Surfaces Reporter in Conversation with ANIL GEORGE, Deputy Managing Director & CFO, Voltas Limited

Surfaces Reporter in Conversation with ANIL GEORGE, Deputy Managing Director & CFO, Voltas Limited

Mr. Anil George was born in Kerala and educated in Chennai with an Economics degree from Madras Christian College and a Chartered Accountancy certification from ICAI. He has a total work experience of about 35 years, the bulk of which has been in large multinational corporations. He started his career in Audit with Union Carbide and six years later, moved to Hindustan Lever and remained with them for over 20 years. Over this period, he has worked in various interesting finance and commercial roles, gaining exposure to Factory, Profit Centre, Treasury, Logistics and Buying activities. He has experience across multiple geographies, including an overseas stint at the Unilever Corporate Office in Europe for 5 years. As part of his career development, he has had the opportunity of cross-functional exposure to HR and IT. He joined TATA Sons at its head office in 2007 and moved to Voltas 5 years ago. He is the Deputy Managing Director of Voltas and carries operational responsibility for the Textile Machinery Division of the Company as well. SURFACES REPORTER (SR) in conversation with him.

What are the major factors that make Voltas a leader in the HVAC segment?

Voltas has been in this business for a very long time and I can touch my heart and say that we really understand what this business is all about. Because, we have done many projects —we are maintaining, we have our own products, we have our own people. We have about 6000 big customers, infrastructure-based, airports, malls, hospitals, hotels, etc. We have crossed around 9000 people on the ground and catering continuously to various needs. We have given each of the technician's tablets; so if there is an operating site—like for example—Metrorail that has got a series of railway stations, now we manage the entry part, we manage the water part; we manage the air conditioning part seamlessly. Monitoring is done through data collected locally in a data center and that data helps us to ensure there is the trouble-free performance of the projects and the services that we end up giving our customers; that’s another feature. We have been in the industry for 6 plus decades. If anybody would want to buy anything about air-conditioning or about refrigerators, the Voltas brand crosses the mind of the purchaser before she/ he purchases anything.

In the smaller segment, 1 out of every 4 air-conditioners sold is a Voltas machine. In the bigger segment, we have installed capacity of almost around 3.6 million tons of air conditioning equipment in the country running across various segments of our customers.

Tell us about Voltas' new manufacturing facility in Bagaria, Gujarat.

We have had manufacturing facilities in Thane (near Mumbai) for long and we have been thinking of upgrading our manufacturing facilities. In the existing factory, there is only a limited thing that you can actually do. So we bought land in Bagaria and have created a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with a full scale of equipment. The Bagaria factory is built on 32 Acre land and there are different phases. We have just completed phase 1, commissioned in April, last year. It gives me the pride to share that we are not only just being able to talk about ‘Make in India’ but we are actually making in India. We have testing facilities in the factory itself. Two of the testing facilities have been certified by AHRI (The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute); that is something which is a global mark. We will be able to export our products to any country with the highest standard of efficiency. We also have a cyclomatic laboratory. The laboratory has 30 tons capacity; it is the largest in the country so far and helps us to find new products that are required for the emerging energy efficiency requirements and meet the norms of the star labelling programs, both outside and inside the country.

We are competing with global players. If in case we stand the test of time and ensure that we put the right products in our customers’ places, we need to have these facilities. These facilities facilitate us to bring out the next-level products so that we also contribute to reducing the Ozone depletion as well as increasing the potential of removing the greenhouse effect. In Bagaria we make chillers etc. The ACs are getting manufactured in Pantnagar. We are now having active plans to put another factory in the Southern part of India.

What are the latest offerings of Voltas in India?

As far as our AC market is concerned, we are the market leaders. So when you are a market leader, one of the things that you have to do is that you keep innovating new things every now-and-then.

We are the first in the country to do a star rating—much before the government had said it is important to put a star rating that says how much energy the machine is going to consume.

We went ahead voluntarily in star rating and that is one of the stories of how we started gaining markets. Last year we introduced the Voltas adjustable AC, which is basically saying that, if I buy a 1.5 tons AC, I can raise it to 2 tons depending upon whether there are more people in the room. This year we are going to launch another one—the Voltas Maha-Adjustable; which is saying that if you buy a 1.5tons AC and if there is just the husband and wife in the room—bring it down to 1 and if there are children also in the room, keep it at 1.5. If there is a crowd of your brothers and sisters and everyone in the room, run it up to 2. So, energy-efficient and at the same time, it can be done from the remote with a switch to go up and down. We also have introduced inverter ACs but that was an innovation that came sometime back which generally saves power on a whole. In general what we do is, every year we do a lot of customer outreach and consumer surveys and there we listen very actively to the voice of the people—what she/he is telling us. What happens after that is that we not just listen to them but we are also able to convert some of the insights into actions.

Voltas has recently got into a joint venture with a company called Arcelik and developing a product called Voltas Beko.

Among the new products that we are making, we have a category called printer washing machines, which are semi-automatic. We have got it in a very small time period and we have got a 2.5% market share in this limited time. We don’t have the full range of refrigerators now, because out of the 13 million refrigerators that are sold in the country, roughly about 80% of it is what known as the direct cool refrigerators. Previously, the one to make ice would sell the most but that was not in the market; so we have put a factory in Sanand, Gujarat, which has now started producing. By next year, you will see many more products from Voltas. Our ambition is to be at a 10% market share across all these products—the new products that we have been talking about by the year 2024-25.

How is Voltas leveraging technology, especially IoT, to improve efficiency?

Internet of things (IoT) is one of the matters where we have progressed very successfully since last year when we started putting small chips in many of the chillers that we have had so across the country. Today we have something like thousands plus chillers—1100 chillers, where we have put small chips. So if you come to the Thane factory you can see people seating in the office, looking at a large screen in a large room with a video wall. Our people are seating there looking at the monitors. So if a chiller is running in Kanyakumari somewhere and if the machine is running in a way that higher heat is getting generated, they can immediately figure out that something is going wrong. So what we have done is that we have also given tablets to various people who are our service engineers. So we immediately tell them to go and check the machine and find out the problem. Or alternatively, if higher consumption of electricity or higher consumption of diesel is happening or something like that—then that is also being located. So we are trying to be more customer-friendly. After a breakdown, the cost of repairing is much higher but before the breakdown, the cost of the preventive steps is much better and that is being appreciated tremendously by the customers whom we are providing the service. In addition, we are fetching data continuously from the machines running at various customers’ sites. Now, this data is put into an analytic engine. So the internet of things is really about data assimilation, analyzing them and finding out what is the predictive model that can be applied across different geographical regions of the country. Say we understand, how chillers are working in Delhi region; how it is working in the distant parts of the country; how is it working in a humid climate like Kolkata, Chennai or Thiruvananthapuram—so all these are analyzed and predictive actions are being taken. That way, the chillers’ lifecycle cost to the customers is
reduced. This is how the internet of things is being put to beneficial use as far as the customer is concerned.

Now the question remains how as a country and internally for us IoT is helping to make the products better. So this data helps us to analyze how machines behave and we are continuously improving on the designs so that we get better products as we go along and we become globally competitive because today we are competing with global players. So that is how the internet of things has helped us progress in this particular fashion over the last couple of years.

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