Eric Braganza, President, Haier Appliances India
Eric Braganza, President, Haier Appliances India

Eric Braganza, President, Haier Appliances India, has a clear goal – to be among the top three home appliance brands in India by 2021, while keeping technology and the needs of the Indian consumer at the centre for Brand Haier. Here, he recalls in his own words the high points of his journey at Haier, and also talks of the beliefs he holds dear to his heart…

Change is my guiding light…

One of the things I’ve understood is that we operate in a fluid market - what was valid yesterday is no longer valid today, and what is valid today won’t be valid tomorrow. We need to understand how the market changes and respond to the changes, to remain ahead of the curve. This principle has been my guiding light through my entire career of 35 years. Never count on something that is successful to last forever; you have to keep changing, learning and adapting new ways of thinking. Towards that end, the bottom-line for Haier is always coming up with technology-driven products, which enhance, improve and support the life of the Indian consumer.

By 2021, we’ll move to Top 3…

In 2014, I had made a statement saying that by 2020, we’d be among the Top 3 home appliance brands in India, and by 2018, we’d be among the Top 5. Many questioned my optimism, but I was very sure. We made Top 5 as per plan. But for the COVID-19 pandemic, we would have been among the Top 3 this year. At most, our target has been delayed by one year. In 2021, hopefully, we should be the third largest brand in our category in India.

We have been one of the most consistent brands in India over the last decade, following very basic policies – we relate to the customers of our product and ensure that we always give them a good product. We ensure that our product is designed for the specific need of the Indian consumer. For example, our bottom-mounted refrigerator is based on the insight that 80% of the time, the lady of the house opens the fridge and 20% of the time, she opens the freezer. So, we made it easier for her - she wouldn't have to bend as much, as portrayed in our first campaign ‘Jhukna Mat’. Today, we have 70% share in the bottom-mounted refrigerator segment. We also increased the ratio of the fridge to the freezer, because in India, we don't need large freezers. Similarly, for washing machines, NZP technology allows our fully automatic machines to work at near-zero water pressure, and self-clean technology ensures that the machine gets cleaned when it works, while in air-conditioners, the air-purifier concept and in water-heaters, the shock-proof feature are really useful to the Indian consumer.

I PLAYED MY GUITAR A LITTLE MORE DURING THE LOCKDOWN…
I play the guitar. I love listening to music and singing. I love reading and playing bridge and I follow sports. But my guitar is my best friend. I’ve found time to play my guitar a little more during the lockdown. My kind of music is the 70s music… I listen to the Beatles, Doobie Brothers, Eagles, CCR, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and country music. The current crop of music - I leave it to my sons! I remember the National Panasonic music system that we had at home in my childhood, and our collection of records. How thrilling it was to buy a record and listen to it, as music at that time was not as easily accessible as it is today! If you heard something on the radio, and you wanted to get a record, you either asked your friends or relatives living abroad to bring it on their next trip home, or you had to wait till one of the record shops imported it or made it in India. I'm very proud of my record collection, which I can’t play, unfortunately, as I don't have a turntable. It is kept safely at my mother's house.

At the heart of Haier’s success…

We were a Rs 200 crore company when I joined. Next year, we are targeting the Rs 6,500 crore mark. But we have never been opportunists in the way we work. I actually attribute a lot of my success to our network across India and the loyal trade partnerships we have built. Another important factor is the strong team we have in the company, with one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry; most colleagues have been with me for 7-10 years.

Our ability to position our brand not as a price-fighter brand, but as a mid to high-end reasonably priced brand is also a factor for our success. Haier has never played the price game, never advertised big discounts. We've always given value to the customer and priced our products correctly. Our brand is looked upon as dependable. A combination of all these things has helped us reach where we are today.

Making some smart moves…

The market will gradually move towards smart appliances, though India may always be a couple of years behind the rest of the world. We have been expanding our smart appliances category in a big way, and all our appliances will soon be interconnected, operated from one control – be it your AC, washing machine, TV, refrigerator or water-heater. We expect to see significant but slow growth in this category. We upgraded our state-of-the-art plant at Pune and looking at our growth last year, we bought 123 acres of land in Greater Noida and invested Rs 3,000 crore to set up our second plant, which will be even bigger than Pune. We will therefore be a ‘Made in India’ brand, ensuring that the products we make are for the Indian consumer. Another area important to Haier is after-sales service - I look at it as an investment for the brand. Whenever we grow our business, we always ensure that our after-sales service is in place first, before we expand.

I see two kinds of consumers…

There are two sets of consumers right now - one set comprising people who have taken pay cuts, lost their jobs or are under financial pressure, and the other set who’ve got huge savings because discretionary spends like eating out, buying clothes and holidaying have come to a standstill. They have a lot of money to spend, and what do they want to spend on – perhaps a larger TV, a better washing machine or fridge, an extra AC for the house and so on. The situation today is actually quite contradictory. Looking at this, I don't foresee a major threat to consumer demand, going forward, though we may not see a huge rise. Even if costs increase, as declared by the Government recently, the consumer will take it in his stride.

It pays to be honest, clear-cut…

I’ve always believed in one thing - that honesty, sincerity and straightforwardness deliver. You may lose out in the short term but in the long term, it always stays, and that rule has guided my life. That's the way I work. All those who work with me know that, and where they stand with me because there are no grey areas. It helps build clean, real, good partnerships and relationships. People always know what to expect. They know there’s no favouritism, they know there’s no politics. Being clear-cut has always paid off for me.

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