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Our aim is leadership in power and harmonics measurement

Venugopal Pillai ,  Friday, September 28, 2012, 18:17 Hrs  [IST]

— Kamal Goliya, Chief Executive Officer, Meco Instruments Pvt Ltd

Meco, a traditional name in the electrical and electronics T&M industry, has been at the forefront in offering time-tested, reliable and affordable instruments. With a standing of over five decades, Meco has come to represent the face of the Indian electrical T&M industry. In this conversation with Electrical Monitor, Kamal Goliya touches upon a wide canvas of issues-ranging from Meco's core business values to its future plans. Goliya admits that the present business environment could be challenging but he is confident of Meco passing every test of time. An interview by Venugopal Pillai.

Whenever one thinks of meters, Meco comes first to the mind. Tell us how Meco has come about being so synonymous with meters.
It started more than 50 years ago. Meco was one of the pioneers in producing some of the T&M instruments that the industry then needed. Meco used to provide instruments for railways, defence, etc. This journey continued over the years and we developed so many instruments and even got recognized by the Department of Science & Technology for our R&D centre where we design and develop instruments. Definitely, we owe our success to the support of our customers.

What are the core business values that Meco stands for?
We never compromise on quality. We ensure that our products are reliable, long lasting and affordable to everyone - not only institutions but also to the common man.

How do you gauge prospects of the T&M industry given the big investment outlay in the power T&D sector?
Well, the current scenario with so many controversial issues dogging the government is not very encouraging. No investments are really happening. I can tell you for a fact that business is down with everybody in industry. We depend a great deal on government projects. The decision-making machinery of the government is moving very slowly, and no investment decisions are being taken in core areas like infrastructure, power, railways or telecom, for example.

Can you quantity the dependence of your business on government orders?
If you consider both direct and indirect business, I would say our dependence is about 50 per cent.

We hear about competition from Chinese suppliers in the electrical equipment industry. What is the scenario with respect to T&M?
Prima facie, there is competition from China in the Indian T&M industry. Actually, the T&M industry falls into two major categories - one is the manufacturers in the organized and the branded sector. This category has it own brand and in some cases, the manufacturing activity is global. In our case for instance, Meco has strategic alliance with overseas manufacturing companies in China, Taiwan and Europe. Regardless of where the product is manufactured, the organised sector companies ensure that the brand is delivering its standards of quality, reliability and performance.

The other segment is that of traders and importers that bring in just about any product, from all over the world including China. These products are branded as their own or are sold in the original brand. Today, one set of products is traded; tomorrow, it could be something else. There is no focus on quality or service. Though we might lose some amount of business, especially in the low-end instrument segment, we do not really see them as direct competitors in the segment we are in.

On the other hand, how do you see competition from the large multinationals that are establishing their base in India?
I see this as very healthy competition. India used to be in the "Protection Raj" where there were controls and restrictions. We had, for instance, great difficulty in sourcing components. The domestic industry at that time grew, but under severe limitations. However, this growth also gave the industry a strong base. We are thus prepared to face competition from anybody!

Are you looking at specific policy support from the government for the T&M sector?
Not really, I think. Imports duties for instance are low and the policy framework is quite conducive. It is only the decision making and implementation that has to pace up.

How has Meco been faring in the exports market?
Well, our exports have declined over the past 1-2 years in the EU & USA. We used to have sizeable exports earlier. Our current focus for exports is the Middle East, Africa and South East Asian countries.

Is there competition from China in the overseas market as well?

India is generally known to have poor R&D outlays, at least in relative terms. Do you think bigger expenditure on R&D can boost the T&M industry?
Sure! India has generally been a producer of "basic necessities"; we don't have much of "high-technology" products, generally speaking. The country's traditional objective has been to produce goods for the masses. In this, by now, the technology is quite mature and advanced. But if you look at a developed country like USA, the products are much more technically sophisticated. I thus feel that R&D should be the focus area, for which lot of funds will need to be allocated.

What is your view on India's existing testing facilities like CPRI, ERDA, etc?
The laboratories are well equipped in testing for standards like IS, BS, etc. However, the cost of testing is very high. As far as Meco is concerned, most of the testing facilities are available in-house. Whatever products are introduced can be tested at our own labs. However, when the need arises, we do avail the services of other external testing laboratories.

A sector like T&M would need, as we expect, skilled manpower. Do you face any concerns to this effect?
There is big shortage of manpower today. It has become a precious commodity! It is not only with respect to skilled manpower, but also semi- and unskilled labour. At every level, the requirement of manpower is far in excess of availability. This is also partly because of rural employment guarantee schemes run by the Central government.

India is progressing and everybody has aspirations. Everybody wants to be educated and when educated, people will naturally seek better employment opportunities. Today if a company does not get people, it should be seen as a healthy sign for the country! It could mean that people already have something better to do, and if you want them to come to you, you should offer them the best! For this again, companies would need to upscale themselves.

Coming back to Meco, what have been key launches in recent times?
Yes, we have introduced certain calibrating equipment. We have also introduced battery-capacity testers. Just like we have generators acting as power generation backup, we also have stored backup power sources like battery banks. We feel that batteries need to be tested efficiently so that they justify their role as a source of power backup. The conventional methods do not give reliable results, and hence we have introduced our series of battery testers and analyzers. Our equipment gives an indication of how good or bad the battery is; whether it needs to be recharged or replaced.

What is your view on T&M requirements for India's EHV and UHV power transmission ambitions?
In fact, Meco has supplied meters for the 1,200kV UHVAC Bina test line being developed by Power Grid Corporation of India. I think EHV and UHV are the future.

Tell us about your vision for Meco for the medium term, say five years from now.
Five years down the line, Meco would like to be No. 1 in power and harmonics analyzers, clamp meters, multimeters and battery meters, just to name a few.
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