Ajit Nambiar, the scion of BPL Ltd, is re-inventing himself, and the business he inherited. When he helmed BPL, which his father established back in the 60s, the brand was a dominant force in India’s consumer electronics industry, especially in colour televisions. Then, the chaebols arrived at his doors. The Korean brands LG and Samsung stormed the market at a time when BPL was caught in a liquidity whirlpool following its ambitious diversification and heavy investments made in manufacturing.
The brand soon disappeared from the metros and the top cities, with its partner Sanyo’s travails in Japan adding to the woes. Sanyo shut its Indian operations rather quietly when it was being sold to Panasonic globally, in 2008. BPL and its founding TPG Nambiar family went into business oblivion thereafter.
Last year, in October, Ajit Nambiar shifted BPL’s operational headquarters from Dynamic House, located at the heart of Bangalore’s business district, to the city’s outskirts near Bannarghetta. And he soon unveiled an internal business strategy aimed at overhauling BPL. It has two parts. First, it involved jettisoning any direct revival plans in the mainstream consumer electronics space, and giving up on manufacturing story as the key differentiator (a belief that Nambiars held on tightly for forty long years).
Secondly, he along with a core team of advisors embarked on re-shaping business portfolio searching for potential future markets that can be leveraged on BPL’s strengths. They looked hard at businesses and started transitioning. What emerged was a new storyboard, a fresh theme, and a new positioning (in the making) for brand BPL.
Nambiar wrote in an internal dossier earlier this year: “The world has changed beyond recognition from the time BPL came into being four decades ago. We have to therefore change the way we look at the world around us and how we conduct our business in it. The new age Indians have aspirations for a happier, healthier and a more secure life. Our purpose lies in helping people fulfill these simple dreams – Happier Living Everyday. To us happier living means improving the quality of peoples lives through focusing on their health, their comfort, their security and their enjoyment. Our business focus today is on three sectors – healthcare, energy and smart homes.”
They are together projected to bring in Rs 2050 crore revenue by FY14. Energy generation and management solutions will bring around Rs 1,465 crore, while healthcare management solutions will show up with Rs 425 crore and smart home solutions will be Rs 60 crore.
The energy business will operate in two domains – power generating assets and energy efficient solutions. BPL Power Projects (AP) Private Ltd is implementing the flagship 600MW project at Ramagundam in Andhra Pradesh. Interestingly, this project has been given a fresh lease of life by the AP State Government and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre after the company missed several deadlines to achieve financial closure. Bharat Energy Ventures, another group firm, has signed up MoU with Chhatisgarh State Government for 300MW power project. The revenue from these projects, especially Ramagundam, is expected to start flowing by late FY13 and touch Rs 950 crore by FY14.
Two group companies BPL Telecom Private Ltd and BPL Techno Vision Pvt Ltd will play in energy management solutions for “always-on” energy in the digital information age. The first one will be working with power utilities to reduce transmission and distribution losses, essentially creating a smart grid that is fast healing, more efficient and operates increasingly like today’s Internet. BPL Techno Vision will be focused on rechargeable lighting products, solar lanterns, LED lighting systems and studylites. Revenue from the two entities could be crossing Rs 515 crore by FY14 from Rs 147 crore in FY10.
Healthcare Management Solutions under BPL Ltd has evolved from the group’s traditional presence in the medical electronics business. With revenue of Rs 108 crore in FY10, it provides innovative products and solutions – like patient monitoring systems, electrocardiographs, defibrillators, foetal monitors and point of care equipment – for early detection of diseases at affordable cost.
Smart Home Solutions, also parked with BPL Ltd, is seen as the more futuristic of all the three businesses. It will tap the emerging opportunity for home energy management systems, home security systems, home network systems and home entertainment systems through a slew of products. BPL has made a beginning here with a portfolio of home security and comfort products that brought in Rs 3 crore in FY10.
Nambiar believes brand BPL can take upon the task of building ‘Happier Living Everyday’ leveraging on its core strength of applying technology. The task is challenging, as in his own words, the world has changed dramatically from the days when BPL rather optimistically claimed ‘Believe In The Best’. Does anyone remember BPL Oye! that brought Amitabh Bachchan to television for the first time in the early 90s?
If four decades of highs and lows in business life has convinced the Nambiar household of anything, it is probably the need to be nimble-footed and agile in thinking. In hindsight, BPL spent some of India’s best growth years in rediscovering itself.