Advance Tech, an industrial equipment, tools and consumables distributor, uses its R&D wing to offer customer-driven innovations on its inventory. Nitish Gupta, business development manager of Advance Tech Services Pvt Ltd, chats with Baishakhi Dutta about the Indian business landscape.
EB: How has India been faring as a business destination compared to other global markets recently?
It’s a trickle-down effect. The government is indeed trying its best. But if I look at how those efforts are paying off on the ground, it seems like that is something beyond the government’s control. The US and China trade war and Brexit have impacted the Indian economy for sure. In the last 15 years, growth rates in the US and Chinese economies have come down. Singapore’s economy is growing at just 0.2 per cent. So, in that context, the Indian economy growing at 6 per cent is pretty decent. Every country in the world has been impacted. The hype in India that we are the only ones suffering is not true. Amidst all this, we are hopeful that things will start taking a positive turn in the next quarter.
EB: What potential does India hold as an electronics market?
Let me use an analogy to describe the problem in our country—a person is faced with a blazing fire and there is someone offering safety equipment for sale, but the person prefers to get burnt rather than spend any money on the safety equipment. Many in the Indian market act in a similar manner. Most players are not even aware about the latest developments in the industry. So it varies from company to company, as to how important they think R&D is and how ambitious they are as an organisation. A lot of small companies are coming up slowly, like the solar panel firms and all those who are ready to invest in them. The companies coming up now are realising that quality comes only at a price.
EB: According to you, which domains have grown and which have stagnated?
The consumer and automotive industry is down. The cell phones and smartphone market is also witnessing a slowdown. But this is temporary. We are expecting the market to pick up, especially the automotive sector, after March 2020.
EB: How has business been for you in the past couple of years?
This year had neither growth nor challenges for us. It was more of a year of sustenance for the entire electronics industry. I believe that after a certain period, any industry will hit a saturation point.
EB: What are your thoughts on the recent corporate tax cut?
I expect that the cut in the corporate tax will be beneficial but it is too early to talk about the impact. I believe it will not make a very major difference since there are many loopholes. Though they have reduced the tax from 30 per cent to 22 per cent, it amounts to a difference of just 3 per cent if we consider the entire tax model. I’m not sure if the 2-3 per cent cut will make too much of a difference for a company.
EB: Which do you think is more difficult—winning customers or getting the right talent pool in India?
Well, the right talent can always tap the right customer and understand their problems. So the first step up the ladder would be to look out for the right talent, which will eventually lead to the right customer. It’s not difficult, but finding the right talent needs more attention.
EB: What is the latest technical upgrade in soldering equipment?
The solder commonly being used in the industry is the tin and copper combination. Its melting point ranges from around 90 to 450 degrees Celsius. By using this same alloy, we can now solder at a temperature that is about 70 degrees lower. So the latest trends in soldering would be low energy consumption, less failure and better life cycles.
EB: Are there any new technologies that your R&D team has been working on? What are their applications?
From the R&D perspective, we have developed a new screw counter. While tightening many screws, a person could miss out a couple. Companies with large production volumes cannot afford to have such loopholes.
So when the screw counter is connected with the screwdriver, it gives users a signal or alarm if the number of screws worked on is less, and the power supply to the screwdriver is stopped automatically. The operator then knows that he or she has missed out something. This screw counter does take into account that the same screw can be tightened multiple times.
EB: How do you decide on the innovation goals for your R&D team?
We have an in-house R&D centre. We take inputs from companies in varied sectors like automobiles, defence, telecom, solar, LEDs, etc, and then we get to understand the problem. If possible, we try and synchronise the solution with our existing equipment so that it is more cost-effective. This helps customers to install the solution then and there, instead of replacing the entire equipment.
EB: What is the demand for these tools like at the moment?
Demand depends on the market scenario. Currently, growth in the automotive industry has dropped by 35-40 per cent. So it’s more of a period during which we sustain ourselves. But with the Make in India initiative, a lot of companies are venturing into production so the future is brighter, for sure
EB: Are handheld tools and equipment witnessing any overall changes with the introduction of IoT?
Not really. Though the IoT journey has started in the country, there is still a long way to go before it can be more reliable and effective.
EB: How important is the role of the sales and customer relations teams in the R&D process?
The better our relationship is with the customers, the more honest the feedback is. That in turn helps companies to come up with better solutions. Hence, the role of sales and customer relations is very important in any business. We are no exception, and have got immense support from our customers in improving our R&D activities.
EB: Do you encounter any challenges while doing R&D in India?
In India, the main R&D challenges arise when you are dealing with semiconductors and microelectronics. The sectors we deal with are a little less complex. Hence we do not come across any specific challenges.