Company Description: Su-Kam
Power Systems Limited is a homegrown power solutions provider, with a presence
in more than 70 countries. The company provides power back-up solutions for
both domestic as well as industrial markets, with a focus on eco-friendly,
inexhaustible energy solutions like solar power. Some of the major products
include inverters, home ups, online UPS; line interactive UPS, generators,
solar range, batteries, battery chargers and battery equalisers. Early this
year, the company launched Su-Kam‘Automate’ - automotive battery specially
designed to handle vehicles’ power need in any possible conditions. Su-Kam
Automate is powered by All Weather Technology (AWT), a unique feature that
ensures reliable performance for your vehicle in all terrains and weather
conditions (from -18°C to +55°C).
You have been with Goodyear for
nearly eight years. Did you make a sudden switch to Su-Kam because of its
diversification into automotive batteries?
Goodyear was actually my third stint
wherein I was designated as the National Head- Sales. There are two key factors
that I made a switch to Su-Kam (from Goodyear). One reason was that whenever I
have switched away from a company, I left that industry too. So I started my
career with an FMCG industry that was largely into detergents, soaps and
cosmetics. So from there I move on towards a garments firm. Joining Su-Kam was
just incidental. It’s altogether a new industry for me and is a learning
process for me as the business principles are different. Su-Kam is an
organisation where the work culture is more entrepreneurial than hierarchical
and where you have to be a self-starter and self-driven. The hierarchy doesn’t
push you or orders you to do something. The amount of freedom and flexibility
which is there is much more and we have to look at it as our own business. So
that culture is quite interesting here.
Su-Kam was primarily into industrial
battery segment. So what prompted it to diversify into the automotive space?
And don’t you think it’s a bit late for the company?
If you look into our earlier
portfolio, we were more into the storage battery segment. That segment is
pretty seasonal and the demand shoots up when there is a peak summer or winter.
A company which has put up a total setup of manufacturing and channel network
cannot depend on a six-month business. It needs to get its factory’s capacity
utilised, people involved and channel partners a regular business. We started
exploring options two years back and thought that automotive battery segment is
just an extension of our industrial battery portfolio. It has a synergy and
complements our range of products too.
We can now utilise even our existing capacities to roll out these
products. Therefore, it just complements our existing portfolio. Coming to the
second part of your question on whether we are late or not, this industry has a
space for everyone. Around 40pc of the battery industry is unorganised. So
there is an opportunity for the contribution of the organised sector to grow.
The organised sector is growing at a very high rate.
What specific segments are you
catering to in the automotive space?
Even though we have been
pilot-testing our automotive batteries for quite some time, we have been in
this business for only five months. We initially forayed into the car battery
division and later extended to the tractor battery division. In the next couple
of months, we will also be in the truck battery division. One segment where we
have not yet ventured into is a two-wheeler battery division. We will consider
this one year down the line. That will complete our total product range.
Could you talk a little bit about
the automotive batteries that you are rolling out? What is its USP? Besides,
are they greener than your peers?
Unlike our competitors, we used the
names of various kinds of stones like for our various segments of
products. Even the branding colours like
green, blue, red, etc, are that of the stones like Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire
respectively. We are selling both water-topped and maintenance-free batteries.
I can affirm that the start-up charge of these batteries is much better than
the ones. Su-Kam Automate is powered by All Weather Technology (AWT), a unique
feature that ensures reliable performance for your vehicle in all terrains and
weather conditions (from -18°C to +55°C).
Our battery ensures that it takes half the time in cranking up the car.
Furthermore, the water loss in our batteries is much less than other batteries
(sold by rivals). That’s again because of the technology that we are using. We
are also making a differentiation in our service as we are providing a one-hour
service for any kind of complaints through our 72 service stations at any part
of this country. Our batteries have to be green considering our core business
values of power generation or power conservation. Our Revolutionary Ca - Ca
(Calcium Calcium) batteries too are less polluting than the normal
highly-available normal batteries. We have already made a move into that and I
am sure we are able to come out with greener batteries. We also have a huge
focus on solar energy too wherein our batteries are much more eco-friendly than
the normal ones.
With your aggressive foray into the
automotive segment, do you expect a sizeable contribution from this space?
We have a single plant at Baddi, Himachal Pradesh
where we are rolling out all kinds of products. Almost 20pc of the plant is
earmarked for the automotive division. Currently, it accounts for 4pc of our
total turnover. So in the next five years, the contributions would scale up to
30pc of the sales pie.
Will you be also considering the
Both direct and aftermarket
verticals are indispensable for us. The
OEM segment is important because it gives the first-time feeling of the battery
to the customer. It has a rub-off effect on the aftermarket. The aftermarket is
crucial because OEMs take a call on the battery which a buyer should opt for.
We have entered the automotive division through the replacement route. We
should have the requisite capacity to cater to both the verticals. Secondly,
it’s a very long process to get an approval from an OEM as they test our
products. We are not ready to wait for that two-year process. So even though we
are only in the non-direct market, OE vertical is something which we are
working on in parallel. After building our brand value in the aftermarket
verticle, we will be able to bag some orders in the direct market.
What will be your marketing and
promotional strategies to enhance your brand equity?
Unlike cosmetics or garments, the
battery industry is a wee bit conservative in popularising its products. This
is because our customers make are not making a pleasure-seeking purchase, but a
harassment one. So we have always been focusing on the brand rather than the
products. For the last one year, we have been following the print ad route of
the brands. Overall, we are spending 100
crore on brand visibility this year. Our
ad spend will be quite heavy on the automotive front.
Are you considering setting up
dedicated signature stores to give a better experience to your customers?
The industry where we are present
predominantly works on a multi-branded outlet format. They are either directly
buying from the company or are buying from the wholesaler. Having four-five
brands under one roof is the way this (battery retailing) industry works. Now
what we have done in the last six months is that we have started working on
‘Su-Kam Shoppe’ stores which are basically exclusive showrooms. It’s basically
a small-format showroom wherein the ROI can work out very fast for the dealer.
We have tried to make it a very lucrative kind of a model in our compact
exclusive showrooms. We thought that there is an opportunity and there is a
possibility of making a format which is not huge or capital intensive where the
ROI can work out very fast. Until now, we have almost 92 such stores in the
Southern part of India, mainly in Tamil Nadu and Andhra. The outlets sell all
kinds of batteries under one roof. We are planning to raise the count to 500
across the country in the next few years.
You have been exporting your
industrial batteries to quite a few countries. Do you wish to replicate the
same with your automotive batteries?
Yes, we have already started doing
that. We are shipping out our automotive batteries mainly to African nations.
We have not considered neighbouring countries because of the unfavourable tax
structure there. We are also not thinking about matured countries like the
United States or Europe. We are now utlising the strength of our existing base
(of industrial batteries) in developing countries of Central Asia, Africa, East
Asia, etc to move into the automotive domain.
What is the agenda that you have set
for the company in the automotive battery space?
We definitely aim to figure among
the top 5 auto battery makers in India in the near term. We have already moved
up our ranking to 6th or 7th position in the domestic market. As I said earlier, our automotive segment
will account for 33-35pc of our total business in the next five years. We also
intend to be a US$ 1 billion by FY 2017-18. That will automatically make us the
third largest battery making company in India. For that we will be ramping up
our capacities both organically and inorganically---inorganically in India. Our
main focus will remain on the domestic market as our strength lies there. In
two years, we will also be having our entire gamut of product range comprising
cars, CVs, tractors, construction equipment, forklifts and two-wheelers. We
have also inked a JV with a US-based company for Trojan for manufacturing and
marketing their products in India. We have started with non-automotive
batteries with their products and are drawing up plans to move into the
automotive segments too.