Air-conditioner makers such as Videocon, Voltas and Panasonic, hit by untimely rains this summer, are betting big on the business-to-business segment, or institutional sales, to push their products in this financial year.
"Taking into account both commercial refrigeration products as well as room ACs, 25 to 30% of our volumes are expected from the B2B segment this year," said Pradeep Bakshi, president and chief operating officer, (UPBG & MCED), at Voltas Ltd.
The company has dedicated sub-verticals to look after institutional sales of various product categories. Voltas is also looking at cash & carry formats of modern trade partners, who are aggregators for the B2B segment.
Panasonic is working closely with developers, architects, interior decorators, project management consultants, services consultants, companies, retail chains and the hospitality industry.
Demand for air-conditioners from the commercial segment is catching up fast with an increasing number of offices, stores and business apartments being set up. The growth of the retail, hospitality and commercial sectors has boosted demand as they involve large-scale application of ACs, said Vipin Agrawal, general manager and head – CAC at Panasonic India Pvt Ltd.
"We are looking at selling around 15,000 units through B2B vertical this year, and generate revenue of about Rs 750 million," Agrawal said.
Videocon, which is looking to double its market share to 12% in the overall air-conditioning market, says its targets can be achieved through the B2B segment. The company plans to sell overall 4.5 lakh units this year, valued at about Rs 1,100 crore.
The realty sector is one of the biggest growth opportunities, said Videocon Industries COO (air-conditioners) Sanjeev Bakshi.
According to Videocon’s research, there are 1.6 million houses that will be delivered this year, which will be ready for possession. On an average, one AC will be fitted in each house, said Bakshi.
To drive the effort, the Indian home appliances maker has formed a separate vertical that will only look at B2B sales.
"We expect 20-25% revenue should come through this segment this fiscal," said Bakshi.
Industry players assume the growth of air-conditioning in the B2B segment would be 25-30% compared with single-digit growth in the retail sector. According to analysts, the market in India for room ACs is 3.5 million to 4 million units, with a penetration of about 3%.
Purchase of ACs by individuals is elastic, depending on weather pattern changes and they may be replaced with air coolers due to pricing or electricity bill concerns, according to Devangshu Dutta, chief executive at retail consultancy firm, Third Eyesight. Institutional purchases are more planned and can provide a significant and long-term buffer to consumer demand, he said.
Lloyd Electric, which aims to corner an 11% share in the domestic AC market, estimates it can sell 500,000 units through the B2B vertical and generate revenue of Rs 750 crore this year, according to Nipun Singhal, director, Lloyd Electric & Engineering Ltd. The company plans to set up new factories and invest in new machinery and technology, said Singhal.
For Mitsubishi Electric India, the B2B segment is expected to account for more than 50% of its business from air-conditioners annually. According to the company’s spokesperson, the B2B segment helps diversify the risk of seasonal fluctuation and helps in spreading revenue across categories since it is not a seasonal business.
(Published in The Economic Times.)