Shifting gears with a strong technology backbone has proven righteously rewarding for Airmaaster. Many new developments in the pipeline and many successful project completions have added a certain amount of confidence factor to the company. Reena Mital in conversation with S. N. Bharathi, MD, Airmaaster explains the company’s future plans and how it aims to reach out to the market.
Tell us about how you started on the manufacturing path, moving away from consultancy?
As a consultant, I had to travel a lot, almost 25 days a month, which started affecting my health as well. This forced me to think of an alternative and I chose to move into manufacturing, based on the years of knowledge, I had gathered about almost every industrial process & products. I have been in the manufacturing sector for more than a decade now. My strong client base in the textile and other industries has proved an asset in this business. I first started with low temperature dryers, Catalytic de-odourisers & heat recovery systems, for industries other than textiles. My vision, when I started the manufacturing set-up was to cater to five industries – textiles, synthetic fiber, engineering, pulp & paper and cement. Over the years, I’ve developed products like centrifugal fans & axial fans, among others, which are used across industries. In textiles, I focus on spinning and weaving units.
What products do you have for spinning and weaving units?
Humidification plants, Waste collection systems, Automatic baling systems, Central duct systems. These are specific to spinning. Today, it is not possible to operate without humidification plants and waste collection systems. Automatic baling is catching up due to manpower shortage. Central duct system is much needed as a retrofit for the existing compact systems.
How is competition in the Indian market for Airmaaster?
Frankly speaking, we have competition is from Luwa and Batliboi in most of the places. I know that our products are much better in terms of product features and technology. We offer more number of features in our products than the competition. I have been able to achieve this due to my experience as a consultant in various industries. I have learnt about the pros and cons of various technologies and have successfully avoided the flaws that other machines and equipment may have. I can proudly claim that we offer the best products in our area of operations. We have a growing customer base year over year and now we are focusing on building our brand, as we realise a strong brand will take the company a long way.
How has the industry adopted your machines?
Customers who are keen on investing in the best technology, and who realize the importance of power savings are happy to use our equipment, and more importantly, to place repeat orders. We have clients who work only with our equipment as the results are proven and accurate.
What new is in the pipeline?
Technology is our focus, we want our products to be technologically superior and that is what we are always working towards, in our existing and new ranges. For instance, we recently introduced our unique Multi Drum Filter, which has proved extremely successful in many of the leading textile mills in the country.
Do you feel the need for technology tie-ups?
I am not looking for any tie-ups. We make the machines completely in-house. Again, my years of knowledge and experience in various processes and industries has helped. Transfer of knowledge to the user industry is also important, and we, at our level, strive to make the industry more knowledgeable about the products they use. It is unfortunate that the industry’s knowledge and understanding of technology in textile air engineering has remained quite backward, even after so many years.
Tell us about some interesting project of yours.
There are many projects that I am very proud of. I will give the example of Precot Meridian, a leading player in southern India. The company called for a tender where we quoted a price which was 30% higher than that of our competitors. The competitors were strong brands in the market & I was still very new. I justified the higher price with claims of higher energy savings. Obviously, this was difficult for Precot to accept as we were pitted against long term players in the market. Precot, however, did give us a chance by awarding this prestigious project to prove our claims on energy savings. Their engineers and our engineers worked together, monitoring our machines and those of the competitors. When the parameters were compared, they found that our products consumed 30% lesser energy than the competition. More importantly, the mill realised that so much of savings was possible.
You have been working relentlessly to help the industry save energy. How is the experience so far?
Not satisfied. But I am hopeful.
How do you see the industry moving towards higher energy savings?
It’s a pity that the country does not realise the importance of energy savings. And unfortunately, that is affecting my business too. With the knowledge of consultancy in energy conservation, I was able to transform them into products in 2-3 years. However, the industry’s lackadaisical attitude towards energy savings is hampering our efforts. For most of the mills price is the deciding factor. So I do not get the price for the energy savings component of my machine, forcing me to compete on price.
How far has the industry gone for energy saving practices and investments?
There is a lot of talk, but not much seriousness. There is published data with many agencies which gives a number of proposals on how to save energy. Hardly any company has implemented all the proposals. I took a survey of 150 mills where I did consultancy, not even one mill implemented all the proposals. This is a sad state of affairs. Mills do realise the importance of energy savings, but do not have the right persons at the helm of affairs for this segment. It will take some more time for things to change. But I am worried that time should not change us, because of the price factor. Whatever is the situation, I know that at Airmaaster we will grow and succeed. We are backed by a strong team and expertise.
Are you participating in ITMA 2015?
No, we thought we will consolidate our position in India first and then get into international markets. We will participate in India ITME in Mumbai next year, and will use that platform for our branding exercise.
Your views on Make in India?
I want that the government should help the industry invest in R&D and in brand building, to compete with international labels and support companies like ours who had developed the entire product line based on in-house design.
Lastly, what would you prefer to be – a consultant or a manufacturer?
Definitely a consultant, I enjoyed a good profile, and exposure at high levels, lot of activity. I liked being recognized as a consultant. Given an option I would go back to that.