In tete a tete with Manish Pant, Balakrishnan Natarajan, Managing Director, EPCOS India Pvt. Ltd, a TDK Group company, expresses the future prospects for India’s electrical & electronics industry. This enthusiasm is very much evident in the diverse range of products the company has to offer in the Indian market. However, the country will need to make notable upgrades in terms of quality, cost and delivery (QCD) if it wants to establish itself as a major manufacturing hub, add Natarajan.
What’s new for this year from TDK?
This year we have already introduced a bundle of innovative products. Among them is the new PQvar static var generator (SVG). Basically, it provides real-time compensation to ensure that you have continuous unity power factor even if you have a varying load. This cannot be achieved with the existing compensation systems because at some point – with some variation in the load – power factor could either drop or rise and you will have to make some adjustments. But this won’t happen with an SVG. For example, in a 300 kvar system, if 200 kvar could be the stable load and 100 kvar the variable load, the SVG will adjust the 100 kvar load by continuously adjusting the power and ensuring unity power factor.
As a company, you are also focused on energy management. How do you ensure that your customers are able to maximise energy utilisation?
We have a broad portfolio of power quality solutions. These include various kinds of switching devices for the fixed type of power factor correction systems. For instance, we have a contactor switch with a reactor and a capacitor reactor with thyristor control. We also have the PQSine series of active harmonic filters. As we have kept upgrading our products, the quality of power supplied to the customer has also improved. We are also addressing harmonics and trying to make it real-time by taking it as close to unity power factor and harmonic mitigation as possible.
Have various government initiatives such as Make in India, Skill India and Digital India had a positive impact on the Indian electrical & electronics industry?
I would like to look at the electrical and electronics industries separately. The electrical industry in India is fairly mature. We have had manufacturing facilities for quite some years for equipment starting from low voltage say 30 volts to 400 kV, and today we are talking about high voltage transmission at 780 kV and 1280 kV. However, India's capabilities in the electronics industry are still limited. In the last 25 years since the Indian economy opened up, we have been living more with electronic imports. Hardly 5 to 6 per cent of our electronics products are made here! Therefore, Make in India can have an impact.
A classic example is the mobile handsets where, with the government’s emphasis on local manufacturing, things have started changing. The second area where things are changing is in the manufacturing of LED lighting. The third area where we see changes happening is in smart metering. In all of these areas TDK in India is really well-positioned to support electronics manufacturers with a broad range of components. Some examples include miniature thin-film and multilayer RF components, Multilayer inductors, power inductors, SMD multilayer varistors, lens actuators for camera modules, wireless charging solutions and lithium ion polymer batteries for smartphones. We also have other protection components like thermofuse MOV, GD tubes for LED lighting, and extremely robust X2 film capacitors and protection components for smart meters in high humidity environments
You often talk about “positives” and “neutrals” vis-à-vis Make in India. Please elaborate on that?
The kind of investments that have been brought in from outside India and with the manufacturing capability being created, local manufacturing is now clearly happening in the mobile phone and railway segments. That’s a positive. But when I say neutral, there is definitely an initiative but two things are missing. One is the natural pull of the investment and second is capacity building. You cannot build something in India if you do not have the design capability. If my design capability is located outside of India, I will only use components that are available abroad. That doesn’t have an impact on component manufacturers here. Therefore, even as Make in India is happening its impact on certain businesses is neutral.
At a time when one of the biggest talking points in the industry is about smart grids, how well prepared is India for the transition?
As far as understanding the benefits of smart grids is concerned, India is ready. But for such a big country like ours, where we have close to 100,000 kilometres of transmission lines, it’s extremely difficult to convert overnight. Especially considering the fact that many of the transmission lines are actually lying dead. But a lot of government initiatives are already in place. The smart cities programme should really implement smart grids. But, even from a global perspective, the smart grid is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, the growth of smart grids offers great potential for TDK and we have much to contribute.
What areas excite you especially?
The potential in automotive segment is very exciting. We have a lot of components to offer for the automotive industry and the content of electronics in automotive is continuously increasing. Besides, we are already talking about the next generation in mobility, the electric vehicles. For example, our CeraLink capacitor is especially well-suited for applications with new band-gap semiconductors like SiC and Gas, which are increasingly being used in the inverters for EV drives. Another exciting area is the internet of things (IoT). TDK has developed CeraCharge, the world’s first solid-state rechargeable battery that cannot leak, burn or explode.
What is your outlook for the Indian E&E industry?
Both the electrical and electronics industries are poised for growth for two reasons. In the electrical industry, India still has thousands of unelectrified villages and transmission lines that are of very poor quality. Therefore, there is going to be a huge demand for electrical equipment to penetrate into these places. And from the electronics perspective, we don’t yet have the manufacturing base. We will only have it in place as the days progress. Therefore, in my view, the Indian electrical & electronics industries should witness solid growth in the years to come.
In your view, what are some of the main challenges before the industry?
Challenges for India include building our own design capability. We also have to change our collective mindset in terms of customers and customer expectations. Being in the manufacturing field I can say that many customers do not have a clear concept of what they should expect out of a product or from a manufacturer. For TDK, an Indian customer asking for a replacement for a failed product is not interesting. Customers need to ask their suppliers to support them in analysing why a certain product has failed and then be ready to take corrective steps. To be competitive with the rest of the world, the country needs to develop its design capabilities, change quality paradigms and improve on service delivery – in short, to improve in terms of quality, cost and delivery (QCD).