Voltas wants to be a brand that is relevant round the year

Written by Anushree Bhattacharyya | Updated: Feb 12 2013, 18:32pm hrs
A decade back, air-conditioners (ACs) were treated as a luxury product. The market for ACs was also very small, almost one-fifth of what it is today. Bulky ACs accounted for 80% of sales. Today, much as changed as the AC is no longer considered to be a luxury item but an essential. India's homegrown AC brand Voltas, from the Tata Group, has been witness to the wave of changes that ACs as a category have gone through. Today, 70% of its revenues come from the sale of split ACs. In a conversation with FE's Anushree Bhattacharyya, Pradeep Bakshi, chief operating officer - UPBG (Unitary Products Business Group), Voltas Ltd, talks about how this Tata brand rewrote the rules of the game. Edited excerpts.

For a company which only sells ACs, how does Voltas handle competition, especially from foreign brands who have a range of consumer durables

Foreign brands have better technology and deeper pockets. Along with that, they also have the advantage that Indians perceive foreign brands as being better, especially in terms of technology. Given the market scenario,Voltas has done well and we are the market leader with a volume market share till date of 18.5% in overall AC, 35.3% in window AC and 14.8% in split AC.

This has been possible mainly because we have kept ourselves abreast of the latest technology and have worked towards creating a solid network for after sales services. Consumers mostly complain that once a company sells the product, it happily forgets to provide services, while Voltas has ensured that its customer gets the best service at a reasonable price. This is how we have been able to capture the Indian market.

With so many AC brands in the market, how does Voltas ensure that its advertising and marketing campaigns are able to stand out

Our research suggested that the India consumer wanted an efficient product. Also, the Indian consumer felt immense pride in using a product which was manufactured by a trusted Indian company. We thus launched the campaign, 'India ka dil, India ka AC'. Next, we spoke about efficiency as we talked about how Voltas ACs help in conserving electricity. We launched a campaign where we showed a savings calculator'. This campaign played a big role as it allow the consumer to buy an AC based on the 1-5 star rating. This worked well for us even when the industry was witnessing a drop in sales between 2007-2010. In 2010, when the government made energy efficiency mandatory, we derived the maximum benefit. Over the years we have marketed Voltas as a sensible cooling brand.

Do you have a set target for three or four innovative models every year

Our research and development department is constantly working in tandem with our marketing department to bring out innovative models. The consumers changing demands also drive us, and one recent example is the launch of the all weather AC. Also, we keep working on new products based on government policies and as and when there is a change in policy, we introduce a new model based on new guidelines. Another factor which drives innovation is the demands from our partners. For example, if companies such as Pepsi or Cadbury have a specific demand for a new kind of cooler, we work towards creating that product. This year we have four to five projects going on for these clients. Of this, two or three are in the space of air conditioning, while the rest are commercial projects.

While ACs were all along seen as a product related to summers, Voltas' all weather AC seems to be changing that perception. How did the idea come up

The idea came up during a discussion with our creative agency where we brainstormed on how a single-product company can be relevant all through the year. Voltas wants to be a brand that is relevant round the year. We also debated on whether we should get into other categories, or make the best use of what we have already, and reached the conclusion that we should first consolidate what we already have. Of course, brand expansion is but a natural course, and in the future, Voltas might venture into it.

As I have grown up in Northern India, I realised that people here face extreme weather conditions. While in summer there is a mad rush to buy ACs, in winter, shops have long queues with people looking to buy heaters. So we thought of launching a product which will be of use throughout the year and will play an important role in all weather conditions. Before this, the window to market for ACs in India was just three-four months, after which the suppliers would lose interest, the engineers would go on leave, no one had much work to do.

Are you also looking at brand expansion

We have been getting various offers and options, and all these are being weighed by the Tata Group and Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG), which is associated with us. We are constantly analysing and researching and conducting studies, but nothing has matured as of now.