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Farnell looking to convert 3,500 prospects this year in India!

April 15, 2009 Comments off

Now that’s what I call aggression!

Last July, I had the pleasure of meeting Ms Harriet Green, CEO, Farnell Electronics, a part of the Premier Farnell group of companies. It is soon going to be a year since the company set up presence in India. Farnell has aggressive plans for India, with the company likely to look at converting at least 3,500 prospects this year.

I met up with Nader Tadros, Commercial Marketing Director APAC, Premier Farnell (see picture here), and Navin Honnavar, marketing manager, Farnell Electronics India Pvt. Ltd to get an update on Farnell.

According to Tadros, Farnell is said to be the number 1 small-order high service multi-channel distributor in the world. “We carry obver 3,500 leading suppliers and 450,000 product stocks globally. We have 36 transactional websites in 23 languages,” he added.

Farnell currently has six warehouses — one in America, and two in Europe and three in Asia — Sydney, Shanghai and Singapore. In India, it now has nine branch offices, and one contact center and one global tech center (GTC) — in Bangalore. The GTC provides live chat and board level support, which also translates into global support.

Tadros said that Farnell is aggressively are supporting the EDE (electronic design engineers) community and MRO (maintenance, repair, operatoinal) marketplace. “We have taken particular focus on developing the EDE space, providing support, services and relevant products. We want to make sure the value proposition is mapped on to the EDE needs,” he said. Elaborating on the value proposition, he cited an example of x-ray machine manufacturers.

Global business strategy
Farnell has a four-pronged global business strategy. This includes:
* Focusing on global EDE customer segment.
* Increase business via the Web.
* Internationalization
* Continue to develop profitable MRO business.

Tadros believes that the power of the Web is tremendous. “It is very useful for customers to search and transact. Another area is customer demand. They are looking for efficiencies,” he added. “An important aspect that can help us is that we are able to understand customers; needs. The data that the web search is able to provide gives us the critical information. If a customer searches for a part, and we track that, we are able to service their needs better.”

Hasn’t Farnell been affected by the recession? Tadros said: “We are not immune to the recession. The volatlity is higher, and it is also at the customer level.” Honnavar added: “Our strategy seems to be working for us. We are maintaining our base in the MRO space. We are still pulling in customer requests and still growing.”

So, what else is Farnell doing, besides these activities? Well, it has adopted a multichannel approach for the Asia Pacific region. It has 154 staff in eight call centers, besides being involved in direct and e-marketing. The company has nine local websites — simplified chinese for China, thai for Thailand, and English for India, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. Besides, it has 103 field sales engineers in 29 sales offices.

Aggressive plans
I started this post by saying I liked Farnell’s aggressive plans. It currently has 2,500 active customers and 9,000 prospects in India alone. The company has a target to reach $25 mn by 2010. It is also a walue added distributor offering products to leading suppliers such as Texas Instruments, Molex, and 3,500 other leading brands.

Touching on Farnell’s clients in India, Honnavar said: “We have independent design houses, resellers, R&D centers, educational centers, government organizations (such as BEL, HAL), etc., among our customers. The prospects includes a huge list of people. We have touched the top layers in tier 2 cities — such as Coimbatore and Ahmedabad. We are looking at converting 3,500 prospects this year.”

More focus on components, SMEs
The components industry isn’t exactly in the pink of health right now. Giving his views on the electronics and components space, Tadros said: “Customers themselves are not able to anticipate the demand for the next quarter or periods. We are seeing that there is still growth in the EDE space and inquiries are still coming in. During a recession, you have an opportunity to distinguish yourself from competition. There is pressure on teams as they have to continually innovate. Customers require more even support, more technical documentation, and look for faster turnaround times.”

Farnell is in a position to help those SMEs who are in the electronics and components spaces. Tadros said that the company can support such SMEs by helping them to build their markets in a timely fashion.

Honnavar added that Farnell is focusing on building a product and purchasing team, sitting out of Singapore and Hong Kong. “Moving forward, you will probably get to see more buying happening in the Asia Pacific region. Going ahead, a lot of sourcing will also be done from India.” The company intends to be extremely close to suppliers, especially in the Greater China region.

ISA Vision Summit 2009: Indian design influence, ideas to volume

February 28, 2009 Comments off

This post is slightly delayed given the fact that I’ve been travelling! Here it is: Session 2 of Day 1, ISA Vision Summit 2009!!

The still quite young, Indian semiconductor industry has come a long way! Making his opening remarks during the session: Indian Design Influence, Ideas to Volume, Jaswinder Ahuja, Corporate Vice President & MD, Cadence Design Systems India, and chairman, pointed out that earlier, it used to be ‘made by the world, FOR India.’ However, globalization of design has now put India on the world semiconductor map. Today, it is ‘made by the world, IN India.’

The picture here shows Ahuja making a point, while Freescale’s Ganesh Guruswamy, TI’s Dr. Bobby Mitra and Intel’s Praveen Vishakantaiah are all attention.

The electronics systems production is clearly moving eastward. Even though the chip fabs may not happen in India, systems manufacturing is certainly happening. The emerging markets today offer a $5 trillion opportunity. However, the transformative challenge is: how to marry low cost, good quality, sustainability and profitability simultaneously!

Fantastic opportunity for investing in technology
Praveen Vishakantaiah, President, Intel, added that India has a fantastic opportunity ahead for investing in technology. He cited Intel’s examples, such as: products designed in India for global market — Intel Xeon 7400 processor; designed in India for India and emerging markets — Classmate PC, which was prototyped in India; and designed in India and customized for the local market — PoS retail kiosk solution.

Internal factors related to volume development include: unique market needs, designing for reliability, enabling customers — standard globally but varied in India. External factors include: access to customers — which can be challenging in a varied market such as India, access to employable talent, predictable supply chain, robust infrastructure — digital infrastructure should scale simultaneously with design and development, and proactive policies and regulations.

According to Vishakantaiah, there is a need for a call to action and seize opportunities. This means, capitalizing on opportunities for local and global product designs, increase the impact and build end-to-end competencies, and to continue to move up the value chain. There is a need to address the internal factors. This would enable increasing the quality of products and extend local products into global markets. There is also a need to focus on the enabling the local market for global product companies.

As far as the external factors are concerned, there is a need to be proactive to remove barriers. There is a need to also encourage research, faculty development and new curriculum. India also needs to build energy efficient power, logistics and manufacturing capabilities, and also reduce e-waste and think green for all product designs.

Downturn creates huge opportunities
Ganesh Guruswamy, Director and Country Manager, Freescale Semiconductor India, remarked that even the deepest downturns can create huge opportunities for companies and countries. “Continuing to innovate during the downturn is important,” he added. It is therefore, time for India to step up, put the right innovations in place and grow.

He stressed upon several custom solutions for emerging markets, such as two-wheelers, which dominate, e-bikes, which are said to be the future, LED lamps, power inverters, irrigation pumpset powered by solar, smart energy meters, and solar/PV base station and carrier based equipment for telecom.

Medical tourism is an emerging focus area for India, as it is growing by 30 percent each year. Medical tourism is likely to bring $1-2 billion to India by 2012. In this context, Guruswamy highlighted Freescale’s ECG-on-a-chip solution. According to him, the way forward would involve moving away from a design mindset to a product mindset!

Don’t be dwarfed by glamorous industries!
Dr Bobby Mitra, MD, Texas Instruments India, said that India is witnessing a change in its semiconductors agenda — from R&D to R&D + market growth. If followed properly, it can become a game changing agenda. “India has nearly 2,000 OEMs designing electronics products. That’s the untapped potential,” he said.

Most of the customers are smaller companies — the proverbial long tail. They know semiconductors and electronics very well. Such companies need to be measured by the firebrand innovation going on at those places.

Dr. Mitra said: “The products have to be the right kind of products. If they are complex, it is incidental.” He cited defense and aerospace as very strong spaces, while industrial is also an equally strong opportunity area. “We should not be dwarfed by glamorous industries,” he cautioned.

In the near term, the Indian semiconductor industry needs to develop two new stripes. These are: a high degree of customer centricity so it can be brought into the R&D engineer’s minds, and have an application mindset — India is very good in design work; it now needs to develop applications in the current context.

Dr. Mitra also called upon having research as an agenda for the industry. This can be done in areas that would assume importance in future. “By working with customers, we can make products more intelligent, by adding electronics and semiconductors,” he advised. “All of us have a key role to play in this transformation.”

SMEs, in particular, have a major role to play. Intel’s Vishakantaiah said that MNCs would need to mentor and coach such companies. Freescale’s Guruswamy added that MNCs can either help them grow or buy them out.

Dr. Mitra advised that even if customers didn’t provide business, it would pay to remain close to them. He also referred to TI’s Beagle Board, an open and low-cost platform, which enables development of applications. However, he advised the industry to be realistic about mass customization.

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