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Power sector can bring unparalleled growth to T&M

Venugopal Pillai ,  Tuesday, October 18, 2011, 11:04 Hrs  [IST]

Joey Joseph— Joey Joseph, CEO & MD, TTL Technologies Pvt Ltd

TTL Technologies started in 1982 as a small import trading activity within Aplab Ltd, India's premier professional electronics manufacturing company. Technical Trade Links, as TTL was then known as, was formed to essentially provide distribution and support to foreign T&M manufacturers associated with Aplab. TTL is today a sole distribution and support agency for reputed global brands like Fluke, Voltech, Gigatronics, Extech, and many more. Joey Joseph speaks about his company, future plans and the scope of foreign T&M instruments in a dynamically growing Indian market. An interview by Venugopal Pillai.

TTL is known to bringing the best of the world's T&M industry to India. Tell us about the various foreign brands that you deal with, and how your portfolio has grown over the years.
TTL has been associated with world renowned brands such as Fluke, Ametek Programmable Power, Voltech among many others. However, Fluke has been the most predominant brand serving the power sector in India. Fluke's acquisition of brands such as Raytek for thermal imagers, LEM-Norma for electrical testing instruments, RPM for power quality recorders and many more has helped it to gain a strategic market share of the test instrumentation pie in the power sector.

How has been the market acceptance of foreign T&M brands in India? What are the primary reasons for Indian buyers considering foreign brands over Indian ones?
State-of-art technology, high reliability and conformance to the latest international test standards have traditionally been a driver for Indian customers to look beyond Indian brands. Foreign brands like Fluke additionally offer attributes like portability and ruggedness into their product design and packaging that appeal to Indian customers. Availability of in country application and installation/warranty support makes the whole offering irresistible to customers.

Untitled - 40Tell us more on your association with Fluke and how you plan to take the partnership forward.
Fluke has been in India since the last 30 years and with TTL for the past 11 years. Fluke has been a very dynamic brand with a wide range of test technologies covering vast segments of markets. TTL has kept pace with Fluke in not only assimilating the technologies but also applying the knowledge to new markets. We are in the midst of a new growth phase that will see the brand in many newer market segments and new geographies within India that were hitherto never reached.

In a general sense, what special measures are multinational T&M companies taking to improve their penetration in India?
Fluke is perhaps the only foreign test and measurement brand that has not only a strong presence through industrial channels but also through a retail network that spans across India. TTL supports this vast network through its dedicated team of product specialists and channel associates who work closely with end customers in selection and use of instruments. Many multinational T&M companies are following this route to increase market reach.

Are government-owned power utilities receptive to purchasing foreign brands?
Yes, with increasing marketing events and awareness campaigns on newer technology through industry associations like FICCI, CII, even government-owned power utilities are sitting up and taking note of the latest developments in these fields. There is a growing interest and effort from these utilities to learn, adapt and use these modern test tools to perform their measurements smartly.

Speaking of T&M equipment in the power sector, what percentage of the market is today being served by foreign brands? Do you see this proportion changing in the coming years?
Foreign brands still contribute to less than 30 per cent of the total T&M equipment purchases in this sector. This is fast changing with user awareness and expectations on performance. There is a huge shift in the power scenario in the past 15 years with multiple power producers, variety of power generation sources, increasing legislation and concern over power quality, efficiency concerns on transmission and distribution systems fuelling an unprecedented demand for sophisticated test technologies. Simpler traditional test instrumentation giving way to more advanced test tools is driving up the market share of imported brands

With India likely to spend `14 trillion in its power sector during the XII Plan, how upbeat are you about the T&M equipment industry's prospects?
T&M brands that focus on power sector will stand to gain hugely in the coming 10 years as India gears up to meet its ballooning energy demands. TTL has a created a separate projects division to focus purely on the power sector and opportunity for growth is unparalleled compared to any other sector.

Speaking about power T&M equipment, how do you rate domestic suppliers in terms of technology and sophistication? Is there a certain class of equipment that India does not produce, necessitating import dependence?
Domestic suppliers of power T&M equipments certainly meet a large portion of basic to moderately complex test requirements of the industry. However, they still do not address higher end test requirements of the industry. A small example of these areas are thermography equipments, high-end power quality analyzers and recorders, high performance earth testers, HV impulse testers, short circuit test recording and analysis systems, etc.

Power transmission in India is now moving to high- and ultra high voltage levels. Do you see more sophisticated power T&M equipment being used in India, in the coming years?
Performance benefits of EHV and UHV transmission systems will see more widespread installations across India over the next ten years. These systems will make test requirements more demanding needing many more critical measurements to be made regularly to ensure high availability of these systems.

With so many foreign T&M brands contending for the Indian power T&M market, what criteria do you generally employ to decide on accepting dealership?
Technology edge is by far the single biggest factor in deciding on representation. Proven brands and manufacturers' commitment to support India are next in consideration during selection of a brand.

How are Chinese suppliers viewing the Indian power T&M equipment market?
Chinese brands have correctly judged the opportunity in India and are trying to make inroads into the T&M sector. However, they are largely unorganized and Indian customers still do not feel confident about the quality, reliability and local support of Chinese brands. While they seem to make inroads into the basic measurement areas, they are still not preferred for more sophisticated work where sheer performance, reliability, safety of test equipment and user is paramount.

Untitled - 41Going forward, do you think that foreign power T&M equipment suppliers would be inclined to set up a manufacturing base in India, as opposed to merely having channel partners?
T&M is still a niche industry by any standards and current volumes do not still justify setting up a plant for domestic consumption unless it also serves export markets. However, dependence on imports for critical electronic components, lack of incentives for electronics hardware manufacturing, cost of finance, poor infrastructure-related bottlenecks, etc, all make T&M equipments manufacturing in India uncompetitive compared to countries like China and Taiwan. Unless, these ills are rectified, foreign T&M manufacturers will continue to market in India through local partners rather than set up manufacturing in India.

Many of these top manufacturers like Agilent (earlier HP), Tektronix, Fluke, and Wavetek (now defunct) had tried this unsuccessfully in India 20 years back, but reverted quickly to the trading route. Sadly, nothing much has changed on this aspect even now.

We observe that of late testing & measuring is now not only equipment-oriented but much of it is being done in conjunction with computer software and web-based applications. Could you elaborate?
Advancement in test technology and complexity in measurements necessitate use of onboard processors that do data acquisition, perform complex data analysis/display routines and storage capabilities in modern test tools. Postacquisition PC-based software that can do advanced analysis and archiving of data is also common in all new generation test instruments. Proliferation of IP-based systems makes web based applications also common among many high end test instruments. This makes users access data remotely 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Power quality monitoring and recording systems are typical examples of these web based applications.

Please discuss your growth plans for TTL for the medium term.
TTL has set very ambitious goals for the next four years with clear priorities in the power sector. We are currently focused on expanding our team of technical product specialists to address these markets better. Channel expansion across under represented areas is high on the agenda. Power sector focused project teams tracking all major power projects across India is an ongoing activity and will continue to see additional manpower investments to implement complete turnkey control and instrumentation projects across India.
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