“Inverter ACs are the recent advancement in Air Conditioning Technology…”

Johnson Controls–Hitachi Air Conditioning was established on October 1, 2015 as a joint venture between Hitachi Appliances, Inc. (now Hitachi Global Life Solutions, Inc.) and Johnson Controls, Inc. Hitachi Appliances carved out and contributed its air conditioning business to the Joint Venture. In an exclusive e-interview, Nilesh Shah, Vice President, Business Planning & Marketing, is fielding questions from P. K. Chatterjee (PK) on his company’s activities in India. Excerpts…

How do you include sustainability within Hitachi products? 

The New Informed World Consumer has inspired brands to transform Social Responsibility and Sustainability for future generations. In this new reality, Covid-19 global pandemic has witnessed a significant shift in consumer behaviour pushing the need for more sustainable and socially responsible brands.

With the impetus of enhancing and endowing the lives of our numerous customers, Johnson Controls-Hitachi is committed towards providing product of the goodwill, leading technologies and maximum corporate value that we have garnered over the years. We constantly deliver innovation that improves lives and makes the world a better place. Hitachi has always believed in being sustainable and has adopted environment friendly practices in its operational DNA. Right from procurement to product development and composition to manufacturing practices, we have consciously made efforts to take sustainability to newer heights.

Energy conservation is our core belief and therefore, we plan on going heavily in inverter technology to help consumers save electricity, money and environment. With Inverter Split AC models ranging between 5, 4 and 3-Star categories, almost as high as 80% of our entire split AC line-up is inverter based. As sustainability has become the new norm of the informed world, almost all of our room AC models are charged with environment-friendly Green refrigerant.

Have you done any innovation to mitigate COVID – 19 pandemic?

At Hitachi Cooling & Heating, we understand the importance of air in our lives. With our expertise, we have conditioned the unpredictable air and we offer the perfect ‘Hitachi air’ experience to our customers, which is balanced, harmonious and pleasant. Hitachi air ensures a perfectly balanced indoor living environment by conditioning the air through its five innovative technologies. An offering like no other, Hitachi Air brings to you- ‘Fresh Air, Clean Air, Odour-free Air, Surround Air and Silent Air’, 5 disruptive innovations that make your indoor environment comfortable and balanced.

The unique Frost Wash Technology-iFresh is the secret to get fresh air indoors. This self-cleaning function washes away dust from inside the AC unit. The dew/moisture collected on the heat exchanger is converted into frost, which when melts flushes away the dust accumulated on the heat exchanger. The fan operation dries and cleans up the heat exchanger. This process reduces 93% bacteria and mold, and prevents water droplets to stay inside the unit, resulting in fresh and hygienic air all the time.

With Auto Filter Cleaning Technology – iClean, a brush sweeps over the stainless steel filter automatically at regular intervals to remove and catch any dust that accumulates at the filter. This ensures clean and dust free air, power saving, low maintenance and lifelong consistent cooling by your Hitachi air-conditioner.

Hitachi ACs come with the innovative Soft Dry Technology, which gets activated after you turn off the AC. This prevents the growth of bacteria and mold inside the AC unit and gives you odour-free air every time you turn on the AC.

We have mastered the art and science of air conditioning. The company has always strived to improve indoor air quality for its customers to help them live a healthy life.

What is your market share in India as on date and how are you planning to increase that in 2021-22?

We are among the top four players in the country. We are aiming high for a significant growth jump in both residential and commercial air conditioning segment with a special focus on VRF air conditioners. VRF air conditioning is catching pace in India and considering the huge demand for our innovative VRF air conditioners, we have launched a new series called as ‘SideSmart’ this year and have expanded our VRF system based air conditioners’ line up for this year. Thus, we have a bouquet of air conditioning solutions that meets consumers’ expectations and caters to everybody’s diverse requirements. From premium looking, technologically advanced Room ACs to the new SideSmart, world’s first modular side throw VRF air conditioning system and exclusively designed SET FREE ‘mini’ for exquisite interiors and exteriors of premium bungalows, apartments, luxurious villas, restaurants, cafés, and workspaces, we firmly believe on the mantra of creating ‘one for everyone’. We are confident to gather good market share from these new products.

What is your new USP?

Consumer is everything for us and all our innovations are focused towards catering the ever-evolving needs of the consumer, because at Hitachi ‘New begins with you’. This is the same philosophy that we are using in this year’s brand communication. We are offering a wide range of 30+ models and 90+ SKUs in the room AC category, which caters to the dynamic need of our customers in both residential and light commercial spaces.

Inspired by nature and its Japanese roots, our new aesthetically appealing and premium looking product line-up includes Hitachi Cooling and Heating’s first ever Ambience light, which allows consumers to perfectly tune-in with their desired temperature and comfort level, a new stunning ‘iconic wave design’ that is inspired by naturally existing wave form and Hitachi’s fusion line that is inspired by the Japanese Kintsugi art.

For those who want something extra, Hitachi has launched a new series called the X series. We have picked the most advanced and high-tech features and technologies to curate the models of our X series for those customers who are looking for something that is priceless yet not price-conscious and delivers the best quality and performance. This series includes Wi-Fi enabled ACs with a plethora of futuristic features and technologies, Takeshi ACs which are our high capacity and truly powerful machines for larger room area, models that have our unique and patented iClean+ and iFresh technologies, our feature loaded machines with image sensor technology and last but not the least, our most energy efficient machines with 6.1 ISEER rating for delivering best performance our customer’s truly deserve.

We have also introduced ‘Shizuka’- our new expandable inverter technology-based window AC, a special category of 1.25 TR, 3- & 5-Star inverter models- best suited for room size of 120 to 135 sq. ft., and a new compact 1.0 TR outdoor unit with outstanding aesthetics and indoor spit AC unit for lower capacity AC requirements is also one of the latest additions to the new range.

Are you working on reaching unexplored territories in India?

With the climate changes and rising mercury levels, air conditioners are no more a luxury item. It has become a necessity now. India is witnessing a huge demand for air conditioners not just from tier 2 and 3 cities but even from rural areas. As people are spending more time at home amid the pandemic, they have realised the significance of maintaining healthy and comfortable indoor environments, ensuring deeper penetration of ACs in semi urban and rural pockets of the country. In order to bridge the gap of accessibility of Room AC (RAC) in Tier 2 and 3 towns, we are strengthening our retail outreach (10,000+ retail touch points) and introducing multiple finance schemes and extended warranty offers on our ACs. We have aggressive expansion plans to scale our channel partner network and strategic alliances in the new and promising air conditioner markets of the country.

We are aggressively reaching out to newer markets and exploring new territories considering a great demand for Made in India Air Conditioners. At present, we are exporting to South Asian countries (Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives) and South East Asian Countries like Indonesia and Vietnam. We are also exporting our Products in Middle-East countries like UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Do you have any plans to expand manufacturing in India this year?

In our endeavour to constantly deliver world class products and services to our consumers, we are committed to make significant investments in R&D and manufacturing. In past, we have invested $20 Million (nearly INR 140 Crore) to set up the Global Development Center in Kadi, Gujarat, which is playing a significant role in the brand’s India growth story. Our Global Development Center, is consistently functioning to significantly increase the company’s product development capabilities, particularly in commercial package air conditioning and residential air conditioning systems.

Customer Satisfaction has always been a crucial part of company’s strategy at Hitachi. The company continuously invests in training of human resources and upgradation of their technical skills to ensure better services. For this purpose, we have also invested in our EECs (Engineering Excellence Centers) wherein we impart both classroom and hands on training, so as to improve technical skills of Hitachi Staff and also of our Service partners to provide best customer care services at all times.

In future also we will keep on making significant investments to meet the ever-evolving needs of the customers and take our manufacturing capabilities to new heights.

What are the R&D projects going on in Hitachi at this moment?

In the modern era, organisations that treat R&D not as a cost centre but as a growth engine can sustain and succeed. At Hitachi, R&D is in our DNA and we are committed to set new consumer satisfaction milestones with our best in class products and solutions. Innovation keeps us ahead of the market and we have made significant investment in manufacturing and R&D facilities to develop path breaking products and solutions for our consumers. Our Global Development Center (GDC) is one of the biggest steps towards globalizing our product development process. With a clear vision to remain relevant and become more valuable brand in the post covid era, the company is geared up and working on a wide range of R&D projects.

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is going to roll out new energy labelling norms for air conditioners in January 2022. In order to meet the new standards set by BEE, we are upgrading our existing models. As sustainability has become the new norm of the informed world, we are also working on a new range of green refrigerant based Packaged Air Conditioning models. We are soon going to upgrade our wi-fi range of air conditioners along with the introduction of new geo-fencing technology enabled models. We are continuously innovating to meet our customers’ ever evolving needs and set new product milestones for the HVAC industry in India.

What’s your action to support ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’?

Our company endeavours to promote and push ‘Made in India’ ACs and aims to reduce its component imports to almost to half and increase exports three folds in the next three years. We are working with associations, we are working with the government and also working with our overseas vendors, who can come and put their factories here in India for the critical components, which are imported from outside. There are motors, PCB boards and largely compressors. These are the things, which we are intending to procure from India. With respect to compressor, we are the largest buyers of compressor from Indian manufacturers.

What are you trying to achieve through your Global Development Center?

We at Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning, always strive to deliver in the best way to its customers. We are committed to globalizing our product development process in order to leverage our global talent pool and deliver products answering the diverse needs of different markets. Our Global Development Center in Kadi (Gujarat) is playing a significant role in developing new and exciting products, particularly for South-East Asia, Middle East and European markets to enhance our ability to meet diverse market needs in these regions. The centre is acting as a hub to maximize the potential of our local engineering talent. The GDC at the facility is equipped with research and testing laboratories, such as reliability labs, annual performance factor labs, electromagnetic compatibility labs, electronics labs and semi-anechoic labs besides capabilities to create designs, simulation, controls, project management and engineering information systems. This new Global Development Center will further help us integrate our technology, resources, expertise and talent pool to develop latest technology cooling solutions across the globe. With this center, we are reducing distances globally and strengthening the company’s core. It will help us fuel the rapid growth of the brand in India as well.

What would you like to communicate to your potential end-users?

The consumer is the king and we understand that consumers of the new informed world are evolving every day and their need for NEW is changing. In our endeavour to meet the demands of this aspiring consumer, Hitachi is committed to setting new consumer satisfaction milestones with its best-in-class products and solutions.

Be it work from home, online classes of kids or safety reasons, all of us are happily spending more time at home. This has made us realise the significance of air conditioning to ensure comfortable and healthy indoor environments. But one of the major issues that we are facing today is the higher power consumption by normal Air Conditioners. Inverter ACs are the recent advancement in Air Conditioning Technology and are highly effective in reducing electricity consumption and yet providing superior air conditioning experience. I urge people to increasingly make a choice of inverter AC – so as to cut down the soaring electricity bills and contribute their bit in energy conservation.

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