Starting his professional career in 2000, Kuldeep Gupta earned his lighting points owing to his personal interest that led him walk along with the country’s lighting industry. It was the time when Light Emitting Diode (LED) had started evolving to improve its stature from simply being restricted to automotive backlights or traffic signals to be a part of the much-more wider spectrum of the general lighting panorama.
Gupta’s elongated association with light sources and lighting components, made him believe that the scope is wider than it appears, and that the industry is still at a nascent stage with immense potentials. No wonder, he went on to set up his own ventures – Lumens Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and LightStyle Solution Pvt. Ltd. – with the objective of bringing in the best for both – the lighting industry and the consumers.
Exploring the industry with his eyes, we, at LED World, sat in a rendezvous with him for not less than an hour to discuss about his industry experiences and phases the lighting industry has passed through in last decade. Here are the excerpts to follow:
How has been your journey till date?
I started my career in 2000 with Wipro where I had been responsible for consumer and lighting products. In 2003, I joined GE, shifting my base to Mumbai. Stayed with GE for three years, got conferred with best manager award for growth. In 2006, GE organised a huge seminar to announce its eviction from the world of lighting by closing down its lighting division globally. This was so because the company strictly follows a principle to shut down a particular division, when the revenue contribution from that segment goes below 40%. However, this was not the end of GE as the company announced its investment in the Boeing Engine and LED. This was the first time that I heard the term LED. It was a wonder product then. The company introduced LED modules for signage industry.
It was in 2007 that a Korean MNC, Seoul Semiconductor entered into India. The company wanted to do wonder and decided to set up its team here. In the process, it picked up a few big names from the Indian lighting industry. I was fortunate to get selected and given the responsibility of western region. There I started learning about LEDs. In about six month time, I was also handed over the charge of southern region, which eventually widened my exposure and helped me grow bigger. Gradually, in 2010, I became the country-head for Seoul Semiconductor.
When did you establish your own venture?
From the very beginning of my carrier, I had a dream of becoming an entrepreneur. In 2013, when I left Seoul Semiconductor, I setup Lumens Technologies Pvt. Ltd. That was the time when the market for LED was evolving and people were looking for alternatives. Accordingly, we brought in Hongli, as our associate brand as another option. Later, we kept on adding various brands under the portfolio of Lumens Technologies.
In 2015, we thought of diversifying and setup a new company, LightStyle Solution Pvt. Ltd. The time was right to ripe what I had sowed over these many years in the industry. Such a prolonged association helped me earn a very good reputation among the industry stakeholders and big-wigs. My goodwill paid me back as my current team comprises 54 dedicated, young and energetic people. We are moving ahead successfully with offices in Mumbai and Delhi, while our sales people are spread across the country. Based on the ideology of providing all the solutions under one roof, together we are trying to evolve by offering best of the technologies for this lighting industry.
What was the state of the country’s lighting industry then?
Lighting industry in India, when I entered, was estimated at around $2 billion (Rs. 12,000 crore), which has now grown up to cross Rs. 21,000-crore mark. This is expected to touch Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000-crore mark by 2020. Because till last year, only new installations were done and now huge replacement market has emerged out wherein the LED lighting is replacing the existing conventional light sources. Thank to the push from the government to switch over to the efficient lighting system.
How do you assess the response to LED in Indian lighting industry?
India has started acknowledging this new technology, but is yet to pick up the pace. For instance, despite such a huge drive for LED from the central government, we can still see GLS and CFLs being sold in the market. And the contributors for all this are quite a few renowned brands, which are selling these conventional lights in commendable quantities. The point to be noted here is that the global lighting industry has fully banned using the incandescent and CFLs.
How do you see Chinese manufacturing vis-a-vis Indian?
As of now, India is facing very tough competition from China wherein the Chinese manufacturers are willing to drive Indian market according to their own convenience. I might be wrong, but I reached to this conclusion after a recent meeting with some of the respected and top-ranked Chinese manufacturers. Unlike Indian manufacturer who prefer restaurant like business and produce only when there comes the requirement, Chinese manufacturers believe in bulk production and fill the market before it asks for. This approach ultimately brings their production cost down while the cost for us is 15 to 20-times higher. This is also because, in China, with the support from the government, the infrastructure is easily available. Their bulk manufacturing is their strength. But I am happy to see that after the initiative taken by EESL on behalf of the government followed by other domestic demand, Indian lighting manufacturers have increased their quantum.
How far Chinese would go with this approach?
I can’t say. But as I feel now, their strength has become their greatest weakness. China has already become a developed country and it is hardly left with local consumption. Now the aim is to materialise its strength and cater to the rest of the world. Though, China is successfully supplying the high-quality stuff to its European and American clients, but for products with sub-standard quality, India is the easiest and the nearest market. At the same time, India’s local consumption is reaching a new high with growing market and increasing population but comparatively lower manufacturing strength.
How do you gauge the steps taken by the Government in this regard?
As we all know, India is an energy-starved country. Undoubtedly, to save the energy and make it viable for far-reaching places in the country, the initiatives taken by the government to distribute LED bulb through DELP and to install LED Streetlights through SLNP incorporating EESL have been unprecedented, especially when it comes to embracing energy-efficient light source i.e. LED. This was followed by enhancing the country’s manufacturing prowess. But somehow, I feel that all the stringent policies and steps taken, didn’t work in favour owing to the absence of proper infrastructure. Not only that the indigenous manufacturing suffered, but also quality gets at a halt to an extent that failure has been reported more than success.
You mean the quality of light is hindering the growth processes!
Yes. There is another important aspect of lighting, which most of us do not know. In fact, light impacts human behaviour so much so that it deteriorates the health without even bringing to your knowledge. You know the mega hertz frequency in these lights keep counting our subconscious. And if the frequencies emitted by these light sources are not good, we would start feeling tired, may lose our concentration, feel irritated, etc. – all this together leads to a drastic change in our behaviour to a noticeable extent. In a decade or two, we would come to know that we got our lives decreased by not less than 5 years. Ultimately, the future generation would suffer.
How do you see this transition?
Simple, we have become cost-conscious to such an extent that we are not even ready to consider the impact on human behaviour and health. Today, it may have been the concerns of only a few individuals, but this would ultimately change the fate of India as a country. We still have time to improve our tastes. We can do so by not only embracing the new technology but in a better way. We must stop making ourselves fool. There should be a descent standard to be followed strictly, without compromising on the parameters that may decompose our future generation.
How important is the role of government?
The government is here to decide better quality of life for its citizen. This is such an important industry as it helps the world go on. There are two kinds of lighting – one is the original/natural (The Sun) and the other is artificial. In the current setup, we can observe that in our day to day operations, we face 60 to 70% of the artificial lights, making it a kind of oxygen. Therefore, for sake of the quality of life, the lighting must be good and healthy. The government should strictly implement stringent quality check through the set quality standards so that let the people not feel cheated with substandard products. We must start following business ethics in its true sense.
Recently, the government has come out with few very good steps like making BIS mandatory, which is certainly going to help local manufacturers. We must appreciate our government for its initiatives in this direction as quite a few good things are happening. For instance, we are inviting foreign technology players to setup their manufacturing unit here in India to manufacture and market original products only. The same way, we can invite Chinese manufacturers to come, setup, establish here, produce in bulk and cater to the local needs. Even the local manufacturers should be encouraged. We should replicate the Software industry model.
Also, we as consumers must need to change our approach as why can’t we afford good quality products despite the fact that we have strong inclination towards quality. Why can’t we spend a few more pennies to own better lighting than throwing our hard-earned money in the garbage by opting for substandard products again and again.
So, with all this, where do you see the industry heading towards?
Lighting industry can’t stop. There is a huge potential waiting in line. As of now, most of the companies are registering not less than 30% CAGR and this will continue as the consumption of lighting sources has increased due to its variability in applications. Further, a fast-paced infrastructure development is going on. So, there is a huge opportunity. Also, the luxuries are there and a simple room has many light sources fixed for different purposes.
The concluding remarks!
My final concern is that there should be a quality of life for Indians. Lighting is as important as oxygen, therefore, quality-oriented products should be produced and promoted. There should be human-centric lighting especially for corporate world as good lighting adds to people’s efficiency. Electronics should be made quality-stringent. There should be some parameters set for manufacturing drivers, which are usually a consortium of around 40 odd components. A minuscule compromise can dilute the quality of the whole system and that can bring down the life of the final product.