Panasonic has nearly 100 years of experience in R&D of advanced lighting and electrical solutions for homes and industries. The company is seen as a global leader in Lighting, Energy and Indoor Air Quality. In 2007, Panasonic acquired Anchor. The company in it’s new avatar – Panasonic Life Solutions India, which Anchor is part of, has invested heavily in what Panasonic knows best – technology. Buildingandinteriors.com in conversation with Mr.Vivek Sharma, Managing Director, Panasonic Life Solutions India (PLSIND)
B&I: Talking about brand Anchor. How has been the transition from being a family-owned brand to the one under a diversified group like Panasonic? What are the major market-place challenges today?
VS: The past decade has been exceptionally important in the history of Panasonic Life Solutions India (PLSIND). Post-acquisition by the Panasonic Corporation, the company has moved from being a traditional electrical manufacturer to an unparalleled technology-oriented multinational that provides innovative, cutting edge solutions in the Electrical Construction Material (ECM) space. We have developed and positively evolved over this long journey, actively promoting Japanese Technology that is appropriate for the needs of Indian customers. Notably today, some of our manufacturing processes are at-par with any factory located anywhere in the world. With this acquisition, as it expands today, we have ventured into multiple segments outside the core electrical space, while enhancing our product values for a better tomorrow in line with the growing aspirations of billions of Indian consumers.
Our extensive knowledge of the ECM industry helps us in delivering a seamless range of high-quality products and services in the Power, Lighting, Home Automation, Solar, EV Chargers, Power Tools, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and Homes & Living segment. We have developed best in class IoT solutions under the MirAIe and Vetaar platforms, which enable our consumers to experience the power of connectivity, even while on the go. Our expanding product range and growing market share is a clear testament to our prowess – now delivering trusted solutions in India for more than five decades.
One major challenge we have overcome, with time, is a large-scale cultural transformation. From being a conventional electrical switches company in the past, today we are part of an iconic transnational organisation and during this journey, we are very proud to say, the internal talent existing within the organisation culturally transformed to adapt to the new contemporary culture. This transformation of the team changed the way we do business. From the historical individual-oriented method of the past, today we have moved on to a process-oriented technology-driven way of doing business with complete autonomy and empowerment.
The marketplace has also been challenging and evolving at a frenetic pace. If you look at the past, the market was wholesaler driven, where the customers would walk into a retail store for their electrical needs. Today, the consumer has multiple avenues – modern format retail stores, online channels, Exclusive Business Outlets (EBOs), amongst others. To respond quicker to the market demands and consumer needs, another transition is underway which is a shift from a dealer-based wholesaler-driven model to a dealer focused, distribution-driven model. This will not only bring into play the technological inputs derived from an ERP-connected Distribution Management System where the company would not only be able to understand through analysis the entire supply chain with real-time visibility of reach expansion and range-selling, but also give our customers access to our products in every nook and corner of the country.
B&I: Panasonic is a technology player. What technological value-additions have you been able to create in the Anchor product range?
VS: You said it right, Panasonic is a Technology player and PLSIND has an edge in Quality electrical products. We made this work by combining the synergies, making many of these products Smart, and adapting them to the needs of the current day consumers. With the initiatives mentioned below, we have been transforming from a provider of pure electrical products player a decade back to a technologically advanced solutions and services provider today. Here are a few things that we have done differently.
Our factories, which have been traditionally manpower intensive, have been technologically upgraded with state-of-the-art robotics and automation solutions. These technological upgradations have given us a competitive edge with the highest cost efficiencies in the entire wiring devices industry.
Our teams are working towards making and delivering inter-operable solutions for our customers and we have been associated with various open protocols like KNX, Zigbee, Bluetooth, Bacnet, Modbus, DALI, etc. for the massive range of our product categories.
Today’s tech-savvy consumers use a variety of devices to connect using internet for interacting with our services. Open systems provide enhanced convenience, lower installation costs, and greater control over cost outgo. These systems allow products with the best competencies to be chosen for the task to be accomplished. The result is a more effective BMS (Building Management System) solution, which is not held back by any proprietary software controls.
In the smart products and the home automation category, we have two series of products. We have India’s leading range of Smart Plugs and Switches under the MirAIe and Vetaar platforms, and will soon include Smart Doorbells, Connected Water Heaters, Smart LED Lamps, Smoke and Gas Sensors, Motion Sensors and IP Camera for monitoring. We have added not only new products but also a technological edge to our existing range under our sub-brands like ROMA, which also offers Smart Digital variants. These series offer the modern-day comfort allowing our customers to control and operate a multitude of products irrespective of its location. The second category of automation solutions are based on KNX – Thea IQ Home Automation Systems. We have been developing our range of automated solutions, products and manufacture them in line with KNX, which is one of the world’s largest open standards to drive control in both commercial and residential buildings. Furthermore, we are developing a range of new advanced automation products – Black Nova, Smart Lighting Solutions, EV Charging, Energy Management System, and modern range of Modular Kitchen Solutions.
B&I: Specifiers – Architects, Lighting Consultants, Electrical Consultants, are part of the project business environment. At the brand level, what is your message to them from Panasonic Life Solutions in terms of technology, functionality and other project related pain-points for them?
VS: In recent years, we have successfully managed to draw the attention of the majority of Indian consumers along with building purposeful relationships with Architects, Electrical and Lighting consultants, executing electricians, etc. Our message to these influencers and specifiers has been broadly around highlighting Panasonic’s ability to provide complete solutions in the ECM space throughout the project life cycle and thereafter. We offer an extensive range of energy-efficient, eco-friendly, technologically advanced products for initial construction (Cable Management System &Wires), during the construction phase (Switches and Switch Gears) and nearingcompletion of the construction phase (Lighting, Water Heaters, Fans, Housing Solutions, etc.) along with Automation and EV Charging solutions for the Residential, Commercial and Institutions segments. The products and services offered by us not only satisfythe needs of the premium-end consumer, but also cater to the mid-economy segments.
B&I: What services do you have for the Architects and Developers? How do you see these services evolve in a post-Covid19 world?
VS: PLSIND provide exclusive professional assistance to Architects and Developers, largely based on the three core values: Beauty, Comfort, and Reliability. We also support the community and the ecosystem through our lighting designs and technical tools with Panasonic’s unique and advanced technological proficiency. In addition to this, we also aid our associate community in planning, basic designing, testing, and on-site validation followed by design implementation and authentication services after completion of any project. We are in the process of setting up a comprehensive, ultra-modern NABL accredited laboratory, to support both influencers and vendors, which should be launched in September 2020.
B&I: What percentage of your sales comes from projects business? What are the challenges and opportunities do you see in projects over the next 2-3 years?
VS: Projects Business, which primarily constitutes of the residential, industrial, and institutional segment contributes between 10-12% of business today.
While the current pandemic has impacted the construction business across segments, with stalled projects and relatively fewer new project launches on the horizon, we see this as a short-lived phenomenon and are quite hopeful that the real estate industry would come back to normalcy soon. Our focus on the project’s business (B2B/B2G) remains as one of our key priorities and we maintain our guidance in this space for medium to long term. We expect a contribution of nothing less than 25% of our total revenues in the next three years.
To support our future objectives in the project business, we at PLSIND, are investing heavily in extending our product portfolio to the markets in Tiers 2, 3, 4, and 5. Increased investment in relationships with leading real estate Developers, Architects, and Interior Designers for delivering our range of Power, Lighting, and IAQ solutions. Also, we are ramping up our network of dealers/distributors and manpower in these zones, to cater to the higher demand.
B&I: Panasonic Life Solutions’ product range is fairly wide – traditional electrical, lighting, automation, power-tools and modular kitchens. What synergies do you see in these products from the point of sale, customisation, after-sales service and economies involved in each category?
VS: With the growth of the Anchor brand for over five decades, we have been able to build a robust trade channel in the ECM space. Our presence spans across hundred-thousand electrical retail outlets across the country, which not only sell our flagship category of wiring devices but also sell our range of lighting and IAQ solutions.
Moreover, Panasonic has been an established player in the Modular Kitchen business in Japan. This category has been recently introduced in the Indian market, by PLSIND through opening of exclusive stores across the Tier-1 markets of the country.
B&I: Traditional distribution channels have been under pressure for suppliers in the building materials industry. How has this Pandemic affected it? How do you see the distribution channels transforming over the next 2-3 years?
VS: During this Pandemic when the larger cities were under complete lockdown the traditional distribution channels have been moving the materials across country lines. The distributors, dealers associated with larger brands were relatively less impacted in this stressful time, as compared to those associated with unorganised players. This was mainly because the larger and organised players could restart their operations and resume their supply chain as soon as the lock down was relaxed.
Going forward, we anticipate consolidation in the distribution network where the distributors and dealers would align with the orientation of the organised brands. Apart from this, we foresee technology adoption at a pace like never before. It will be a two-pronged technology adoption. Firstly, the dealer management system – which will give real-time visibility of the entire supply chain, and secondly, new selling channels like online marketplaces, DIY Stores, EBOs, etc. would start playing an important role.
Further, as the demand now shifts to smaller cities, the reach of the building material distribution would expand there. With cheaper working capital being available for the expansion of this channel, these cities will witness an increase in the availability of our futuristic products and an experience like never before for the consumers there.
B&I: Buying local is gaining voice around the world. How do you see such developments for a multi-national brand like Panasonic? Would you also make/buy local?
VS: PLSIND products are “Made in India” with 90% manufacturing being done locally. We have a strong manufacturing base in multiple locations across India.
Our dependence on China is negligible and our direction will remain towards ’Vocal For Local’. We will continue to design products that are suited to India’s requirements and manufacture them all locally in our factories and through our OEM partners. Our direction should be towards increasing local value addition for every product which is imported from China today. However, caution should be exercised for components or products for which there is no local substitute or cost-competitive alternate source at present.
In line with our vision to ‘Make in India’, we have invested in setting up an electrical construction material manufacturing facility, spread over a massive 30 acres in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. The plant is PLSIND’s eighth manufacturing facility in India after North and West. We have already invested INR 300 Cr and aim to invest more than INR 600 Cr on this expansion project in India.
B&I: Do you see non-competing/complimentary brands collaborating in the building materials market in India? Are you also open for such alliances?
VS: In the post COVID era, we see many opportunities and possibilities in the building material sector along with the manufacturing and construction sector. Increased partnerships and acquisitions will further lead the way for collaboration between companies in the near future. We are also open for such collaboration to strengthen our relationships and offerings across the value chain.
B&I: What direction do you see the Indian lighting and electrical market (supplier side) taking over the next few years – technology, innovations, portfolio expansions, etc?
VS: Lighting not only illuminates the projects but also dramatically enhances the mood and atmosphere of living spaces allowing the occupants to feel relaxed, comfortable, and at ease. In particular, LED lighting offers higher energy savings along with superior colour rendering properties which enhances the ambience. For over 60 years, Panasonic, as one of the top three global brands in this space, has continued to create advanced lighting products using top-notch designs, technology and quality methodology for different spaces. Today, Panasonic enjoys a globally proven track record as a trusted and preferred brand of choice for lighting products. Panasonic with its aesthetic range of LED lighting will continue to achieve sustainable energy savings while enriching spaces and urban environments across the world. The brand continues to ensure the following while creating world-class LED lighting products:
- MORE BEAUTY – Uniformly bright light and distinct shadows provide maximum lighting quality
- MORE COMFORT – Optimal lighting solutions created with Panasonic Lighting design methods for spaces make everyday living more comfortable
- MORE RELIABILITY – Uncompromised quality following stringent internal safety standards along with international standards to ensure long-term reliability.
B&I: The Covid19 pandemic has changed many dynamics in the communication world. How do you see Panasonic Life Solutions change its course on connecting with the B2B market – Institutional Buyers, Architects and Consultants?
VS: COVID-19 pandemic has changed the market dynamics, and we are continuously evolving to gear up for this. We are changing the way we communicate and connect with our employees, customers, dealers, influencers and other stakeholders. New digital communication channels are being developed, to maintain our link with our stakeholders and the community at large. Our teams have been regularly organising webinars, training sessions, town halls, etc. to keep the respective audiences abreast with latest trends in developments, products, solutions and services.
We have started leveraging social Media channels like LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to connect with B2C, B2B and B2G stakeholders. This has been enabled via regular communication on these platforms,supported with videos, emailers, newsletters and virtual connects.