Gautam Chatterjee, JointManaging director, Exide Industries
Exide Industries’ JMD speaks to Brian de Souza on handling the current slowdown and how the replacement market business acts as a buffer.
What are Exide Industries’ priorities for this fiscal year?
Exide Industries’ priority at the start of the new fiscal, as always, is to continue to be the leader in terms of market share, technology and profitability. It is also important for us to remember that the profile of the Indian consumer is fast changing. The markets are maturing and so are the customers. We have to attune our market offerings keeping this important factor in mind. The truck or taxi driver planning to buy a battery today is a very different customer from what he was 10 years ago. The young urban professional, driving his own car to office, is also a very different customer from what his father was a decade ago. Our offerings, our technology and our communication will all have to reflect this change in the marketplace and address the aspirations of the new India.
Given the ongoing slowdown, what impact has this had on the battery business and what is the outlook going forward?
The automotive industry worldwide is a cyclical industry. It has its own ups and downs. It is true that right now the automotive OE segment is going through a slowdown. I am sure the industry will be able to pull itself out of the current situation. However, the replacement market for us, which is a function of car sales that happened three years ago, is witnessing robust growth at the moment and there is no reason to believe that that demand will ebb anytime soon.
Is the company functioning at full capacity and are you targeting new OEs or new markets such as Gujarat?
Almost all the automotive giants who are present here in India are our customers. Therefore, there is no scope for us to target any new OE customer as such. Gujarat is emerging as a new automotive manufacturing hub. We are observing the developments there. We already have factories in Western India, for instance in Pune or near Mumbai. Therefore, supplying to customers there is not a problem. Incidentally, Tata Motors and Maruti Suzuki – which are either already manufacturing in Gujarat or have announced future plans for the state – are both our esteemed customers.
Is the companyplanning a campaign of sorts or other on-ground initiatives to further boost sales?
Both above- and below- the-line (ATL and BTL) campaigns are an ongoing process for us. As of now, there is nothing new that is planned.
How has Exide made its products eco-friendly either in terms of materials used or in the manufacturing process?
Making all our batteries more eco-friendly is an ongoing endeavour at Exide Industries. This is not only a significant part of our commitment to the environment in which we operate but it also makes eminent economic sense for us to improve the environment friendliness of our batteries. As a company, there are two types of initiatives that we take in order to make ourselves more eco-friendly. While on the one hand we try to make the battery manufacturing process more eco-friendly, there is also emphasis on making the end product itself more environment friendly. At the process level, we are progressively reducing our consumption of electricity, water and fuel to manufacture batteries thereby making the manufacturing process more suited to the environment. At the product level, we try to ensure that we use more recycled raw material and use our raw materials more efficiently. To this end, we have even got directly involved in the business of recycling old batteries and lead smelting in a big way. We are the only significant Indian battery manufacturer that has its own lead smelting facility.
Is Exide working on batteries for electric vehicles and hybrids?
We have a large research and development facility that is continuously working on cutting-edge technologies in the field of batteries. They are continuously exploring new technologies and batteries for new applications and vehicles of future. However, we wouldn’t like to comment on any specific product or technology. We will announce our products only when we are ready to bring the products or technologies to the market.
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