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Panasonic launches maintenance-free car battery
Priya Ganapati in Bangalore | June 27, 2003 17:58 IST
Matsushita Panasonic has launched the first completely maintenance-free car battery in India.
The sealed battery which requires absolutely no topping up has been introduced in the Indian market through Base Corporation/Terminal, the exclusive dealers for Panasonic batteries.
Headquartered in Bangalore, Base started in 1988 with batteries for Uninterrupted Power Systems.
As the infotech and telecom market in India boomed its sales grew from Rs 30 lakh (Rs 3 million) in the first year to Rs 62 crore (Rs 620 million) last year.
This year, Base hopes to breach the Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) mark in terms of sales turnover by diversifying into the auto battery segment.
The maintenance-free batteries come with a 36-month warranty, of which service in the first 18 months is completely free, while in the next 18 months, customers will get a 30 per cent discount on the replacement of batteries. The maintenance-free batteries for a Maruti car will cost Rs 1,930, plus sales tax.
In contrast, conventional batteries from Panasonic come with a guarantee of only 12 months and will cost only marginally less at about Rs 1,740.
"We did sales of Rs 10 crore (Rs 100 million) from the auto battery segment this year. Those were purely from conventional batteries. With the launch of maintenance-free batteries, we expect sales to zoom up to Rs 60 crore (Rs 600 million) this year," says Girish Arora, managing director, Base Corporation/Terminal.
Base's ambitious sales target is only matched by its expansion plans. With the Golden Quadrilateral network of highways being rapidly built, Base wants to make its presence felt on these roads which will become critical to sales in the future.
Today, Base has 221 terminals and 8,000 sub-dealers throughout India. In two years, Arora wants to take this number to 15,000 by putting a Base outlet every 40 kilometers or so on the highways.
"There will be Base terminals where truck drivers or car owners can buy or change batteries while on the road," says Arora.
India's organised automobile battery market is estimated at Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion) and Base today has barely 3 per cent of it. This year, the market is expected to grow to Rs 660 crore (Rs 6.6 billion) and Base hopes to capture 9 per cent of this.
As Base grows its share, it is contemplating setting up a manufacturing plant in India for Panasonic car batteries by next year. Currently it imports all car batteries from Thailand.
But till then, Panasonic is planning to start production of auto batteries at its plant in Sri Lanka and then import them to India which will result in costs of the batteries coming down by over 10 per cent.
"As all batteries are imported, we must pay 51 percent import duty on them. But if we get the products from the Sri Lanka plant then the import duty charges will come down as Sri Lanka and India are part of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) network," explains Arora.
Base also is firming up its after sales service network. Every battery comes with a chassis number against which the details of the owner are registered. The entire information has been put online so that dealers in any part of India can bring up the information if they are presented with a battery sold by Base for servicing.
"So if a person is driving down from Chennai to Goa, he can get servicing for his battery anywhere between the two cities," says Arora.
Base is also looking to bring in other products from the Panasonic stable of batteries into the Indian market. In another two months, Base will launch the cellphone battery packs and the cordless batteries which will be available at a single point called the Base Terminal.
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