LEDs are gaining traction among Indian consumers, both in the household and commercial segments. Understanding the specific needs of diverse users, GE Lighting focuses on innovation to bring out the most suitable products for the Indian market. Harish Lalchandani, CEO, GE Lighting, India shares his views and plans for the Indian market in conversation with Gunjan Piplani of LED Bazaar
LB: The future of lighting is in LEDs and GE Lighting is continuously growing in this segment. How do you view the growth of the Indian LED market?
Growing awareness around energy conservation has been a key driving force behind the high growth in LED lighting segment. LEDs conserve approximately 50 per cent more energy compared to conventional lighting devices. Several other technology features such as a long lifespan, which leads to cost effectiveness, and the absence of toxic materials make LEDs the preferred choice of consumers.
Several domestic and international players are entering the LED segment, but the focus on product quality will guide their market share in the coming years. Also, innovation-based business models will lead the way. As per ELCOMA Vision 2020, the LED market this year is worth around Rs 46 billion and is growing at a rapid CAGR of almost 41 per cent. Today, LEDs constitute 30 per cent of the lighting market and by 2020, we expect LEDs to make up almost 70 per cent of the lighting market.
LB: What is your take on the government’s plans to promote LEDs in the country—first by replacing street lamps and then by giving LED bulbs to households at subsidised rates? What else can the government do to promote the use of LEDs?
There is definitely a strong push and commitment from the new government to encourage the use of LED lights. Programmes such as Bachat Lamp Yojna, the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuthikaran Yojana (RGGVY) and the recently launched Prakash Path are among several initiatives to extend the concept of energy conversation at the rural level. Similarly, the government wants to convert the 28-30 million street lighting points in India to LEDs. The steps taken so far are in the right direction; the government should aggressively focus on building awareness about the benefits of adopting LED lighting systems among the public at large, especially in Tier II and Tier III markets.
LB: What steps should the government take to promote LED manufacturing in India?
Besides home lighting and street lighting, industrial and commercial applications are boosting the Indian LED market. However, there is still a lot of potential for cost reduction and achieving economies of scale in the LED sector. An economic push towards domestic R&D, and a reduction in import duty and local taxes will certainly decrease the dependence of Indian manufacturers on imported raw materials for the production of LED lighting systems. This will lead to reduced prices. The government can also help the domestic industry by restricting cheap, imported products that are likely to dissuade consumers because of their low quality and safety standards.
LB: Does GE participate in government projects?
GE is actively involved in many government infrastructure projects, especially in street lighting and stadiums. GE excels in providing end-to-end lighting solutions. We have a team called SITC, which stands for supply, installation, testing and commissioning. As the name suggests, the team is involved not just with supply, but also with installation and commissioning activities.
To state an example, currently, most of the stadium projects in the country come to us. We have recently illuminated the stadiums that hosted the football matches of the Indian Super League in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Guwahati and Goa. Here, we were involved in all the activities, right from the supply of fixtures, digging the foundations and laying the poles to commissioning the lighting.
LB: Are lighting needs different in India compared to those of other nations? How does GE innovate to meet these different needs?
Indian consumers are extremely value conscious, and that pushes us to innovate on not only the cost of the product but also other factors such as energy saving, increased lifespan, lower maintenance costs and finally, a pleasing aesthetic design.
Our products are specifically engineered to suit the Indian operating conditions. For instance, GE Lighting’s street lighting solution incorporates higher ingress protection (IP 66), with a pressure die cast construction to protect the LED system from rain and dust. Second, the lighting is specifically designed with wide input voltage drivers to handle significant voltage swings.
LB: What are the challenges you face in the Indian LED business and how do you plan to overcome them?
There have been many progressive changes in the Indian LED market that are helping the industry to grow. At the same time, there are several challenges that need to be met by the stakeholders of the industry. One of the major impediments is the lack of awareness among users about the benefits of LED products. This is restricting the scaling-up of the business for the mass market. Lack of skilled manpower, heavy dependence on imported LED-related electronic components, and the high cost of manufacturing due to the expensive raw materials and technology used are making LED manufacturing an expensive affair in India. Thus, due to high pricing and lack of quality standards, customers end up buying cheap, unsafe and low quality imported LED products.
LB: Is GE Lighting coming up with any new products? What are your expansion plans, if any?
LED lighting is an important area for us, and all our product development and R&D activities focus on developing high quality LED products specifically tailored for Indian conditions. At Bengaluru, we have an in-house development facility which is certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and equipped with best-in-class testing facilities.
We follow the Six-Sigma methodology and use the 10-step ‘Design for Reliability’ (DFR) process. This allows us to ‘design in’ a specified level of reliability into our products that takes into account various stress conditions the product will be subjected to over its lifetime in a real world application. Our rigorous testing protocol helps us validate that the product will perform as designed over its rated life. Testing is useful to help validate product robustness, but DFR helps ensure that the product will perform as expected, even over time.
In spite of our stringent and robust product development and verification criteria, we are able to introduce new products within just two to three months, which is significantly faster compared to most of our competitors in the country.