Mr. Rajesh Premchandran’s email interview with Mr. Shipranshu Pandey
04 November 2020
ELGi’s aspiration to become no. 2 in the global air compressor business led to us building our own technology, infrastructure, people and processes to achieve long term goals. Today, ELGi is possibly the only company in the world that makes its own air ends, pressure vessels, castings, motors, conducting complete machining and compressor assembly.
Q. What is the impact of COVID-19 on business? How has it affected the sales of industrial air compressors?
Compressors are equipment that is capital intensive and most customers today are trying to save on capital expenditure thereby it is logical to expect a lower demand. But since compressors are needed in multiple applications, we have been focusing on segments such as Pharma, F&B and General Engineering where we have continuing demand compared to some of the other segments and projects which have not done well. What was encouraging, however, was that the last couple of months have been much better than the Q1.
Q. How manufacturing process has changed post-pandemic?
We’ve definitely taken several safety measures to keep our employees on the shop floor, safe. Post lockdown, we have changed the layouts in some of our assembly lines to increase
the spacing between work stations to enable social distancing. Plastic dividers and screens have been placed in between work stations. All workmen who have to work in close proximity with their colleagues, due to their nature of work have been given face shields for further protection. We have also initiated two-shift operations in the assembly line, to reduce the number of people working at a time on the shop floor. Shift timing, tea, and lunch breaks have also been staggered. A daily disinfection of workspace, tools, fixtures, machines, and HMI panel between shift changeovers is conducted. Facilities for sanitization of face shields and dispensers of sanitizers are made available in each of the shop floors.
A customised application is used to stream the compressor testing from the ELGi factory to the customer and their authorised inspection agency at remote locations. After witnessing the testing online, they approve the compressor based on successful testing and the product aligning to all purchase agreements.
Q. What is the company’s approach towards the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative? How do you look at the local manufacturing of small components required for machines?
ELGi’s aspiration to become no. 2 in the global air compressor business led to us building our own technology, infrastructure, people and processes to achieve long term goals. Today, ELGi is possibly the only company in the world that makes its own air ends, pressure vessels, castings, motors, conducting complete machining and compressor assembly. Unlike other compressor companies that focus on core parts, and with a view to meeting our quality focus and ensuring seamless product delivery, we have orchestrated the selective backward integration of our manufacturing facilities.
All of this at the ELGi Air Centre Plant, which spans over 5 million square feet of manufacturing space at our headquarters in India. This has helped us to have minimum dependency on overseas suppliers at the same time meet the quality expectations of our customers across the globe.
Q. What are the challenges available in the market after the lockdown? How you are planning to overcome those challenges?
The lockdown has forced us to rethink the way we operate. On the daily work front, we’re taking every precaution to keep our employees in our factories safe and healthy. Our sales teams have quickly adapted to work from home, while they often resort to virtual platforms for engagement with the customer. Our service teams have remained committed to servicing our customers despite restrictions and during the midst of the lockdowns.
Our CK2 aspiration to be second largest air compressor brand continues to be our business ambition. As we emerge from the pandemic, we believe that our CK2 aspiration will be a rallying cry for our employees to engage with our stakeholders towards a common goal.
Our company vision is for ELGi to “Always be the choice everywhere”. We aspire to live up to this commitment every day for our customers, suppliers, distributors, employees, investors, and society.
Q. The government is focusing on better air quality and making new emission norms. What are the new technologies you are opting to tackle the environmental issues?
We’ve seen an extension in deadlines for applicability of new emission norms for construction equipment.
The new emission norms for construction equipment will now come into force from 1st April 2021, providing a deferment of six months. These norms were earlier to be applicable from October 2020.
The diesel-powered portable air compressor range from ELGi has products that are already compliant with tier 2 emission norms. ELGi also has products powered by electronic engines with an international warranty that is engineered for better fuel economy and low emissions in its class. With these engines, ELGi portable air compressors provide customers with a durable performance at a low cost of ownership.
Q. What have your key learnings from this lockdown been? Will this in any way lead to a change in the positioning of ELGi as the brand in the future?
The pandemic has caused a significant impact worldwide. From a small reciprocating air compressor manufacturer in the 1960s, today, ELGi is a global player in the compressed air market. At ELGi, our aspiration is christened as “Conquer K-2 (CK2)” – detailing our aspiration to be the no. 2 in the Global Air Compressor Market by 2027 and drawing inspiration from Mount K2, the second highest peak in the world and arguably, the toughest peak to ascend among the eight thousanders. We believe in continually building on the products, process, people and technology to achieve our aspiration. Today, we’ve direct presence in over 20 countries and a global footprint spanning over 120 countries across the world. Our global presence has been beneficial to us especially since India went into extended lockdown.
As we gain more comfort around this new normal, we will refocus our attention on our strategic markets and initiatives towards CK2, our ambition to be second largest compressed air manufacturer in the world.
Q. How ELGi is promoting the participation of women in manufacturing?
Currently, women in ELGi make up about 30 percent of the sales and marketing workforce, 18 percent of finance and HR roles, and 14 percent of technology roles. We have continuously worked towards improving gender diversity and creating an equal opportunity environment across our global operations, as opposed to being singularly obsessed with achieving gender diversity in terms of the ratio alone. Women at ELGi, working at both blue-collar and white-collar positions, from the shop floor, R&D, and supply chain, to sales and marketing, IT, and finance. Aside, ELGi’s training school runs a three-year vocational training program, post which the graduates join our manufacturing facilities.
We’re delighted that over 50 percent of the participants are women; enabling better gender balance right at the start of the talent pipeline.