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K J Jawa

Vice President – Operations, Cooling Appliances Business Division | 05 May 2004

“Voltas is the only company to have produced the AC+IQ units. It is the first AC to clear the IQ test and our USP lies in clearly 12-15 per cent more cooling because of its compressor capacity. We offer higher energy efficient airconditioners with lower noise, auto sweeping features and aesthetic designs.”

Did you hear ‘Ab Har Koi Le Sake AC Ka Maza’? If you haven’t, simply read on about how the 50-year-old strong arm of TATA, Voltas cooling appliances wedges itself into the masses. Ashish Singh of exchange4media.com explores how the company evolved and came of age to bury the barriers of price perception and high running costs. In a candid yet highly reflective interview, K J Jawa, Vice President – Operations, Cooling Appliances Business Division, delves extensively on the intricacies the company strategy and on his rule-breaking strategies and earthy management policies to take Voltas to the number one slot in water coolers from number three and from number six to number two in the room air-conditioners segment.

Q. Please share your initial challenges and shortcomings for Voltas?

My philosophy for life is “be satisfied and keep trying for better or more challenging assignments”, which is my spirit for work also. When I joined in 2001 it was more of a homecoming as I had worked with Voltas earlier in 1985-87. The task and challenge was very clear. Voltas by then was perceived as an old, tired brand that had lived its life--50 years--in the cooling business. There was a huge challenge ahead of me, much greater than I had perceived initially.

Q. So what did you do to mete out the challenge?

I travelled to every nook and corner of the country to probe deeper into what was the demand from the retailers and distributors. We had to start from ABC. We needed to revamp the brand and re-enforce the trendy and hip image whilst working on building a better brand. It was than that we kicked off ‘Operation Big B’ which came up in sync with our ad agency, Euro RSCG.

The Big B, helped us tremendously to change the image from a tired, overage brand to a very apt choice.

Q. What is the Operation Big B?

Well..(scoffs Jawa), It was the time when Oscar nominee ‘Lagaan’ was a big hit in the country. In the film, one saw a team that faced all kind of uncertainties and yet fought and won a battle for its rights against the British. It was with a similar never-say-die spirit that we plunged into the market. We re-established the leadership of Voltas by working on product, service, people, systems and brands. We had to capture the retail segment which did not have much of a presence. But with the ‘Lagaan’ inspiration, we did it.

Q. How has Voltas fared in terms of competition?

The market dynamics have been changing since 1995-96; the Government has been extremely liberal in reducing excise tax down to 16 per cent as of today. We have evolved Voltas to a point of gaining a 35-38 per cent prime market share in the cooling systems.

Q. What is the USP of Voltas cooling appliances?

Voltas is the only company to have produced the AC+IQ units. It is the first AC to clear the IQ test and our USP lies in clearly 12-15 per cent more cooling because of its compressor capacity. We offer higher energy efficient room coolers with lower noise, auto sweeping features and aesthetic designs. For the current year, the focus is on offering air-conditioners that are within the reach of the masses.

Q. What is in store for summer of 2004?

‘Ab Har Koi Le Sake AC Ka Maza’ is the catchphrase. The aim is to penetrate and stay in the mass market, identify demand-supply gaps and develop indigenous products to fill them. It is our constant endeavor to meet the growing demand for cost-effective, high-performance yet simple cooling solutions for our valued customers. Moreover, we had a sales target of two lakh units for the season and the company has already witnessed over 30 percent growth in March 2004.

Q. What is your ad spend for 2004?

We have assigned our advertising duties to Euro RSCG. For the year 2004 the ad budget is Rs 17 crore. It also includes the sales promotions and other below the line activities for Voltas.

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