a whole building management system. Today, HVAC is not seen as a standalone but as a part of the total solution of the building.
What is the primary product range which Carrier offers in India?
At Carrier, we look at everything outside of the residential market. We categorize market into three segments – light commercial, VRF and commercial applied products. These are coming from our own factory in Gurgaon or we import from either our own factories outside of India or our joint venture companies.
Is there any difference in the offering globally versus India?
Principally not as such, but when it comes to India or any other country, the product needs to be customized for that particular country to take care of customer needs and local requirement – to have a local fit which would run successfully in India. For example in India you need product which can work at higher ambient temperatures, can withstand erratic electrical supplies which is a challenge here in India from an infrastructure stand point. So we try to take care of these things before introducing any product. Overall, we offer global products but with a local fit for this market.
For HVAC products, service department is considered extremely crucial and important. How does Carrier handle the services?
Services are very essential part because selling the solution is just the initial part. Eventually, the customer lives with the equipment for multiple years. So we ensure through our own service system as well as our channel partners – we have got 550+ channel partners across India to give best in class service to our customers. Service not only includes maintaining the units to ensure what we call as uptime. So the unit keeps on running without any interruptions and has less failures while conserving energy for our customers. Few years back we started a different division called Advantec. Advantec’s team goes to audit an existing site to examine the energy consumption for HVAC system in that building and through some interventions, adjustments and retrofits in the HVAC system, we save substantial energy for our customers.
With Toshiba, Carrier has launched the most efficient high wall air conditioner which is claimed to be a great fit for the Indian conditions. Would you kindly elaborate?
We have recently launched a new Hi-wall split air-conditioner from Toshiba which has an efficiency of 5.6 ISEER, while for the reference 5 stars AC has 4.5 ISEER. This model has the highest efficiency in the 1.5 ton category as per the official website of Bureau of Energy Efficiency. With such a high efficiency it becomes a very good offering for customers who are looking at replacing their old air-conditioner, as the pay back works out less than 2 years while saving >60% on energy cost.
What are the factors being taken care of to ensure locally fit products?
Yes, it is mainly around outside conditions and electrical supply. Another challenge is the dusty outside environment which needs to be taken care of. We also have units fitted in areas with a lot of rodents which may get into the unit and cut wires – so we have to make sure that the products are rodent-proof as well. And there are a number of these small things which if not taken care of can really cause problems while the unit is running or in breakdowns. After our long learning journey, over the years, now we ensure that each product that is introduced in India is a “local fit” and caters to all such small challenges that we have in India, to ensure that the product runs perfectly during its lifetime for the customer.
While working alongside Toshiba Engineering Team, we ensured that they understand the needs of a “local fit”. Additionally, with more than 15 years of collaboration with Toshiba for the Indian market now, they have understood our needs quite well. In fact, Toshiba invented inverter air-conditioning globally and they are one of the pioneers when it comes to inverter technology. Over the years they really evolved this inverter technology not only in light commercial product or a high wall residential product but right up to the RAF and thoroughly working on energy efficiency – like electronics and compatibility with BMS systems. They really make solutions coming to the next level and they have loyal customers only because of the kind of performance, maintenance free operations which Toshiba offers.
What is the SMMS VRF 7 system which is said to have the capacity to handle 52 degree of temperature?
Over the years, we have understood the needs of Indian customers as well as that of the local environment. A locally-fit product is definitely needed to cater these. Two years ago, when we had a cross functional team including a team of engineers from Toshiba, Japan, where we benchmarked competitive products and did a detailed evaluation to see what is really needed for customers in India. And the result is the new VRF series from Toshiba called “SMMS-7”. It is actually one-of-a-kind product designed for India. So it is apparently the first ever VRF designed particularly for a specific country – a truly local fit VRF designed for India. Fortunately, it got popular – and so much so that our South East Asian colleagues also adopted it.
Tell us something about the Intelligent Building Management system wherein your products actually sync with other products and systems to deliver unified solutions.
The idea Intelligent BMS is to integrate all electrical and mechanical devices in the building including the HVAC system. All of these equipments like, lighting, elevators, security systems consume energy, but HVAC consumes >40% of the total energy consumed by a building. An intelligent BMS creates an integrated system to make them work in-tandem, you can harness a lot of energy savings or do optimization of operation at a building level. Therefore, we are looking at the compatibility of all HVAC systems with BMS. This will enable our customers to have a holistic operation including HVAC at a building level, which will help them save energy and in better efficient operation in the building.
If someone already has a system installed and would like to include your energy efficient systems, is the integration possible?
It’s a little challenging to incorporate new system into old buildings. And we can integrate just when the initial building is getting designed, and because BMS is depending on customer where they take the system from but the idea is that whatever equipment is installed should be talking to the BMS. So we are trying to ensure that our products have a protocol which talks to the building management system.
Is there any other aspect about the company that you would like to share with our readers?
Apparently, we have been pretty old in India and thus understand the country very well. We have drawn a two brand strategy which has helped us gain share in the HVAC market as a company and individually for both our brands – Carrier and Toshiba. Both have carved their own places in the market. If people are looking for superior technology with better high energy efficiency, we have the Toshiba solution to offer. For a more value for money or in mid segment and more reliable brand, Carrier is there and this has really worked well for us. Therefore, we today have a solution suited for each kind of customer needs. As stated before, we are more “solution-oriented” than“product-oriented”. Offering the right solution is very important in the HVAC industry because today customers might be confused that “if I have a building should I install a ducted air conditioner or should I install a VRF or even a chiller because all three can fit but what is the right solution?” Hence, one needs to get deep inside to understand the application, the customer usages in the building and it is only then they can suggest something that suits the customer both in terms of initial cost and lifetime cost. Lastly, as I said, for us story does not end while selling the equipment but it goes beyond while we see through whole life of the equipment with the customer.
Engineering is a field which is severely male-dominated. So what kind of ratio of women engineers has your company seen or the industry in general is seeing? Is there a rise?
Historically this industry is pretty male dominated and we have been working for attaining a better gender ratio in the company.
In fact, we now have a production line of cassette indoor units which is all women! All the workforce and supervisors are women in this production line. Obviously when we look out for people in any of the function, be it engineering, sales or service we always look out for female candidates to create more inclusive culture. So that’s a kind of target that we have and we are slowly moving towards it. Although, it is a bit challenging to find women with specific HVAC competencies and experience, but yes our gender ratios have improved compared to earlier years.
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