Honeywell Automation India Limited (HAIL) is a leader in providing integrated automation and software solutions, including process solutions and building solutions. In conversation with Manish Pant, Ashish Gaikwad, Managing Director, HAIL says that the company is keenly eyeing new processes in India’s smart cities programme and railways for future expansion. It is also looking at creating a new class of consumers by offering cost-effective technologies to SMEs (spread across the country’s mofussil towns and cities).
In the past few years, you have launched solutions that embed software and analytics into industrial products. So, when you speak about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in the Indian context, which segments of the economy are you currently servicing here and what areas are you keen to expand into going forward?
The business that I run is Honeywell Process Solutions, which caters to the process industry. When I say process industry, it is upstream, midstream and downstream oil & gas, including refineries, petrochemicals, pipelines, LNG and LNG terminals, pulp and paper, minerals and metals mining and electric utilities. We would now like to move towards small and medium enterprises (SMEs) so that we are able to bring the solutions in a cost-effective manner and to those industry players who were otherwise unable to afford them in the past.
We continue to look at all kinds of process industries such as pharmaceuticals, metro railway and water management systems coming up in smart cities.
How do you propose to bring down costs for SMEs?
There are multiple ways. First, we have to be inclusive rather than exclusive. That’s why we are passionate about moving from tier-1 to tier-2 and tier-3 cities. We also need to be practical about it. One way that you can reduce the cost of total offering to make it affordable for SMEs is by designing fit-for-purpose solutions that are made for India. And, therefore, my team will be continuously working on India-specific strategies. Secondly, we would also like to divide the cost between players so that just one industry doesn’t end up bearing the cost of the total solution. That is again where IoT can come in. Rather than targeting just one SME, we have a group of SMEs in the ecosystem that are able to divide the cost and take collective benefit of a solution.
Are you also looking at India’s humongous railway network?
We have not played there in the past. But I am sure that with the disruptions happening boundaries between who can play in certain industries and who cannot will go away. I think it’s a new way of looking at solutions. The technology and products that we have today for the rest of the industry, some of them can very well fit into railways as well. I would love to explore the possibilities in India’s railway sector. We are already playing a role in the metro railway. We provide what we call as safety programmable logic controllers (PLCs) for underground tunnel management because there could be situations where we need to evacuate people safely.
What kind of growth opportunity do you see in the electric utilities business?
For Honeywell, it’s a large play in various parts of the electric utilities business. If you start from the generation, we provide automation and safety solutions, which include turbine control, boiler control, coal handling system, etc. We have customers like NTPC and Tata Power. When you come to transmission and distribution, we can provide electrical Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) there. We provide the same solutions to captive power plants as well. All refineries need large power plants. We provide solutions for them as well. And then we are also into smart grids, where you need to optimise consumption in order to balance supply-demand. And lastly, we are getting into smart meters, which can then communicate to a back office or centralised location for metering, consumption patterns and all other good things.
India's contribution to Honeywell's global revenues of $40 billion is a mere 1%. Given the geographical and demographic size of the country as well as its growth potential, how do you propose to progressively expand here?
We have various strategies for each of the different businesses since Honeywell is a multi-business company. I represent a portion of that business. And for me what we are trying to do here is see which process industries are growing and, therefore, aligned to the growth presently demanded by the Indian economy. But at any point in time, whether in a good or bad economy, growth is always a challenge. Therefore, we need to continuously reinvent ourselves like what we are doing with connected plants while also making sure that we do not stop innovating. Most importantly, my focus is on developing products that are fit-for-purpose and designed for the Indian industry rather than taking any global product and trying to force-fit it here because affordability and applicability might be different.
You currently have around 15,000 employees in India. In view of the ambitious push being given to the country's infrastructure sector, are you looking at adding headcount in the medium term?
We have never stopped looking at the headcount portion. It is all driven by what is necessary for business. The fact remains that even when India was not on the global map, our management was investing here. We have been steadily growing and we do prudent investments every time we require manpower. Otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, the answer is yes!
Moving on to the very important talking point these days, cyber security. How do you ensure that the layer of security you offer is highly effective?
In security, there is nothing like a 100% foolproof stop. Things can still go wrong. The only way you can stay ahead of the curve is by continuously being watchful. We are bringing up facilities for cyber security-related work in Atlanta, Dubai and now Singapore. We will continue to have our research, development and experimentation in order to stay ahead of the curve, and make industrial cyber security more powerful.
Any movement on allocating some part of the corporation's $100 million venture fund for global startups to India?
At Honeywell, we are quite prudent about where we need to invest our money. Like in any other business, we undertake business case studies for the right purposes. Our management will be quite open if a good business case gets put-up for venture capital funding. In fact, any new good idea that will enable us towards becoming a software-industrial company, with the whole vision of a connected plant, I think will receive good support from the management.
About Ashish Gaikwad
Ashish Gaikwad was named MD, Honeywell Automation India Ltd, effective October 1, 2016. He joined Honeywell in June 1992 and has progressed through roles of increasing responsibility, most recently serving as General Manager for the Advanced Solutions business for the Asia Pacific region within Honeywell Process Solutions.
He brings to his new role, more than 25 years of experience in automation, control, and advanced software applications. He has been instrumental in driving digital transformation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for Honeywell in the process industry.
Gaikwad has handled a mix of leadership portfolios including operations, sales, strategic marketing and general management for the Asia Pacific region, including as the General Manager for Business Performance Solutions, and Regional General Manager for South East Asia for HPS. He has also lead the Global Strategic Marketing portfolio for the HPS Advanced Solutions business based in Phoenix, USA.
Gaikwad completed his graduation from the Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS), Pilani in Electrical and Electronics Engineering.