“Smart pumps will have a big market going forward”: Interview with Grundfos India’s Saravanan Panneer Selvam

Interview with Grundfos India’s Saravanan Panneer Selvam

In an interview with Smart Utilities, Saravanan Panneer Selvam, general manager, Grundfos India, shared his views on the deployment of technology solutions in India, recent innovations by the company, key challenges faced and the market outlook…

What are the company’s key focus areas in the Indian market and what are the emerging areas of interest?

The infrastructure and industrial segments are the key focus areas for the company’s growth. Currently, about 60 per cent of the business comes from the industrial segment, while another 30 per cent comes from building services (of which about 10 per cent comes from domestic building services and the remaining from commercial buildings). A meagre share of about 2 per cent is attributed to water utilities, which are predominantly procuring flood control and solar pumps.

As most of our products are quite big in size and scale, they cater to big-ticket government projects. However, government projects are largely awarded on the lowest bidding model, due to which the company has executed very few projects. Flood control projects in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, and sewerage projects in Chennai are some of the key government projects for which pumps have been supplied in order to improve efficiency and meet the energy consumption requirements.

Going forward, the industrial segment will remain one of the key focus areas as the industry acknowledges the need for efficiency and adapts well to advanced technologies. Water utilities, which currently contribute the least to the company’s business, also have a huge market potential that the company is planning to leverage. To this end, the company is coming up with solar pumps for irrigation applications as well.

What is the current state of technology deployment in India? Which segment is the key driver for the company’s growth?

Being the major contributor to the company’s business, the industrial segment is the key driver for its growth. The segment is striving to remain competitive, and is highly receptive of the latest state-of-the-art technologies and integrated solutions. Pumps, the company’s core product, are not looked at as stand-alone solutions, but as an integrated package as they come with other smart technologies. For instance, variable speed-driven pumps are integrated with drives, control panels and sensors to gauge water pressure and automate operations, and provided as one solution. On the contrary, other players in the pumps market sell pumps as stand-alone solutions, thus enabling Grundfos to create differentiation in the marketplace.

What are the company’s new technological innovations and how do they help in improving the operational efficiency?

While the world is now talking about digitalisation, Grundfos is focusing on technological advancements to offer improved efficiencies to clients. For instance, it is providing motors with built-in variable speed drives, instead of external variable speed drives. The company has also introduced the latest versions of motors such as the IE5 range. In India, IE2 motors were being used till now and the IE3 class of motors are now slowly coming up. Grundfos is already a step ahead, and is manufacturing and selling IE5 motors. These motors are built into variable speed drive pumps and offer similar efficiency across all levels of load, which is not possible with standard motors. Whether the pump is operating at 20 per cent or 100 per cent load, the energy savings remain constant. In this way, the customer saves cost as most of the time these pumps are used at lower loads (usually at 80 per cent or less). These motors are being adopted for domestic as well as commercial purposes. IE5 motors are currently able to deliver up to 11 kW of savings and with the technology being widely accepted, the company is now planning to improvise them to deliver up to 50 kW savings.

Another smart solution offered by the company is the MPC controller, which works on a process called demand driven distribution to address the issue of water leakage. The controller operates at proportional pressure, essential for effective leakage management, and is designed to provide the precise amount of water flow based on the demand. Also, a smart pump solution called iSOLUTIONS is provided for efficient water distribution. It uses cloud connectivity and other digital services to help monitor the pump’s performance on a real-time basis, predict faults and optimise the systems to achieve maximum efficiency. The solution can be customised as per the requirements of the infrastructure project.

Apart from this, the company has launched a mobile application called “SmArt Serv”, which is an intelligent application that enables customers to connect with the Grundfos team on a real-time basis. Through the application, customers and partners seamlessly share and resolve their service concerns. The customers can report their issues by using this application and connect with the nearest service provider. While any assistance requests for digital pumps will be fixed remotely, the service provider will depute an engineer for onsite issues. The application can also be used to track the status of complaints, escalate any pain points, and get a report and/or quotation on required spare parts. Besides, feedback on the service can be provided by customers.

What are the other applications that are leveraged for the water utility segment?

For water utilities, municipal water supply pumps, flood control pumps and municipal waste water pumps are supplied. In Chennai, for instance, 500 kW of sewage pumps have been supplied for a sewage plant. Besides, eight 500 kW SCADA-enabled flood control pumps have been provided in Mumbai. Apart from these pumps, the company supplies complete systems, which can control and monitor pump operations remotely.

What is the share of Grundfos in the market?

The company offers a range of submersible pumps called SQflex. It has two major applications – drinking water supply and agricultural activities. In the drinking water segment, the company holds the majority share of 70 per cent, which can be attributed to the high reliability and flexibility of its systems. These are low inertia pumps, which start working sooner than other pumps, and can be powered through any source of energy. They work till late in the evening, depending on the radiation levels at the installed location.

What are the key issues faced by the company?

A major issue has been the commercial acceptance of pumps. The pumps have a high price owing to their high quality, which has been a key challenge. Another major challenge is apprehensions in adopting advanced technology. There is still a market for the IE2 level of motors. It takes time for the market to accept advanced products. For wider acceptance, there is need to change mindsets and convince customers to look at the lifecycle cost of a product instead of the initial investment. In the case of pumps, the initial investment is only about 5 per cent, while 85 per cent is the running cost (such as electricity). The remaining 10 per cent goes into maintenance and repairs. So, the tendency of the customer is to focus on the initial investment instead of the entire lifecycle investment, which acts as a major impediment to adoption. To overcome the challenge, the company is conducting awareness programmes and seminars.

What is the outlook for the smart pump market in India?

Going forward, smart pumps will have a bigger market and will be widely used. The company is also developing small domestic pumps with built-in chips to help monitor and operate pumps remotely. While remote monitoring technology is already available in the market, the company is working on making the product commercially viable for smaller firms. This will help generate more demand in the market.