Chilling out, the Voltas way

By Sunil K Poolani | 08 Mar 2002

Mumbai: The transformation that has become a way of life with the Tata group is best reflected by the commitment its different constituents bring to the concept. Consider the case of Voltas, which has embraced change with as much enthusiasm as any offspring dedicated to its family’s overall development.

Expansion and innovation have been the key in Voltas’s endeavour over the last few years to strengthen its standing in its core business, which remains air-conditioning and refrigeration. The Rs 1,000-crore company has done this by making a mark in the highly competitive global market, and by introducing novel products in India.

Vertis, a new range of air-conditioners launched in January 2002, is an example of the way Voltas has redefined, reshaped and reorganised its businesses to focus on customers. Keeping air-conditioning and refrigeration at the centre of the equation is logical, given that this division contributes about 75 per cent to Voltas’s turnover.

Says Voltas managing director A Soni: “The Vertis range will help Voltas fortify its image with the retail and household customer. The idea is to offer American quality at Chinese prices.” The cost factor is crucial and Vertis scores on this count, priced as it is at a mere Rs l7,000 (for a one-tonne room air-conditioner). “The plan is to achieve this through our ‘manufacturing only’ joint venture with the US-based Fedders International, and become the lowest-cost producer of air-conditioners in India.”

Going south on cost does not mean compromising on quality or technology, as regional vice-president (cooling applications business division) R S S N Raju points out. “Vertis not only matches international standards, but the products are from a range that competes with the finest in the world. Also, Vertis boasts the latest technology, and it is an energy saver to boot.”

The partnership with Fedders is important. The American company is a leading global manufacturer of air-treatment products, including air-conditioners, air-cleaners and thermal technology devices. Fedders brings plenty to the joint venture: expertise in manufacturing and product development, a global sourcing network, and cutting-edge technology.

The primary objective of the joint-venture company, called Universal Comfort Products Pvt Ltd, is to achieve international quality and technology standards in a cost-effective manner. Besides the Fedders advantage, the new company will be banking on Voltas’s decades of experience in climate control.

Voltas’s existing manufacturing facility at Dadra, which is ISO 9001-certified, has been upgraded with a Rs 40-crore investment in modernisation, and manufacturing and product development. This facility has been transferred to the joint venture and will be further enhanced to manufacture the Vertis range.

Says Voltas general manager (corporate communications) B N Garudachar: “The joint venture will give us the opportunity and competitive edge to capture a winning share of the growing retail segment in India. The Vertis range will facilitate Voltas’s foray into the residential segment through retail channels. We have traditionally had a significant presence in this segment, and we have a strong dealer base.”

The Vertis range includes optimum features, among them economy mode, ‘whisper-quiet’ functionality, microprocessor controls and an air-purifying filter. To top it off, Vertis - available as window and split air-conditioners in capacities ranging from 0.75 to 3 tonnes - comes in designs that combine convenience, aesthetics and durability.

There is, of course, more to Voltas’s air-conditioning than the Vertis series. The micro processor-based Verdant range has high-tech models with their own clutch of outstanding features, and the popular Vectra is the company’s ‘tough workhorse.’

The Vertis, the Verdant and the Vectra have one thing in common - they are backed by Voltas’s ‘crystal-care service’ package. Quality service has been fundamental to the company securing the trust and confidence of its one million-strong customer base, unmatched in the Indian air-conditioning industry. This package offers full-life service through a nationwide network of service centres. Well-trained engineers, technicians and a fully computerised network response system support each centre.

On the marketing front, Voltas has positioned itself aggressively. The Vertis launch will be supported by a three-fold increase in the company’s advertising and promotion budget, in addition to a customer relationship management programme, a streamlined dealer network and easy finance schemes.

All of which mean that Voltas is ready to deliver, as always, a whole lot more than just cold comfort. That much hasn’t changed for this Tata group stalwart.

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