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Powergear: The true power of ambition

Powering

| June 20, 2017, 2:57 PM IST

GE Step Ahead - Powergear: The true power of ambition

Wind towers are a design marvel. Ideally, one would want them to be as tall as possible, so as to make best use of the wind shear brought about by the variation in wind velocity. Height is important to reduce the influence of surface factors like drag or friction. Hence, the taller the wind turbine tower, the better it is able to generate power.

But, an increase in height is also a concern, especially as most of these towers are built on hilly terrain and can be very unsteady after a certain threshold. This is the reason, why there are a handful of companies in the world that are renowned for creating wind towers that can be reliable at such heights. And it’s precisely for the same reason that 2011 Chennai-based Powergear Ltd. decided to ink up a joint-venture with Spanish wind power firm Gestamp Wind Steel to manufacture wind towers near Chennai with an initial investment of Rs 150 crore. A 20-acre greenfield manufacturing facility was set up at Sricity, a planned integrated business city located on the southern tip of Andhra Pradesh, 60 km away from Chennai. It was a brave business decision as the wind power sector in India was in a state of flux. Yet, Powergear decided to join hands with a leading company like Gestamp, simply because it believed that an investment in right technology is a wise business investment.

For three decades and more the Chennai-based power component manufacturer had been notching up decent growth, riding on the back of growth of the power sector in India. But its founders knew well that to forge ahead, one had to do things differently. And so they did by moving stridently into the wind power space.

One of the factors that helped Powergear shift gears was the fact that its biggest client, GE, was right behind it to support with business orders and technological knowhow. With GE Power extending its roadmap in India and abroad, Powergear knew that acquiring new capabilities would only help its growing business. In fact, it was the partnership with GE that truly was a game changer for Powergear. It was in 1999, when the company partnered with GE. It was on a project related to generator terminal equipment used in the sub-stations. Given the breadth of Powergear's experience in the sector, the project was concluded in a manner that worked to the satisfaction of GE. And the rest as they say is history.

Today, Powergear is a leading manufacturer in the power equipment space, with over 800 employees working at its five factories in India. Its equipments are enabling power plants in over 52 countries across the globe.

Playing it right

Since partnering with GE, Powergear has worked on not only expanding its product portfolio but also imbuing new technologies. Working on different projects from the company, Powergear has built up an impressive array of capabilities.  Currently, Powergear is working on around 20 product lines with around 500 people exclusively employed on GE projects. In the 17 years of collaboration with GE, the business has grown by almost 10 times, and accounts for almost $40 million annually. The credit for this increased engagement lies with the vision of the Powergear's management to take bold decisions. For instance, in the initial days of the partnership, the company decided to set-up an exclusive plant for GE-related products in Chennai.

Durairaj Xavier, Chairman, Powergear Group, credits this growth to the mentorship that has been provided by GE. "Over the years of our partnership, we have learned much from GE. In fact, in the initial years, they helped us much through continuous training not only in terms of product development but also on good governance. For instance, the one thing that we have learnt from GE is on the Environment, Health and Safety or EHS. This is very critical for the manufacturing sector, and we have been able to meet all the compliance standards. From lean manufacturing to on-time delivery, there's much that we have imbibed from the partnership," he states.

Investment in research

Powergear has also been consciously ramping up its investments in R&D. It already has set in place a team of dedicated professionals that are working on various aspects of product development in the space. "To date, we have filed for four patents thanks to our research. In the next five years, I want that number to 40. With these patents, we want to bring out our R&D in the limelight and showcase our manufacturing prowess,” states Durairaj.

In its more than three decades of existence, Powergear is constantly reinventing itself and adding new capabilities to always stay ahead of the curve. This how the wheels of success have been set in motion at Powergear.

The coming years for the Chennai-based company promise to be action-packed, as it intends to not only make a foray into different product lines, but is also looking at setting up a manufacturing unit overseas.  "We want to enhance our partnership in the next five years by making new products within GE in different verticals like aviation, healthcare, and transportation. Our aim is that GE business must account for $100 million in these years," says Durairaj. And if they succeed, the sky is no longer the limit, at least not for their wind towers.

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