Indian customers lack awareness about lighting products

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Being nominated a member of technical committee of BEE for standardisation of LED technology based products in India, PK Sood, chairman, Regnant Group, aims to bring a change in the Indian lighting industry by introducing proper standards for lighting segment. He speaks to Himanshu Yadav of Electronics Bazaar about his vision of a country where there is respect for resources, value for manpower and stimulation for innovation.

EB: What is energy efficient lighting?

To measure energy efficiency of a lighting source there is a parameter called lumens per watt of power consumed. Colour temperature and colour rendering index are the parameters to check how accurately a lighting source produces the same colours that constitute natural daylight. LEDs are an example of energy efficient lighting source as they have advantage over traditional lighting sources in terms of lower power consumption, longer lifetime, robustness, etc. But due to lack of standard products in the market, they lack authenticity and hence are not able to provide as much efficiency as they ought to.

EB: How is energy efficient lighting sector performing and what is the present market size of this sector in India?

Lighting sector has registered a high growth rate in the past few years. Even during the recession, the industry registered a considerable growth rate. It is estimated that India’s lighting industry grew 12-15 per cent in 2009 despite a slowdown in real estate.

According to ELCOMA, Indian lighting industry is worth Rs 50 billion registering a growth of 18-19 per cent in 2008. CFL was the fastest growing segment, growing at an estimated rate of 25-28 per cent per year. India consumes around 200 million units of CFL yearly, while only about 150 million units are produced locally and the rest of the demand is met through imports.

EB: What are the market trends of energy efficient lighting?

When we talk about market trends, we look at two trends first—how to increase the efficiency of established lighting sources by using advanced materials and matching electronics. Another trend is the use of new lighting sources such as LEDs and electrode-less induction lamps. Talking about green building architecture, there is a prominent role of integrating electronic controls with light dimming features while harvesting natural daylight.

EB: What potential do you see for the energy efficient lighting industry in India in the next 5 years?

According to ELCOMA, every year on an average 185 million 36W fluorescent tubelights are sold in the country and these require ballasts to ensure right working conditions for tubes. Even if 10 per cent of these are converted into electronics ballasts, there will be a significant energy saving of 15 to 20 watts per tubelight with an increase in light quality and efficiency. But so far, there are very few high quality electronics ballasts in the Indian market. This is just one segment.

EB: What are the top five components that need to be invested in for venturing into this sector?

It all depends upon how much in-house manufacturing of various lighting system components you wish to undertake and also the daily production capacity. The other important factor is the investment in R&D as well as QAQC equipment for production process. A basic high quality electronics ballast venture can be started with an investment of $80,000, while the upper limit depends upon the scale of the technology you wish to employ. For our CFL manufacturing facility, we have already allocated $1.2 million and are currently discussing some business plans with some investors for LED luminaries. We will be offering world class lighting products in India in FY 2010-2011.

EB: How much investment one requires to set up a manufacturing unit?

Given the range of technological advances taking place, be it in the field of increasing efficiency or bringing costs down for solar panels, mini windmills, better energy storage media and management solutions and increasing efficiency of electrical equipment of day to day use. It would be too high a risk to guess without first addressing certain fundamentals. It could be anywhere around $0.1 million to several million dollars.

Despite a huge domestic market, Indian consumers lack adequate awareness in identifying the most appropriate products suitable for their applications. Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is trying to create an energy star labeling programme for major electricity consuming gadgets to give an informed choice to the consumer. More stars mean that the running cost of the equipment would be lower.

EB: What problems Indian energy efficient lighting segment is facing?

As LED products lack standardisation, customers buy whatever sellers offer. The irony is that though people talk about benefits of LEDs, the products in the market hardly match the performance standards. Big multinational lighting companies are focusing on the industrial segment rather than the general consumers. BEE is trying to give an informed choice to the consumers on the running cost of the equipment they buy. A labeling programme for lighting industry has already been started.

EB: What are the factors inhibiting growth of energy efficient lighting industry in India?

The factors inhibiting its growth are poor technological awareness, very few educational institutes providing lighting industry related knowledge under their curriculum, shortage of trained manpower and need for government’s vision and direction on training manpower for the industry. According to Strategies Unlimited, a US based think tank on LED technologies, LED based products should enjoy a 28 per cent compounded annual growth rate from 2009 to 2012. I am surprised that with such an astonishing promised growth in domestic and export markets, specialised institutions churning out lighting professionals in India can be counted on fingers.

There is a need for inclusion of technically sound professionals from industry in the government standardisation committees. Till 2005, standardisations were happening at a fast pace and we were in the process of introducing 5 star rating for electronic ballast. But due to lobbying it couldn’t be implemented.

EB: What measures can be taken to rectify these problems?

We are one of the greenest civilisations in terms of per capita consumption of energy and we can incorporate this knowledge in our energy consumption habits. Like minded stake holders can work together to increase the reach of new technologies with lowest cost delivery mechanism to end users. A partnership between the lighting industry and technical institutes can be developed to create a new generation of professionals for the emerging sectors. More coordinated media networking is the need of the hour to address the grassroots applications with latest technologies at realistic prices. The need of the hour is to develop an employable workforce on the frontiers of technology.

Also, it is essential that some annual events should be organised periodically to educate the industry, buyers and sellers. There should be more interaction with policy makers where government intervention is necessary.

EB: What are the future growth plans of your company?

We have quiet ambitious plans for future, especially in renewable energy sectors like solar, wind, healthcare and lighting. We have developed ample skills through a dedicated R&D lab and in-house developmental work. In 2003, we invested $100,000 in setting up the R&D lab. We absorb ideas from all over the world and incorporate them in our own development. For example, we will be offering very economical healthcare systems which are not yet available in India. We will source some components from outside and manufacture finished products in India.

EB: What is your business strategy to stay ahead of your competitors?

We want to implement our strategy in each space step by step. Our manufacturing unit in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, will be inaugurated shortly as the necessary infrastructure is currently being put into place. Our prime focus would be to educate the consumers so that they can make the right informed choices based on their own needs rather than based on high sales pitch. We have respect for Indian consumers intelligence provided they receive all the right inputs.

We are shortlisting 40-50 strategic partners in India from the large number of enquiries we are getting every day. They will be working as our franchisees with whom we will share our expertise developed over more than three decades. Our partners will be well trained to handle all aspects of the technology and may develop unique localised solutions using our technological resources. Regnant will take a lead in creating a tech-savvy DIY generation who will be provided necessary tools to feel and apply technology with hands-on experience.

We are also creating a special marketing team to handle project requirements. The third level will be direct selling to consumers offering them advantages that no other manufacturer can.



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