ABB Group to Have a Head­count of 10k in In­dia by Year-end

Co CEO says Swiss gi­ant is evolv­ing in a new shape and In­dia will play a big­ger role

The Economic Times - - Companies - Satish.John@ times­group.com

Chen­nai: The ABB Group is on a “hir­ing mode” in In­dia, pro­claims chief ex­ec­u­tive Ul­rich Spiesshofer.

The $35-bil­lion power and au­to­ma­tion engi­neer­ing gi­ant is evolv­ing a “new shape” and In­dia, a coun­try where it has been op­er­at­ing for a cen­tury, will play an im­por­tant role in shap­ing the new ABB. By the end of 2016, the Swiss com­pany will have a head­count of 10,000 in In­dia, com­pared with 8,900 at the end of last year.

Spiesshofer sees a “triple role” for ABB In­dia, in his global strat­egy. While one role will ob­vi­ously cater to lo­cal busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, the par­ent is also pre­par­ing its In­dian out­posts to serve as a man­u­fac­tur­ing base for South Asia and also as an engi­neer­ing soft­ware and ser­vices hub for the world. The CEO, up­beat about In­dia, met Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ear­lier this week morn­ing to kick start his third visit to the coun­try in as many years. “Look, when you meet a prime min­is­ter, you first lis­ten,” he said, when ET asked what he had dis­cussed with Modi. “He (Modi) shared with me his re­form agenda, on af­ford­able prod­ucts and the role that he sees ABB can play. If you take the three sec­tors where we are work­ing ... util­i­ties, in­dus­tries, and trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture, there’s a bright fu­ture for us in In­dia,” Spiesshof­fer said. The meet­ing came at a time when the gov­ern­ment is giv­ing a push to ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture, e-mo­bil­ity and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion through re­new­ables and other sources.

ABB is bet­ting on the util­ity and elec­tric­ity seg­ments, e-mo­bil­ity, es­pe­cially charg­ing so­lu­tions for e-rick­shaws and re­new­able energy, which are the part of Modi’s game plan to pull about 18,000 vil­lages from dark­ness and have only rick­shaws that are bat­tery run by 2030. For this, ABB has prod­ucts such as mi­cro-grids and equip­ment for the util­ity and elec­tric­ity value chain and fast charg­ing sta­tions for elec­tric ve­hi­cles. These plans are al­ready “kick­ing in”. As much as half the so­lar in­stal­la­tions in In­dia have ABB tech­nol­ogy. “We are very strong in this field,” he said.

ABB In­dia is a listed en­tity. Some of the new projects may hap­pen out­side that.

For ABB, In­dia will hold a lot of sig­nif­i­cance. Spiesshofer, who led a dras­tic over­haul at the group af­ter he took over as CEO in June 2013, has been cut­ting jobs and pulling the com­pany into new ad­ja­cen­cies, in­clud­ing cre­at­ing a fund for tech­nol­ogy star­tups. ABB has plans to use In­dia as a base for other coun­tries as well. “We’ll be in­vest­ing and ramp­ing up our global busi­ness ser­vices cen­tre in Ban­ga­lore. We’ll be ramp­ing up our engi­neer­ing ser­vices cen­tre in Chen­nai,” he said. “So al­to­gether we are set­ting up fa­cil­i­ties for con­tin­u­ous growth.”

Most of it has been done and some are still work in progress. In a dras­tic over­haul, he is bring­ing down the busi­ness cen­tres that ABB has across the globe to just two from 68. Of the two global cen­tres, In­dia will host one.

Un­like some of his peers, Spiesshofer be­lieves that ABB is open­ing up, and di­ver­si­fy­ing and ex­pand­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally to move some bases in select growth mar­kets.

In a town hall at IIT Chen­nai on Tues­day evening, Spiesshofer nar­rated a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion he had with the CEO of a Ger­man engi­neer­ing com­pany. In the meet­ing in Ger­many, his wor­ried peer said: “we need to pro­tect Europe.” Spiesshofer was in­cred­u­lous hear­ing the Ger­man CEO: “What are you talk­ing about.” Nar­rat­ing this to a swarm of stu­dents and their pro­fes­sors, Spiesshofer said he had just one ques­tion for the Ger­man CEO. “What’s that phone you are us­ing?” It hap­pened to be an iPhone, made in China. Nar­rat­ing this episode, Spiesshofer talked about new part­ner­ships with ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, like IIT Chen­nai and Kan­pur, and tech­nol­ogy star­tups which will help ABB re­tain a cut­ting edge.

For Spiesshofer, prod­ucts con­ceived in In­dia will also hold good for the world. In­dia is get­ting there and he is aware of In­dia’s pe­cu­liar prob­lems, in­clud­ing high in­ter­est rates that have put the brakes on in­vest­ments by pri­vate firms. But he says in­ter­est rates in In­dia are soft­en­ing, and he ex­pects his cus­tomers to trans­late that into more in­vest­ments.

Spiesshofer be­lieves that ABB is open­ing up, and di­ver­si­fy­ing and ex­pand­ing ge­o­graph­i­cally

ABB Group CEO Ul­rich Spiesshofer met PM Naren­dra Modi in Delhi on Tues­day —PTI

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