Pradipta Sen, president, Emerson India & Middle East and Africa, on how the company is customising global solutions to meet local customer needs | By Indira Rao |
That a strong manufacturing sector is crucial to a strong economy is an established fact. Maintaining and increasing manufacturing strength means investing in the right talent and upgrading current technology. According to the current five year plan (2012 – 2017), India plans to invest USD one trillion to meet its infrastructure needs. More roads mean more oil and gas demands; more electricity means more businesses as new plants are being built or operating continuously.The sharpest businessmen have a knack for viewing the world from the perspective of their customers. Seeking opportunities and seizing them at the right time is not everyone’s cup of tea.But for Pradipta Sen, president, Emerson India &Middle East and Africa, challenging convention has led to acquiring that competitive advantage.For example, the above scenario spells nothing but success for Emerson as Sen sees great opportunities for his products and solutions that manage, automate and control plants and factories better and improve the manufacturing productivity.“The core idea behind any Emerson solution is to enable the customer to use energy more efficiently and responsibly,” states Sen.
“With over 50 years of experience in the Indian market and already working with most of the key players in the major infrastructure sectors,the company has invested more than $700 million(including acquisitions) over the last three four years to lay the groundwork for the future.Our strategy for growth is to seize opportunities and grow by using our knowledge of the market and by providing our customers with the best of innovative technology solutions.”
Sen began his career with Emerson in 2001 when he was appointed president of Emerson India. In 2011, in addition to India, Middle East and Africa region were added to his portfolio.
Reminiscing his earlier days, Sen avers that channelising and utilising the potential of Indian talent in the global collaborative engineering and development for Emerson was one of the first and most successful initiatives that he was fortunate to be a part of.
“This was the forerunner to the creation of a global engineering and development centre and a global information technology centre for Emerson in India. In the early days, Emerson was a collection of JVs in India with different partners and naturally with different legacies. Homegenisation of outlook, priorities and practices across entities were very big challenges that needed short term focus and long term plans,” affirms he.Diversification was and continues to be their key to long term global and India success.Mergers & acquisitions have formed a major part of the growth of Emerson. Over the last five years, it has made six acquisitions or joint venture buy-outs that positively affected the company’s business. “We’re always on the lookout for acquisitions which make business sense. The value addition that Emerson provides is that the acquired companies are engaged in developing whole solutions rather than just individual products. We at Emerson believe in an ideal mix of organic growth and business strategic acquisitions,” avers Sen.
The recent acquisition of Virgo Valves is a key case in point. Emerson announced in September 2013 that it had signed an agreement to purchase Virgo Valves and Controls, a leading manufacturer of ball valves and automation systems based in Pune. Virgo has a very strong reputation in the market place complemented by a very strong Indian manufacturing base. Organisationally, they have strengths, such as established relationships with many of Emerson’s original contracting firms, and industry wise they are very deep and focused. “We are seeing benefits from this partnership every day, in terms of our ability to offer solutions to diverse sectors from oil and gas, metals and pharmaceuticals to food and beverage,” affirms Sen.
“Fundamentally, we are a global company and do business in markets all over the world. Yet we are very “local” in serving our customers, which is especially important in emerging markets like India,” declares Sen. He further adds, “The companies that we acquire bring in their own identities and track record of success in the markets in which they have been operating. Emerson helps by adding its brand and complementary technology, scale and global reach to the acquired companies. The combination of local identity, flexibility, nimbleness, global scale and reach is extremely powerful in retaining and enhancing the competitiveness of both the existing and acquired businesses.”
The company is moving beyond providing just the product to helping with integrated and optimised solutions and consultation which in turn helps a customer reduce costs and project risk.Bucking the conventional wisdom of “never been done before”
very seriously they use their expertise from around the world andfrom multiple industry segments to create innovative products and solutions that help use energy more efficiently.
Agreeing, Sen stresses, “At Emerson we have a customer-focused,results-driven culture where performance and talent is recognised and rewarded. We have a global workplace culture that supports and promotes diversity, embraces inclusion, fosters collaboration and cultivates respect for the individual and encourages employees to excel. Doing things uniquely or doing things differently for improving energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness for our customers is what we constantly strive for and it is this focus on innovation that sets us apart.”
Sen believes in giving the employees access to world class facilities and places much emphasis on employee involvement in research and development efforts. There are more than 2500 engineers focused on design, development and application engineering in India and more than a million hours a year are spent on global innovation and engineering for Emerson in India.
A true testimony to that is the company’s Innovation Centre at Pune. “India for India is one of the strategic priorities to leverage and exploit the multidomain and talent. The Innovation Centre at Pune is to help local customers solve their problems,”emphasises Sen. The centre developed Ovation Hi-density IO module for Power and Water Solutions (PWS) Business. This has allowed PWS India to offer 32 point digital input/output modules,16 channel analog input modules, high density base and small sized compact terminators to power customers. Boiler header life estimation for PWS business and Next Gen Wet Chemistry analysers for analytical business are couple of other examples for the process industry customers in India.
“As India develops further we are geared up to provide technology to support this growth. India plays a vital role in Emerson’s growth plan through sustainable profitability, committed management of human capital, strategic acquisitions and highly integrated process and technology solutions,” adds Sen.
In the industries that Emerson serves, technology becomes obsolete very soon. Hence, it is very important for the company to have an ear to the ground, anticipate changes and devise technology upgrades quickly and efficiently. For instance, embedded software and wireless technologies have gone through the biggest and the most widely accepted changes in the last decade.As a result, instruments and products have become more intelligent and user-friendly and control systems have become more reliable and accurate and that in turn has created the digital world that we live in today.
In the field of energy, renewable sources like wind and solar have also gone through tremendous developments in applicability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Improvements in high-density electronic hardware design coupled with progress in climate control technology have also spurred the rapid development of large-scale data centres for a variety of users and industries. “And we have been catering to this entire market. In Emerson, I have been lucky to be apart of this technology revolution,” professes Sen.The company has currently identified strong business opportunities in areas such as oil and gas and power. Other important sectors include telecommunications and information technology(chiefly data centres), alternative energy (chiefly solar energy),and HVAC (chiefly cold chain logistics and air-conditioning).
“Most of these industries are expected to witness major growth in the long term. We also see great potential in the country’s development of its natural gas production and distribution infrastructure,”adds Sen.
In India, Emerson operates 15 manufacturing facilities and has more than 100 offices. “This ensures we are close to our customerswho can in turn leverage our strong manufacturing capabilities,”says Sen. Another feather in their cap is that technologiesand project management experience developed in India is easilytransferable to the Middle East and Africa. Seconding, Sen claims,“Emerson’s India engineering centres and project management expertscontribute to MEA projects. The next level of growth in HVAC,petrochemicals and data centre evolution is just beginning to happenin Africa and Middle East so there is the potential for growthand collaboration.” Examples of this would be Emerson’s Thaneengineering centre that has played a key role in laying the BhartiTelecom network in South Africa. Also, much of the instrumentationwork for Emerson’s Qatargas project was done in Chennai.
Though Emerson is a global brand, it is interesting to notethat 90% of what is sold by the company in India is domesticallyproduced. “Our manufacturing process is duplicated globallybecause every manufacturing facility must meet our global standards.
In India, we are focused on manufacturing best-in-classengineering products so in that respect the process is at par withany of our global manufacturing processes.”For example, with the acquisition of Fisher Sanmar in 2011they expanded their Emerson Process Management capabilities.
“The result was our ability to support large, multinational projectsin India as well as in the Middle East. Some of our industrialvalves and process valves used in the Middle East oil and gas industrieswere made in India. We also export compressors for theair conditioning and refrigeration industries and alternators. InIndia, we have built significant global engineering capabilities.Wherever Emerson is working on a refinery project, our Indianengineers are usually involved from a project engineering standpoint,”asserts Sen.
The company was also the first compressor manufacturer to develop R290 (natural refrigerant hydrocarbon) compressors in India. “This was indigenously developed at the Atit plantand is one of the greenest refrigerant-based compressors everdeveloped,” stresses Sen. R290 is a natural hydrocarbon refrigeranthaving zero Ozone Layer Depletion Potential (ODP) and a lowGlobal Warming Potential (GWP), as defined by the Kyoto Protocol.In commercial refrigeration applications, these new R290compressors are more efficient than other chemical refrigerants.
“The R290 compressor is a proactive program that meets theneeds of the Visi cooler market. It also upgrades the energy efficiencyof these compressors by approximately 15% as we introducethem in our next generation FHP product series – ECZ inFY15. We see a promising future for the product with talks alreadyunderway of exporting them to other Asian markets. It also demonstratesour commitment for developing eco friendly productsand is in keeping with our vision statement of protecting the environment,”adds Sen.
Sen says that as a company they believe in growth sustainabilityin two primary ways; commitment to provide products and servicesthat improve energy efficiencies and reduce potential harmto the environment. They make their own efforts to operate theirfacilities in a manner that protects the environment, meets or exceedsgovernment requirements, and continually reduce energyconsumption and waste.
“This approach affords us a broad environmental perspectivethat balances advances in living standards and prosperity withpotential impact on the planet and the well-being of future generations.Energy efficiency is at the heart of Emerson’s business. Weare constantly engaged in developing technologies that maximiseenergy efficiency, lessen impact on the environment, and provideenergy resources for our world. Our strategy is to continue to investand provide innovative and mission-critical technologies tosupport fast-growing industries across verticals,” states Sen.
Recognising that infrastructure development is the driving forcebehind economic growth in India, it is a key market for Sen. I believe,India offers long-term growth opportunities for us especiallyas the country improves its basic infrastructure and companiesmodernise their facilities or invest in new energy-efficient facilities.We are committed to India, to investing in R&D, our people and in positioning ourselves as thought leaders and innovative solution providers,” professes Sen on a concluding note.