19 Oct 2018 19:39 IST

Anchor: all sails set

The brand has good recall among individuals, the hospitality and healthcare industries

One of the reasons I decided to write on India’s only switches super-brand is the fact that women constitute 54 per cent of the company’s workforce. This makes it one of the largest employers of women in the country — definitely a great achievement.

Anchor India Pvt Ltd was established in 1963, in Mumbai, by brothers Damji L Shah and Jadhavji L Shah. The family had earlier burnt its fingers in a partnership enterprise named KB Industries; this time, the brothers decided to involve no one else and entered the switches manufacturing line.

Till then, imported switches from Italy were popular in the market. Indian brands had not yet established themselves — the market for switches and wiring devices was chaotic and disorganised. Anchor introduced a measure of order by bringing standardisation and quality; it is said to be the first organised mover in this industry.

Diversifying the company

The company began manufacturing old tumbler/toggle switches. Selling indigenously-manufactured switches in a market ruled by imports was a challenge; but persistence and help from electrical shops in the vicinity which agreed to stock and display Archor products helped sales pick up.

After a disappointing trial run with the name ‘Victor’ (which could not be registered), Damji reportedly hit upon the brand name ‘Anchor’ with the help of the dictionary. After that, as the saying goes, there was no looking back. By 1971, Anchor had established a factory at Valsad, Gujarat for wiring devices. In 1973, it introduced the first piano switch with the ‘Penta’ range. This was followed by a monoblock switch named ‘Dyna’ five years later.

By 1984, the company had ventured into manufacturing switches made from engineered polymers at Valsad Unit II. ‘Roma’ modular switches were introduced in 1993. Another manufacturing unit came up at Daman for wiring devices. In 1999, in a major breakthrough, it started manufacturing fire-retardant wires.

Even as it continued in the switches line, it diversified into the production of fans, incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes.

Eye-catching

The Anchor brand grew till it attracted the attention of major international players such as Matsushita Electric Works of Japan, the owner of the famous Panasonic brand. It acquired a majority stake in Anchor in 2007, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Matsushita in 2009. Due to its immense popularity, the ‘Anchor’ brand name was retained.

A range of lighting products soon followed; some important acquisitions contributed to the inorganic growth of the company as well. It acquired CFL maker Globus from Roorkee, and fire protection and security solutions provider Firepro, based in Bengaluru. In 2016, it launched circuit breakers in markets such as Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru and Chennai.

Today, the Anchor name continues to be a byword for quality in the switches, electrical socket and accessories market. The brand has excellent recall due to its sturdy nature, dependable performance, exciting innovations and, above all, a product range that covers all classes of customers with its price points and availability across India.

Beyond a certain point, how much innovation is possible in switches? Apart from aesthetics, other areas that see innovation are the durability and life of the product, increased safety features, introduction of automation, specialisation and multi-function capabilities.

Anchor is said to have an excellent research and development team that brings out new products and improves on existing products every two years. More than 3,000 products across seven product verticals are available in the market today. These include switches (Roma, Viola and Woods in the modular luxury category; Rider in the modular value-for-money category, and Penta, in the non-modular category) and accessories; wires and cables; switchgear and protection devices; and PVC electrical insulation tapes. Other products cover lamps, fans, CFL and LED lights, and automation solutions such as motion sensors for commercial establishments. Its latest offering is the Panasonic emergency LED Lamp - 7W, which comes in handy during power failures.

Stellar work

All these products are manufactured at Anchor’s units across Daman, Kutch, Haridwar and Roorkee, and sold through about 5,000 dealers and four lakh retail outlets. Current turnover is reportedly over ₹3,500 crore. Wiring devices contribute about half of the amount.

As demand grows in the renewable energy segment and the industrial sector sees a revival, a need for quality electrical equipment is inevitable. Anchor hopes for better growth in the future, banking on the ‘Smart Cities’ initiative (more construction in tier 2 and tier 3 cities) and increased consumer awareness about protective devices to accelerate sales.

All Anchor manufacturing units are ISO 9001:2008 certified and adhere to RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliance (European standards) in the manufacturing processes. The company also strives to be environmentally sensitive through the widespread use of solar panels and treated sewage water in its plants.

The brand has a good name not only among people in the electrical line but also in the hospitality and healthcare industries, institutions and banks. Brand recall is instant even among individual customers. Along with the immaculate quality of its products, Anchor believes in maintaining a healthy and sustainable business relationship with all levels of users, user-influencers and trade partners. In collaboration with the Institute of Indian Interior Designers (IIID), it has been presenting the IIID-Anchor Awards since 2011. Along with a premier technical institution, it conducts an electrician certification programme and regular workshops.

In a category where aesthetics can only play a limited role, Anchor has won two awards for design — the Good Design Award (Japanese Institute of Design Promotion) and the IF Product Design Award 2013 (International Forum of Design, Germany). The other awards it has won are indicative of the trust the brand enjoys among consumers as well as its own employees — the Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brand in Lighting 2012 and Trusted Brand in Electrical Products 2014; the Masterbrand Award 2013 and 2014; and the Global HR Excellence Awards for Innovative HR Practices, Diversity Impact and Best Employer Awards at the WHRD Congress 2015.

Social service

Anchor has a deep-seated desire to serve society and has even adopted a slogan that defines its CSR activities: ‘Samhatihi Karya Sadhika’ (Together we accomplish). It has categorised its activities under five segments:

* Nirmaan or community welfare undertakes electrification of villages through solar power and provides safe drinking water through solar submersible pumps.

* Chaitanya or education provides solar lighting in schools, sets up science labs, renovates schools in disrepair and provides hearing aid instruments for deaf and mute children.

* Nirdhar offers primary health care services through a mobile clinic, periodic health check-ups and supply of food supplements.

* Nirbhaya is a self-defence programme for girls, providing them training in martial arts.

Apart from these, there is a holistic development programme that supports varied issues — empowerment of women through formation of self-help groups, providing technological support to farmers through training sessions, interlinking of drinking water resources, and provision of solar-powered water pumping systems, among other things.

Anchor stepped in during the Kerala floods to do what it does best: it deployed over 100 volunteer-electricians to correct electrical issues related to switchgears, fans, lighting, appliances and more, irrespective of the brand used!

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