Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robo Queen - Sonali Kulkarni is President and CEO of Fanuc India - How Sonali Kulkarni has safeguarded Fanuc's market share amid competition

Robo Queen

How Sonali Kulkarni has safeguarded Fanuc's market share amid competition

Sonali Kulkarni - like her great-grandfather Mahatma Gandhi - is not easily deterred. Kulkarni is President and CEO of Fanuc India, the local unit of Japanese industrial robots maker Fanuc Corp. In May last year, Fanuc India lost two major contracts to supply machines for in-mould labeling on containers. The machines were a tad too slow for the prospective clients. Kulkarni took up the challenge and worked with her team on the machines at Fanuc's Bangalore facilities. After a few changes the machines managed to complete the process in six seconds, enough to meet the clients' needs. But she still wasn't satisfied. "We tweaked and tweaked again and did that in 4.2 seconds."
That doggedness has come in handy over the years for Kulkarni, one of a handful of women corporate leaders in the male-dominated Indian manufacturing sector. The trait was visible even before she started her career.
Her cubicle at one of her previous employers Wendy's International in 1996.
While studying chartered accountancy she applied for her first articleship at Ahmedabad audit firm C.C. Chokshi. During the interview she was told that the firm did not have a separate toilet for women, as there were no female workers at the firm then. Still, she joined. Work conditions may have been difficult but she says the glass ceiling never affected her career. In fact, she says she was never paid less than her male counterparts for the same work. "I have worked in three countries - the US, Japan and India. I find the least [of a] glass ceiling here," says Kulkarni, who worked as a financial analyst in the US and as an assistant to Fanuc Corp's chairman in Japan before moving back to India.
Another incident highlights her resourcefulness and technical knowledge. A few years ago she met with the CEO of a company which made transmission systems for one of Japan's largest automotive companies. The executive asked her help to improve the Fanuc machines' cycle time required to finish operations. Kulkarni asked for three days to revert. By the end of it, she had improved the cycle time of the vendor by 12 per cent.
Kulkarni took charge of Fanuc India in 2006. The company's revenue has doubled since then, she says, without disclosing the numbers. Fanuc's robots are used on assembly lines, paint shops, and in mining. TVS Motor's Jupiter motorcycle, for instance, is completely painted by Fanuc robots. Hero bikes, Maruti Suzuki cars and even Apple iPhones and iPads are assembled by these robots. Fanuc also makes computer numerical control, or CNC, machines where a pre-loaded software program controls the manufacturing process. All machines are made in Japan and the local unit sells and maintains these machines in India. "The synergy we get from one plant is not worth losing by opening plants in other parts of the world," says Kulkarni.
Fanuc has 80 per cent share of the market for industrial robots in India, where it competes with companies such as the local unit of German robotics group KUKA. But it is not easy to maintain the leadership position, she says, adding that competitors often undercut prices to gain market share. Currency movements also affect the company, as it imports machines from Japan. Kulkarni says she faced a tough situation in 2008 when the yen surged against the rupee.
Overall, the Japanese currency had risen 105 per cent against the Indian unit since 1999, when Fanuc had last raised prices. During this period, the cost of importing the finished products rose significantly and put pressure on margins. "We could not have absorbed that cost. We are a low-margin business," says Kulkarni. She started revising the rates. The customers did not like the move, and it affected Fanuc's market share.
Early days: With husband Ravi Venkatesan in Kyoto, Japan in June 2000.
Over the past couple of years, Kulkarni has taken several initiatives to maintain Fanuc's market share. In early 2013, she made a proposal to the head office in Japan that the company should create scaled-down versions of robots and CNC machines and price them appropriately.
Before submitting the proposal she had set up a team at Fanuc India to map the company's entire consumer base to find out which features were not used in the CNCs and the robots. By October 2013, the company had rolled out new products in the Indian market. Customers were sceptical first, but Kulkarni spent a lot of time helping them understand the new machines. Sales have picked up now. Since April this year, Fanuc has sold over 1,200 of these new products.
Kulkarni is also sharply focused on client servicing. Towards the end of 2012, she found out that some clients were facing a shortage of machine operators who knew English. She solved the problem by loading the CNC machines with Hindi and subsequently with Tamil software.
Video: Know more about Sonali Kulkarni
Clients vouch for her. Vikram Kasbekar, Head of Operations at two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp, says Kulkarni is very rational and loves to work on new challenges. "Once, we had some problem in operations, and they [Fanuc] tried to work on it even though it wasn't an equipment problem. It didn't work out but even proactively coming forward shows the positive outlook of that person," he adds.
Shrinivas Shirgurkar, Managing Director at Ace Designers, which is Fanuc's biggest customer, says Kulkarni is very enterprising. "Many times we have urgent requirements of systems that we have not pre-ordered, but she would get that done. She is also able to connect with the headquarters to get the correct pricing for us. India is a low-cost country, and price plays an important role," he says.
What is she like in her personal life? Kulkarni is married to former Microsoft India chairman Ravi Venkatesan. While she drives a Maruti Kizashi luxury sedan - Maruti is one of her biggest customers - her Gandhian lineage obviously has had an impact on her. A zoology graduate, Kulkarni recently saved an injured mynah and has planted a lot of trees at Fanuc's offices. What's her opinion about her great-grandfather? "What I like about him is the unity of thoughts," she says.
With FANUC's Founder Chairman Dr Inaba (L) and my brother Krish in Oita Prefecture.
Source : Sunny Sen;


Microsoft boss to marry Mahatma Gandhi’s kin

Microsoft’s India head Ravi Venkatesan is marrying Sonali Kulkarni– not actress Sonali Kulkarni. His bride is the President & CEO of Japanese firm Fanuc India Private Limited. It is the first marriage for both the corporate achievers aged 47 and 45 and the simple wedding is at the Trishna Club, near Ulsoor Lake in Bangalore.
According to newspaper reports, over ten years ago Venkatesan a Tamil Brahmin from Pune fell in love with Sonali, who is Mahatma Gandhi’s great grand-daughter. But his family did not permit the marriage, since the bride was not from the same community. So they waited for a decade—and now the D-day is on October 11. Sonali is the daughter of Sumithra Kulkarni, daughter of Ramdas Gandhi. Sumithra, an ex-IAS officer and a former Rajya Sabha MP and her husband G R Kulkarni, the former Dean of IIM Ahmedabad live in Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore.
The who’s who from the world of business, corporate India and politics are expected to attend the evening wedding. The venue Trishna Club (earlier known as Madras Sappers Club) is a majestic place, where a wedding event is being held for the first time—the club comes under the jurisdiction of the Army authorities and they do not usually give the club for events by non-Army personnel. Obviously a special exception has made been for the very special couple! We would love to see their wedding pictures but our guess is that the couple will choose to keep it a very private affair.
Source :


Ravi Venkatesan

Chairman, Social Venture Partners India

Ravi Venkatesan picture

Ravi Venkatesan is the former Chairman of Microsoft India and currently a Venture Partner at Unitus Seed Fund which invests in early stage social enterprises. He is also founder and Chairman of Social Venture Partners India, a network of engaged philanthropists addressing social problems through venture philanthropy. Ravi serves on the boards of Rockefeller Foundation, Infosys and Strand Lifesciences and is the author of an acclaimed book "Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere" published by Harvard Business Review.
As Chairman of Microsoft India between 2004 and 2012, Ravi helped build India into Microsoft's second-largest presence in the world and one of its fastest growing markets. He was instrumental in creating Microsoft India’s Project Shiksha, a computer literacy program which has so far trained over 40 million school children in India.
Prior to Microsoft, Ravi was the Chairman of publicly listed Cummins India and led its transformation into a leading provider of power solutions and engines. He helped establish the Cummins College of Engineering, India's first engineering college for women, in Pune.
Ravi has a BS in engineering from IIT Bombay, an MS from Purdue University, and a MBA from Harvard Business School where he was a Baker Scholar. He is a recipient of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s Distinguished Alumnus Award and Purdue University's Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award. He was recently voted as one of India's best management thinkers by Thinkers50.
Source :

How to assess company's future by tracking promoter shares

How to assess company's future by tracking promoter shares

Promoters are generally the biggest shareholders in their companies. They are also the most clued in on the company's prospects. That is why investors must keep tabs on what they are doing with their shares. This is because it offers clues about what they think about the company's future. For instance, heavy buying may indicate that they think that the stock is undervalued. Besides, selling and buying by promoters leads to changes in prices of stocks and so must be keenly watched.
For our study, we looked at companies in the S&P BSE 500 index. Of these, promoters increased stake in 147 companies in the four quarters ended March 2014. In 26, the increase was more than 10%. Since April, that is, after the increase, the shares of 140 out of 147 have risen in value. Of these, 15 have risen over 100 per cent after March 31.
Of course one can attribute this partly to the rise in stock markets overall, but increase in promoter stake is generally a good sign, say experts. Take Kesoram Industries, in which promoters increased stake from 27 per cent in March 2013 to 48 per cent in March 2014, a rise of 78 per cent. Since March, the stock has delivered a return of 66 per cent.
A promoter has all the information about the company. If he is investing, it shows that he is confident about its prospects and believes that investing in the company is better than putting money somewhere else.
"An increase in stake by promoters is a positive indicator. It shows that the promoters believe that the stock is trading below its intrinsic value," says Alex Mathews, head of research, Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services.
But experts say that while promoter holding is an important parameter, it should not be the main reason for buying a stock. Investors should always look for the reason for the stake increase. They must check what impact it will have on the company.
"An increase in stake is positive for investors. But it should not be the sole reason for the investment," says Ambareesh Baliga, an independent market analyst.
"Although an increase stake by promoters is a positive, investors should look at the reasons behind the move. He must ask the following questions. Is it time for delisting? Is there a corporate restructuring happening?," says DK Aggarwal, CMD, SMC Investments and Advisors.
Take Essar Oil, in which promoters have raised their stake from 16 per cent to 25 per cent. The reason for this is the company's plan to delist. A company has to make an open offer to the public if it wants to get delisted. Also, the public holding shouldn't be more than 10 per cent after the open offer for the delisting to happen. Therefore, to make the open offer successful, there is a high chance that the company may increase the floor price at which it offers to buy shares from the public. It will lead to a rise in the price of the stock and provide an opportunity to investors to sell at a higher price. Therefore, it is generally a positive for the investor.
Also, the increase in promoter's share because a big investor has acquired a controlling stake in the company is also a positive sign. For example, in Hexaware Technologies, the promoter stake rose from 28 per cent in March 2013 to 64 per cent in March 2014, a change of 128 per cent. Baring Private Equity Asia acquired a controlling stake in the company in September last year. "A big investor buying a stake is a positive sign," says DK Aggarwal of SMC Investments.
However, investors must keep in mind that an increase in promoter stake is no guarantee that the stock will rise. For instance, in United Spirits, the promoter stake went up from 25 per cent March 2013 to 39 per cent March 2014. The stock has fallen 9 per cent since then.
Also, selling of stake by promoters shouldn't always be considered a big negative for the company. The reason for the dilution may be regulatory changes. For instance, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the market regulator, has come out with a regulation under which promoters can't own more than 75 per cent stake in PSUs. This will trigger a reduction in promoter stake in various PSUs.
However, a large-scale and unexpected exit by the promoter without giving any reason does warrant an explanation. "A promoter may sell his shares if he thinks the stock price has reached its fundamental value," says Aggarwal.
Top Guns
Although investors should take notice of large-scale exit by promoters, it may not necessarily result in the stock performing poorly. There are nine stocks in the BSE 500 index in which promoters reduced their stake in the one year ended March 2014. All have returned over 100 per cent since April. For instance, in Kingfisher Airlines, the promoter stake went down from 32 per cent in March 2013 to 16 per cent March 2014, but the stock has delivered a return of 60 per cent since March 31 this year.
Change in promoter stake is important but shouldn't be seen in isolation. Company fundamentals and valuations are equally important.
We bring you a few stocks recommended by experts in which promoters have increased the stake.
Stocks MT experts recommend
Promoters increased stake from 53 per cent in March 2013 to 79 per cent in March 2014. The stock has returned 143 per cent since March 31 this year. The shareholders have approved amalgamation with Mahindra Ugine Steel Company, Mahindra Hinoday Industries, Mahindra Gears International, Mahindra Composites, Mahindra Investments (India) Private Ltd and Participaciones Internacionales Autometal Tresthe. According to an report in June, "The company provides a unique auto component play with global footprint and promoters, besides turnaround possibilities. It has a presence in both commercial and passenger vehicles with strengths of dual parents. With cost controls and economic recovery playing out, we expect utilisation levels to improve, leading to rise in EBIT margins to 8 per cent and RoCE expansion to 14.5 per cent in 2016-17. The track record on turnaround via cost control and focus on financials are positives." EBIT is earnings before interest and tax while RoCE stands for return on capital employed.
Sintex is a dominant player in plastics and textile segments. The stock fell 8 per cent despite promoters increasing stake in the company by 13 per cent. A report by Maximus Securities in June says, "The company is likely to benefit from the rise in demand in the prefabricated segment and growth potential in the custom moulding segment. The new spinning project will bring in incremental revenues and operating profits."
The promoters have increased stake by 11 per cent. As per a report released by Prabhudas Lilladher in June, "The stock is trading at 11.2 times 2015-16 earnings. We believe that a strong order book and improving margin profile will help the company deliver 12 per cent sales and 71 per cent earnings compounded annual growth rate between 2013-14 and 2015-16. We maintain 'accumulate' rating on the stock."
The promoters increased stake from 44 per cent to 49 per cent in the one year to March 2014. The stock has delivered a return of 71 per cent since then. As per a report by Motilal Oswal in April, "A number of high-value projects (Sky series, Blu) have kicked off in the last 12 months and are not yet contributing meaningfully to profits. Revenues from several such projects will commence over FY15-16, aiding 50-60 per cent profit after tax growth per year. Consequently, return on equity will rise to low double digits from the current levels of 5-6 per cent".
Source : Renu Yadav ;

Sunday, August 17, 2014

This realty tycoon dreams of a Hyde Park in Mumbai

This realty tycoon dreams of a Hyde Park in Mumbai 

Oberoi holds forth on a variety of subjects - like Mumbai's outdated laws, the so-called North and South Mumbai divide and his marriage with actress Gayatri Joshi.

Oberoi holds forth on a variety of subjects - like Mumbai's outdated laws, the so-called North and South Mumbai divide and his marriage with actress Gayatri Joshi. 

Vikas Oberoi may say his life does not change being on or off the Big Boys Billionaire list, but ask us. It took over eight weeks of chasing the realtor while he was busy poring over the details of mega projects and deals, some of them in the Rs 1,000 crore vicinity.

Oberoi does apologise profusely for being elusive, saying a definite sign of how busy he has been is the fact that he, a fitness freak, had not hit the gym for two weeks, not even for a 20-minute run. 

Eventually, the pursuit ends, and Oberoi holds forth on a variety of subjects - like Mumbai's outdated laws, the so-called North and South Mumbai divide and his marriage with actress Gayatri Joshi. Excerpts from an interview:

You have built famous properties in North Mumbai, not considered a fashionable part of the city. As a part of the social elite, how do you view the South-North divide in the city? 

This divide between North Mumbai and South Mumbai is a big myth or at best, overrated. Many of us have economic and social interests in both parts of Mumbai. According to me, North Mumbai is as fashionable.

The city centre is in fact shifting from Nariman Point to Bandra and you can see that real estate prices of both commercial and residential spaces in North Mumbai are at par, in some cases, if not higher, than South Mumbai. 

Swades, the film in which your wife Gayatri played the female lead, is about a successful NRI giving back after being gobsmacked by the realities of his home country. Are there things about Mumbai that hit you, which make you, want to give back? 

Mumbai is the melting pot of India. It has so much potential, so much energy... all we need is a focused CEO for Mumbai and we will see dramatic change. We are bogged down by archaic laws. I am not saying that there should be no rules, (but) we need rules that can fulfil the dreams and aspirations of people.

At one end we speak about CRZ regulations and on the other, we dump untreated sewage and industrial waste into the sea. My dream for Mumbai is to see it get the best form of public education, housing, health, and transport, a park like Hyde Park of London or Central Park, New York. 

We have the space and can do it. We just need well meaning visionaries to do it. I have real estate experience and would be very keen to contribute. If the government were to ask me to do something in the housing and infrastructure domain, like what Nandan Nilekani was asked to do, I will do it in a heartbeat.

How did you and Gayatri meet? 

I had known Gayatri for a long time before we got married. We were just friends, more like acquaintances. Luckily, we kept bumping into each other and I strongly felt she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Inventory is a constant in the realty business, especially in the niche sphere of luxury. Is this an increasing worry with slow sales? 

According to me, any project that has not started cannot be taken as inventory. It takes a lot of time, regulatory approvals, finance and effort to build a project. Also, none of the developers have any ready-to-occupy flats as inventory. I am not at all worried.

After Mumbai, you moved to the NCR region. Will those also be luxury projects? 

We primarily want to do projects only in Mumbai. But we are open to JVs (Joint Ventures) in other parts of India. Our focus is Mumbai and NCR for now. We may look at Bangalore also. There is a quality benchmark which we want to do. Even if I do low cost housing, the quality of life must not get compromised. Take our Borivali project, which is midmarket high-rise. The ticket size may be small but will be the best in its class.
What does money mean to you? What does being on and off the billionaire list mean to you? 

Money is like fuel. It depends on how you use it. Money can be used as energy and be productive or it can go up in smoke and be a disaster. As for the List, it does not change anything, neither me as a person nor my attitude to society. It just brings the spotlight unnecessarily on you. Which is unwanted. 

As someone building a prestigious hotel in the city (Ritz Carlton), what makes a great luxury hotel? Which are some of your favourite hotels in the world? 

Hotels that look after its customers well are great. Among my favourites where I have stayed are Hotel Du Cap in Antibes, Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, the George V in Paris, Villa D'este Lake Como and Udai Vilas in Udaipur. 

Fitness is a way of life with you. What are the food and fitness rules you follow? 

As kids we were athletic and played a lot sport. I used to regularly run, play squash and go cycling. But once I got into work this took a backseat. Luckily, a very dear friend of mine, who himself is super fit, got me to regularly work out. Then on it's a way of life. (I do) A short run, and functional training with TRX, Rib trainer, Viper workout five days a week. Eat light, sleep well. The trick to remaining fit is 50 per cent workout and rest and 50 per cent is to watch what you eat. 

Sourrce : Nandini Raghavendra, ET Bureau 
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