Smart HVAC technologies will be a driving factor in the recovery roadmap of Hospitality: Singh

In an interview, Gurmeet Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning shares more about the company, trends in the AC segment and technology that will help hoteliers come out stronger through the pandemic.

Kindly tell us about your company, strengths, and growth. Which products do you offer to the hospitality industry?

Johnson Controls – Hitachi Air Conditioning is a joint venture company of Johnson Controls, USA and Hitachi Appliances, Japan. The partnership is aimed at addressing the cooling needs faster, smarter and much more efficiently than ever before. “Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning India Limited” is the India unit of Johnson Controls – Hitachi Air Conditioning Company.

We understand the importance of air in our lives. With our expertise, we have conditioned the unpredictable air and we offer the perfect ‘Hitachi air’ experience to our customers which is balanced, harmonious and pleasant. Hitachi air ensures a perfectly balanced indoor living environment by conditioning the air through its five innovative technologies. An offering like no other, Hitachi Air is a combination of Fresh Air, Clean Air, Odour-free Air, Surround Air and Silent Air.

Hitachi is one of the top brands in India with approx. 12 per cent market share in the AC segment. With its innovative product range, best in class indigenous manufacturing facilities, world-class R&D facility and a continuous endeavor to give its customers a better post-sales service experience, Hitachi aims to reach every Indian household and become India’s leading air conditioning brand.

In the commercial HVAC space, we offer VRF Systems and Ductable Air Conditioners. airCloud Pro is one of our latest groundbreaking innovation which we have introduced recently in India for our customers. It offers 24/7 control and remote access of your VRF systems to ensure energy savings, centralised control, flexible user management, pre-emptive alerts and troubleshooting, thus making it ideal for any application in the hospitality sector. Hitachi understood the latent wish of top end residential customers, High end cafes, Restaurants etc. and will be introducing in the market a new range of product called SET FREE mini. 

What are the trends that we are noticing in the AC market for hotels and restaurants in India?

Smart HVAC technologies are going to be a huge driving factor on the recovery roadmap of Hospitality industry, pushing comfort, safety, and efficiency to new heights. Mobile solutions are also going to be a key driver of innovation in the HVAC industry. With Internet of Things (IoT) and various smart sensors, customers will have intelligent and better control of their devices. Artificial intelligence and machine learning related advancements will ensure additional diagnostics and reduce service costs and operating costs. Since the HVAC industry is maintenance-driven, new, and green technologies will streamline maintenance process in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.

How has your company grown since you have come to India and what are your plans?

The company manufactures a wide range of products, from room air-conditioners (Split & Window ACs) to commercial air-conditioners including VRF Systems, Ductable air-conditioners and Chillers under the brand name of ‘Hitachi Cooling & Heating’.

The company has invested $20 Million (nearly INR 140 Crore) to set up the Global Development Center in Kadi, Gujarat. This GDC will globalise product development capabilities and support Make in India movement. It is equipped with state-of-the-art research and testing facilities including Reliability Labs, APF Labs, EMC Labs, Electronics Labs and Semi-anechoic Labs to maximise the potential of the local engineering talent. 

The company has a strong nationwide distribution network consisting of five regional offices, 23 branch offices, 290 plus exclusive sales and service dealers, 70 plus Hitachi Exclusive showrooms, over 10,000 sales points, eight company-owned service centers (HCS) and over 1000 other service points including multi-brand S&S and authorised service partners. To serve its customers in the most efficient manner, Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning India Limited has company owned and operated, 24x7 customer care centers spread across the country. The company is aggressively expanding its channel network in tier-II and III markets.

We are working with the Indian government to reduce the import of critical components and encouraging our overseas vendors to set up factories in India to support an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Our idea in the next three years’ time is to reduce our imports by half and increase our exports from three times of today. We have started working with many component manufacturers in India. We are also looking at the markets in Middle East, African and few SAARC countries for export.

What are the main challenges that vendors to hotels and restaurants are facing due to the pandemic?

Going forward most of the hospitality across the world will have to deal with human intensive situations. Despite all the measures taken by the governments, industry and individual brands, there has been disruption in the lives of the ground level staff and other human resources. Resulting in an atmosphere of uncertainty.

Being an industry leader and a responsible corporate, it is important that we nurture our ecosystem and ensure that all stakeholders especially our human resource across hierarchy feel valued and connected to the organisation. While we can trust that mechanisms such as raw material procurement, manufacturing, cash inflows, supply channels etc. will soon recover. Human intensive issues would demand focus and attention more than ever.

Another big challenge is to ensure and contribute towards the overall well-being of society. Only if the society and localities are empowered by way of awareness and appropriate health - wellness ecosystem will the business units be able to function and flourish. It is crucial to understand that a chaotic socio-economic situation around will inevitably hamper the business. 

What is the direction, marketing, and sales strategy for your products in the Covid- 19 scenario?

Brands are now going to deal with the consumer of a new informed world. Brands are going to transform their media mix for this informed consumer. Also, in our category we are expecting a huge Digital ad spending jump.

We have aggressive plans to utilise digital in a big way to create positive perception among the consumers of the new and informed world order. Considering the pandemic impact on consumer mindset, he would be spending less time at physical stores and will focus more on the digital platforms to do the groundwork. Our marketing focus will also be on creating disruptive digital IPs to easily connect with the consumer. Lot of consumer studies suggests that during such tough times or economic downturn, people tend to buy brands with rich heritage and higher values. We intend to leverage our digital presence to further position our long term standing, commitment and legacy in India.

Since in our category consumers want to experience the product before buying, offline channel will definitely not lose its significance. There will be a pull towards online in short run, but in a longer run the balance between offline and online will be maintained. We expect the modern retailers, who are largely offline, to move towards developing certain channels on the digital platform as well. 

Which CSR initiatives have helped you strengthen community and workforce ties during the pandemic?

As a socially responsible company, Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning India Ltd. is committed to support India in fighting the COVID-19 disaster. Generating high decibel awareness around sanitisation and social distancing is a big task in front of Rural India. As part of its CSR initiative, Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning India has equipped its Primary Health Centres with medical specialists, paramedic and 24x7 kitted ambulance to address the medical needs of villagers at their doorsteps. These mobile PHCs are travelling village to village and addressing the medical needs of the villagers especially pregnant women who are unable to travel to PHC. This has not only ensured timely provision of medical intervention but also reduced risk of COVID-19 exposure by ensuring ailing elderly rural and other susceptible populace do not have to venture out. The confidence-building within the community on the ability to protect self and others against COVID-19 has been the hallmark of the CSR Health initiative of Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning India Ltd. in this rural belt. Also, to empower the medical fraternity in the fight against coronavirus, Johnson Controls - Hitachi Air Conditioning India Limited has procured 3200 masks for Civil Hospital, Mehasana and Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in Karan Nagar.


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