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‘The World Will Be A Mix Of Robotics And Men’

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In this connected world we often take for granted the simple things. Small wires, connectors and cables are considered items of mystery because for most of our lives we are just end users. TE Connectivity is a $14 billion company that focuses on these small things that enable the larger objective of bringing industries to life, everything from SCADA machines, to industrial robots to solar plants work use their products in some form or the other. Simply put, they protect the flow of power, signals and data.

Being a vendor to some large companies such as Siemens and ABB, TE Connectivity has big plans for emerging markets in this decade. In fact, 40 per cent of its global revenues come from Asia. Its executive vice president, Terrence Curtin, who is also in charge of the industrial automation and controls division was in India to discuss the plans for the country. Curtin shares a few insights on where the global manufacturing industry is heading with BW | Businessworld's Vishal Krishna.

What are the opportunities in markets like India and what do we have to grapple with in the coming decade?
The growth of power infrastructure is the buzz word in emerging markets. There is an opportunity in generation and distribution of power. We already work with companies that set up power plants and also make products for power plants. The biggest opportunity for our division is the railways in India. They too need management of energy, data and infotainment and signaling controls. The other opportunity in India is the sub assembly automation in manufacturing. There is a high growth in this segment because tomorrow’s world will be a mix of robotics and men.

Everything is about enterprise communication and how the work flow happens. You need connectors that make this possible. We see automation as an opportunity as large companies are already using robots to perform tasks. Sensors are needed in everything today; we have intelligent buildings, cars and machines. These sensors need to be highly durable in an industrial environment and you need to make them energy efficient. TE Connectivity’s focus is spread globally if you see our revenue growth, but emerging markets will see an increase in revenue because people are investing in capacity while the rest of the world has slowed down. The other opportunity that I must mention globally is solar energy. There is an immense demand for grounding products and junction boxes. Our engineers can help companies or institutions set up their solar strategy and requirement. India has sunshine for most of the year and solar can be big in the coming years. We are already Rs 1,200 crore company in India and with the way the country is growing I think there is a potential to be large. But I cannot give you a number on our future revenues for this country. But Asia is already a large market for us.

What about Europe, Japan and the US, have the markets changed their dynamics?
It is interesting to note that Japan and Europe are going through a deeper crisis. Japan more so because they have a current account surplus, yet they are growing slowly. It is also an economy that is ageing. There is a problem globally with wage inflation. What was true in 2008 is true now, as an organisation you need to size yourself to the new market. You cannot hold on to certain low growth items and say that you will grow in the long run.
Take for example the US, the last recession just plummeted auto sales by 50 per cent. It hurt us as a company. But we picked growth areas and actually grew in the recession. The general mood in the world today is that the US will grow, Europe will continue to yield less, but orders are picking up and there is going to be an improvement. I was CFO for six years in TE Connectivity and had to handle the storm. We did well because our value chain is important for any organisation and our products are backbone to any industry.

What is your opinion on devices changing the world and how is it changing organisations?
The devices division is something that I am not in charge of. But yes the world is becoming connected with various devices. Be it cars, be it machines in the factory or you homes. This intelligence in the industrial world is converging rapidly with the consumer world. The whole human machine interface topic is fascinating. All buildings today have intelligent power management systems, these machines need connectivity that ensures data to be captured and transferred. We are doing a lot of work in the world of mobility and linking it to industrial automation. Certainly I am head of one division many a time we share cross functionalities across divisions. There is a clear role in how our lives will change with this convergence.

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