Balakrishnan Natarajan, Managing Director, EPCOS India, TDK Group, is bullish about the future prospects for India's electrical and electronics industry. This enthusiasm reflects in the diverse range of products the company offers 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, opines Natarajan.
What is new for this year from TDK?
This year we have introduced a bundle of innovative products. Among them is the new PQvar static vargenerator (SVG). It provides real-time compensation to ensure that you have continuous unity power factor even if the load is varying. This cannot be achieved with the existing compensation systems because at some point - with some variation in the load - the power factor could either drop or rise and you will have to make some adjustments. But this will not happen with an SVG. For example, in a 300 kvar system, if 200 kvar is 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. Therefore, TDK has advanced from being just a components supplier to a manufacturer that provides value-added power quality solutions, by which we are able to address the power factor to ensure it is at unity. We are also addressing harmonics and trying to make it real-time by taking it as close to unity power factor as possible and ensuring harmonic mitigation.
Have various government initiatives such as Make in India, Skill India and Digital India had a positive impact on the Indian electrical and electronics industry?
I would like to look at the electrical and electronics industries separately. The electrical industry in India is fairly mature. For a fairly long period of time, we have had manufacturing facilities for low to high voltage equipment, say from 30 V to 400 KV. Today, we are talking about high voltage transmission at 780 kV and 1,280 kV.
As far as the electronic industry is concerned, India's capabilities are still limited. In the last 25 years, since the Indian economy opened up, we have largely been living 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 that of mobile handsets, where things have started changing with the government's emphasis on local manufacturing. The second area where changes are happening is in the manufacturing of LED lighting and the third area is smart metering. In all of these, TDK India is 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-a-vis Make in India. Please elaborate...
With the kind of investments that India has obtained from outside and with the manufacturing capability being created, local manufacturing is now clearly happening in the mobile phone and railway segments. That is a positive. When I say neutral, I mean that there is definitely an initiative, but two things are missing. First 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 does not have an impact on the 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. However, for such a big country like ours, where we have close to 100,000 ckm of transmission lines, it is 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 implement smart grids. Though from a global perspective, smart grid is still in its infancy, the growth of smart grids offers great potential for TDK and we have much to contribute.
What areas excite you especially?
The potential of the automotive segment is exciting. We have a lot of components to offer for the automotive industry and the content of electronics is continuously increasing here. Besides, we are already talking about electric vehicles (EVs), which is going to bemuch sought-after by the next generation. 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). Here again, TDK is well placed with an array of innovative technologies and products to start servicing this growing market. As an example, 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 electrical and electronics industry?
Both the electrical and electronics industries are poised for growth for two reasons. In the electrical industry, India still has thousands of un-electrified 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 do not yet have the manufacturing base. We will only have it in place as the days progress. Therefore, in my view, the Indian electrical and electronics industries should witness substantial growth in the years to come.
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 clarity on 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, we need to improve in terms of quality, cost and delivery (QCD).
From a global perspective, smart grid is still in its infancy, the growth of smart grids offers great potential for TDK and we have much to contribute.
- Manish Pant
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