The story goes that a submarine, which sank in 1913 and was brought back to the surface 69 years later, had a Chloride battery (fitted in 1908) with cells that still produced current — 74 years after its installation, 69 of which were spent underwater!
Another tale claims that in 1934, at a military base in Antarctica, the sole source of electrical power was an Exide deep-cycle battery.
Exide batteries were imported from the UK into India many years before Exide Industries (originally an import house) was set up in 1916 as the Chloride Electrical Storage Company or CESCO, for trading operations in India. It ventured into the manufacture of batteries and in 1946, established its first factory at Shamnagar in West Bengal.
The next year, it was incorporated as Associated Battery Makers (Eastern) Ltd. Over the years, more factories and an R&D Centre were set up, even as the company underwent two more name changes. In 1985, it separated from its UK-based parent company, and in 1994, control passed into the hands of the Raheja Group. The company was then renamed ‘Exide Industries Ltd.’ in 1995.
The company, which is headquartered in Kolkata, is reported to produce the widest range of storage batteries (across several applications) in the world. It is India’s largest selling battery company. Indeed, the brand name is so synonymous with batteries, that the consumer recall is 90 per cent!
Whatever be the application, Exide offers batteries in that category — automotive batteries for two-wheelers, three-wheelers and four-wheelers; industrial batteries for use in railways, telecommunications, travel, defence, power, computers and even miners’ cap lamps; inverter batteries (tubular and flat plate); solar batteries; gen-set batteries, and submarine batteries for the Indian Navy (it is said to be the sole supplier) as well as for Russian, German and French submarines.
Exide products are sold across the world under its brand names Exide, Chloride, SF Sonic, Ceil, Index and Dynex. The company is recognised as Asia’s largest power-storage solutions provider, covering areas like equipment selection, installation, flawless operation and regular maintenance.
Manufacture and distribution
Today, Exide has nine manufacturing locations across India — at Shamnagar and Haldia (West Bengal), Hosur (Tamil Nadu), Chinchwad, Ahmednagar and Taloja (Maharashtra), Bawal (Haryana), and Roorkee and Ranipur (Haridwar district, Uttarakhand). Seven of these factories manufacture batteries while the remaining two churn out home UPS systems.
The company has a very strong sales and distribution network, and more than 1,100 ‘Exide Care’ outlets across India. Its global reach extends to more than 45 countries.
Exide Industries’ turnover for March 2017 was around ₹8,600 crore. The automotive segment contributes to around 65 per cent of the sales. Within this category, the replacement market is said to contribute more than double the revenue of the original equipment market (OEM).
The remaining 35 per cent comes from the industrial battery segment, comprising telecom, power, UPS and the inverter market.
The company recently upgraded to punch grid technology for consistency and longer life in lead-acid batteries. The technology is being introduced in India for the first time.
Awards and accolades
It is also exploring non-conventional energy sources like solar and wind power. In fact, one of the company’s subsidiaries — Chloride Power Systems and Solutions — is in the non-conventional energy business. Apart from providing solar power options, Chloride also has an ‘E-Rickshaw charger’ that is wholly battery-operated.
E-Ride and Batmobile are other novel initiatives from Exide, with the latter being an emergency service for cars and SUVs with battery problems. What is interesting is the fact that the service is provided for all brands and makes of batteries!
Exide has won many awards and accolades, including the Golden Peacock for excellence in corporate governance and national quality; the Greentech Safety Award for 2016; and the 2017 Rashtra Vibhushan Award.
Germany’s RWTUV awarded Exide an ISO 9001 certification and the automotive division has the ISO/ TS 16949 (quality management in automotive and motorcycle supply chain) certification. The company also holds the ISO 14001 certification for eco-friendly manufacturing processes.
The greener shade
Just how does a leading battery maker — with lead as the basic raw material — acquire an ‘eco-friendly’ reputation?
The main role here is played by its Kolkata-based Research and Development Centre, set up in 1976 (It is recognised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India.) Even as it innovates and improves the manufacturing processes and end products, it tries to factor in the environmental aspects that are associated with both.
Thus, each Exide plant has pollution control norms and equipment to regulate effluent discharge. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power are used where possible. More significantly, almost 40 per cent of the main raw material — lead — comes through recycling old batteries.
Exide is the only battery manufacturer to have two lead smelting facilities, enabling it to get lead at lower prices. As lead accounts for almost 80 per cent of the total raw material costs, this insulates the company from market price fluctuations to a great extent.
The company has also encouraged customers to return used batteries to the dealers for safe disposal or recycling. For each battery that is returned, the customer is given a discount, and an amount is sent to the Integrated Child Development Scheme that, along with UNICEF, promotes hygienic water availability and sanitation services in schools.
Exide’s CSR activities are focused on the needs of local communities adjacent to its factories. Its community development programmes cover health, education, empowerment of women and environmental protection. It conducts health camps in local villages, runs Mobile Health Clinics, and provides assistance during natural calamities. Apart from this, it is also involved in activities like classroom building and providing furniture for schools.
In yet another initiative, along with Child In Need Institute, Exide has provided educational and health services to people who live on the fringes of society in urban areas.