Dinesh Aggarwal: Lighting is one of the high growth category for us

Dinesh Aggarwal: Lighting is one of the high growth category for us

Here’s a company that is fast moving from being a product driven company to being led by solutions. With a product range that traditionally includes switches, switchgears, wires and cables, lighting, indoor air quality, it has added to its portfolio the solar EPC business, modular kitchens and man...

Here’s a company that is fast moving from being a product driven company to being led by solutions. With a product range that traditionally includes switches, switchgears, wires and cables, lighting, indoor air quality, it has added to its portfolio the solar EPC business, modular kitchens and many more. Panasonic Life Solutions has been gearing up to meet opportunities in the residential and commercial real-estate, public infrastructure, industrial spaces and smart cities. Dinesh Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director, elaborates upon the company’s future plans and focus in a virtual conversation with SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN. The company has an extensive portfolio of offerings. Where do you see the maximum revenue and business coming in from? When Panasonic acquired Anchor in 2007, the flagship business was switches and other wiring accessories, constituting over 65 per cent of its business. Today, wiring accessories constitute less than 45 per cent of our business. We are still the market leaders with about 36 per cent market share in wiring accessories while the overall business expected this year is about `4,700 crore. In categories where we were earlier small, such as switch gears, wires, lighting and fans, we have grown substantially with a CAGR of over 20 per cent since 2007. Our first objective was to reach a 10 per cent market share in each of the other categories. We have achieved this in wires, but in lighting, fans and switch gears, we are yet to reach the 10 per cent market share. What’s in the pipeline for the housing sector? In 2018, the housing business unit of Panasonic; which makes and sells WC, moulded bathroom, wooden flooring, stainless sinks, kitchen and wall cladding etc, expressed its desire to enter the Indian market with its top end L class kitchens. This was a tough market to crack as we were going up against the Italian and German players, which were in India for over two decades. We test marketed in Bengaluru, whose success encouraged us to spread out fast and wide. The distinctive functionalities and superior aesthetics has led us to open 13 franchised and company owned showrooms, despite the two years of covid. We have further expanded the range to a B2B series that is reasonably priced for the developers who want to offer a high-quality kitchen as a standard fitment. We have also sourced out high quality engineered marble countertops that we are selling already, and will launch stainless steel sinks from Japan in the next financial year. We have launched wooden flooring and wall cladding material. Functional products such as seated showers, folding shoe racks and folding clothes dryers will also be launched in the next fiscal. This product portfolio is only from the housing business unit. There are many more innovative products aimed at comfort, safety and energy saving; that are all aimed at the housing sector. Back in 2019, the company opened a new model house in Bengaluru in association with Brigade Group to offer its unique range of products. How did this enhance your communication and reach to builders, architects and contractors? The focus of the project was to have a show villa with each Panasonic product, including appliances and electronics installed. Every potential customer of the villa could see the various installed Panasonic products and choose the products at a special price. While some customers chose kitchens from the show villa, others chose cladding and flooring. We have also managed to bring in various architects and designers in Bengaluru and a few from outside to show the products and support their selection. While we regularly do up the mock-up flats for various projects; this was a unique experiment with products from all group companies. We will continue to build similar homes and apartment with Panasonic’s complete range of home products across metro cities. To these experience centres we will keep adding new products as we launch them in India. What led the company to foray into electric vehicle (EV) charging, energy management and home and office automation? About five years ago, we created a 3 x 3 matrix comprising three market segments of our focus viz, residential spaces, commercial spaces and public infrastructure spaces. Within these spaces, we decided that the three verticals of focus will be energy, safety and comfort. Accordingly, we started identifying product gaps in our existing and new businesses that were emerging in the above segments. Thus evolved new business areas including automation (homes, offices, auditoriums etc), EV charging infrastructure, solar EPC for commercial and industrial rooftop, residential solar home kits, smart street lighting infrastructure and smart metering infrastructure. We envisaged that energy management and saving will be a key focus in the commercial, industrial and infrastructure segments and thus developed our product offering accordingly. Our systems (automation) business vertical supplies and enables automation of devices and appliances for all kind of spaces. Air-conditioning and lighting – connected and wireless – controls energy and ensures comfort in a house as well as public infrastructure. We have a whole range of IOT products and KNX system based on the needs of different clients and their budget. The EV business is on a rise with very proactive support of the government policies for personal and public vehicles. We have two years of strong experience on field learning with DC fast charging of intra and intercity buses ( high rated chargers of 180 kW and 240 kW), with supplies to state road transport undertaking (HPRTC), Delhi metro and many charging services providers. Our base product is a 16A socket called “Wizz” with a physical access protection. This product is already being sold to the developers and its next version will be launched in June 2022 that will identify and enable on spot payment. As per the latest guidelines by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, 20 per cent of parking spaces in new residential buildings have to be EV-enabled, which will help us tie up with developers for providing a cost-effective option to meet the MOHUA guidelines. We are also developing an entire range of AC chargers (3.5 kW to 7.5 kW) and DC chargers (30 kW to 240 kW), which will cater to all type of Electric vehicles and all kinds of use scenarios. While the markets are flooded with lighting options, how can builders, architects or city planners effectively decide which solution is best suited for their needs? Lighting is a high growth category for us, both on the trade and professional side. We are growing aggressively annually and in the next five years, this sector is expected to give us a turnover of over `3,000 crore, as we see a clear gap in the market. Apart from one major player, most companies just import and sell products. And Panasonic’s product and technology strength in lighting lies across market segments. Along with the standard range of products, we offer application-specific lighting for various commercial and infrastructure spaces, viz, offices indoors, auditorium, stadiums and airports. We have started the process of getting some of such products from Japan after localising the specifications, based on operating conditions in India. We have lighting designers as part of our team and provide lighting designs which are optimal based on a space and use conditions. Over the past three years, we have been launching innovative products that have a strong differentiation and high functional value for example a LED batten with an integrated presence sensor. This product is a great energy saver for parking spaces as an example. We regularly conduct seminars and training sessions with architects and lighting consultants to make them aware of such unique products. As India builds up infrastructure across all segments; our challenge is to keep up and introduce products which give high functional benefit to each segment. The company has also been focusing on smart street lighting… We are executing two smart street lighting projects at present, in Bhatinda, Punjab and in Kalyan- Dombivli areas near Mumbai. As part of one of the largest individually controlled smart street lighting projects in India, we are installing nearly 30,000 individually and group-controlled lighting of various wattage in Kalyan-Dombivli smart city, depending on whether it’s the main road or an internal street. Each of these streetlights can be centrally monitored and controlled at the smart city’s command centre in Kalyan, from where they can operate, monitor health and measure consumption. With our experience, we hope to participate in similar initiatives by the other municipal corporations across India. How are your Made in India solar modules helping the industry meet its renewable goals? In 2015, while we were looking at diversification, we added the solar business to our portfolio because at that point in time Panasonic high efficiency modules (HIT) were unique, though expensive. We thus focussed on roof top projects and gained success amongst many large IT companies and manufacturing units of some of the well known global brands. We continue to sell high efficiency modules (not only from Panasonic factories) and have also got a strong roof top and ground mount EPC capability; though focus on roof top remains. Our design superiority and execution quality differentiates us from competition and we are able to generate a lot of repeat business. We are also exporting ‘made in India’ modules to direct customers and to our group companies especially in SE Asia, Middle East and Turkey. In future, we may even provide design and project supervision services outside India. We launched solar inverters of smaller capacity (residential and small commercial spaces target market) last year and will be launching solar home kits for rooftops of individual homes next month. We may study and bring in storage, especially for residential and commercial applications, in the near future. Solar continues to be a high growth business for us in India. You have been trying various technologies in the field of smart metering infrastructure. Please tell us more. In India, the spacing and electrical infrastructure of house clusters varies from city to city. While some cities have widely spread houses making it easier to measure power, cities such as Mumbai are highly crowded with multiple small meters in a given area and old, twisted wiring, which makes connectivity of meters with a data capturing device (gateway), very difficult. After three years of research and on field pilot projects, we have selected a communication technology that is robust and pervasive. With a combination of good quality electronic meter and a robust communication hardware and MDMS (meter data management software), we are confident of addressing the high potential smart metering market, an area which also is in focus by the government. There are about 280 million meters that will have to be replaced with smart meters over the next few years. We will commercially enter this business from next month. Some companies look at entering the home building segment with one building product and gradually branch out into multiple products. Does Panasonic have a similar plan? With the construction industry getting more organised and external funds (apart from banks) coming into the sector, there is an increasing accountability for a developer. This is further enhanced with RERA guidelines that make a developer responsible for all products and fittings used in a project. Its thus beneficial for a developer to buy construction material and fittings from limited number of sources and if one company like Panasonic can supply a variety of products – from a conduit pipe to air-conditioner and home automation- it gives the developer a benefit commercially (higher negotiation power) and single point accountability. We are thus successfully selling a wider range of products amongst most of the large developers and continue to endeavour in this direction. In some of the projects, we have successfully sold kitchen, AC and IoT home automation as well. We are now enhancing the user convenience by providing a single software application called MirAIe (Future Homes), which can control all electrical products and appliances inside a house and over a period of time; this application learns about the use pattern and starts self-regulating. One can also combine the various devices and appliances to create multiple use scenarios. We understand future spaces and are building products and technologies to support them.

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