Mithun K. Chittilappilly, a dynamic young business leader, is the Managing Director of V-Guard Industries. He played a pivotal role in the company securing listing on the stock exchanges (2008), and continued to drive its performance with innovation at the core.
V-Guard has been growing in strength under Chittilappilly’s stewardship since he took charge as the MD in 2012. The company also crossed major milestones in the last five years. From revenue of Rs. 1,407 crore in 2013, the company’s business size reached Rs. 1,862 crore in 2016. The implementation of ERP system in V-Guard was his idea, as the company adopted industry-best practices and standards.
Chittilappilly also foresaw the need for market expansion beyond South of India, and consistently increased the footprint in other parts of the country. In 2012, the company established its presence in Guwahati, apart from introducing new products, like solar inverters, switch gears and mixer grinders. His vision is to elevate V-Guard to the next level through long-term growth plans.
Mithun Chittilappilly said: I joined the business in 2006. We have since grown. We had almost 50 percent revenue coming from voltage stabilizers. The revenue for voltage stabilizers has come down from 50 percent to 18 percent. Now, we are present pan India. We are also looking to diversify.
"We have also entered inverters and batteries, kitchen appliances, and switchgears. We have become strong players in these segments, especially, water heaters. Today, the new categories are contributing 10-15 percent to the overall revenue. The wires and cables business is doing Rs 60 crore EBIDTA year-on-year. There was also a good boom in the construction industry from 2006-12. For water heaters, we have been doing business worth Rs. 8 crores.”
How did this come about? He added: "We changed the structure to several categories of business. Today, we have 2,000+ people on roll. We are fairly comfortable. We have two to three channels, such as electrical, battery, etc.
"We have DSIR-approved labs in Kochi. In Gurgaon, we have development teams for switchgear. We also have a separate team on industrial designs. We also have a team working on smart products, such as IoT."
Elaborating, he added: "We are working on products that communicate with consumers. We have products that are connected, controlled and M2M capable. We are bringing capabilities like machine learning as well. We are also in the battery segment. The battery will be an expensive part of an electric car in the future.
"We are also building in auto diagnostics into devices. For instance, the next-gen water heater can communicate to the other water heater as well. In rural areas, farmers need to know when a pump should be switched on/off. We have automated that. We also need to ensure that the products are protected from natural disasters."
Is not there competition from the MNCs? He noted that MNCs don't bother much about Indian-based products. "Our retail is distributed. We have a great talent pool in India and we develop products. We are in the consumer electrical business and continue to do that well."
"We have looked at automation, and find that robots prices are declining. We have distribution boards, where intelligent management is built in. We are looking at smart products that can make some difference to consumers. We are thinking of getting into modular switches, and smart home solutions. In kitchen appliances, if you have a mixer grinder, it can control speed.
"We are also working on a digital strategy for the company that includes looking at the predictive maintenance in plants, where AI comes in. AI may help reduce headcounts. We have to wait and see what happens."
How does V-Guard plan to move beyond South India? Chittilappilly said: "We will be doing Rs 1,000 crores from our non-South business this year. We are getting better acceptance for products. With inverters, you can now run mixies for over 30 minutes. We have smart water heaters. In year five, we should hit 50-60,000 products per year.
"We have gone with a new brand identity, to be revealed next month. We are also working on our product strategy."
What about the market share occupied by the V-Guard brand? He added: "In voltage stabilizers, we currently have 25-30 percent share in this category. We have 15-20 percent share in water heaters. In wires and cables, we are among the top five players. We also have 10 percent share in pumps."
As for an expansion to consumer durables and household appliances, he noted that the cooktops business has been an area of interest. "We should do Rs 50 crores this year in both induction and gas cooktops."
V-Guard also launched smart water heaters and UPS. Chittilappilly added: "We have a home UPS inverter business. We are doing well in this area. We are also working on solar inverters. The off-grid rooftop solar solutions can help a lot. The feed-in part will come in later, say 18 months. Rising energy tariffs, etc., price of lead-acid batteries -- they are getting corrected. We should be launching the Li-ion battery next year. We already launched solar inverters, and are one of the largest players in solar water heaters."
V-Guard also holds one of the highest gender-diverse workforce in the country. He said: "We have a high diversity. We have our HR team, largely driven by women. Our company secretary is a lady. Nearly 25 percent of our workforce comprises women."
For the future, V-Guard is looking to manufacture ‘smart products’ for the present generation. To this, Chittilappilly said: "We are looking to help consumers using smartphones. We are focusing on Six Sigma, TPM, lean manufacturing, etc. We have about eight plants in India. The manufacturing execution system (MES) acts as an enabler for Industry 4.0. It provides real-time, believable data regarding a factory.”
Prior to being elevated as the MD, Chittilappilly was the Executive Director of V-Guard since May 2006. He had joined V-Guard in April 2004 for hands-on experience in various departments of the company, ranging from finance to marketing. – Business World