Walton, an area household name, now wants the world to try its products

08 Aug 2020 11:24 AM
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It will take no less than a year from hereon for normalcy to return to businesses which may have been devastated during the past four months following novel coronavirus outbreak, said SM Ashraful Alam, managing director of Walton Hi-tech Industries.

A vaccine will be accessible by this year, he said, referring to anticipations of the World Health Organisation and a number of research organisations.

Meanwhile, people have previously started venturing out of their homes and in most cases going about their business so as soon as the vaccine sees the light of day the problem will become normal very fast, Alam told The Daily Star within an interview last week.

But all businesses won't fare the same in terms of recovery, said the very best brass of Walton, which manufactures a bunch of household electronic products including refrigerators, freezers, ac units (ACs) and compressors since early 2008.

"So our business will take more time compared with the meals business, whereas the business enterprise of luxury products will take the highest time to come back to normalcy that had prevailed before the arrival of the pathogen."

An economy would depend on a country's consumption level however the consumption of people was damaged for the pandemic. Consumption slumped not merely in Bangladesh however in the whole world.

So, the economic impact was massive, be it on investment, employment generation or international trade, he said.

Walton, that was founded in 1977, witnessed tremendous growth in its business performance before 2017-18 financial year, when natural calamities in the kind of flood hit hard, coinciding with plenty of investment that they had made that year.

"Our performance bounced back the next year thanks to the huge investments and extreme marketing."

In the 2018-19 financial year, Walton's earnings soared 89 % year-on-year to Tk 5,177.3 crore. The business's earnings per share stood at Tk 45.87 for the reason that period.

Walton's target was to improve its profit in the 2019-20 financial year riding on the additional advantages of the investment that was made the prior year.

With a paid-up capital of Tk 300 crore, Walton has already been along the way of raising Tk 100 crore in capital this season from the currency markets via an initial public offering.

"However, the pandemic had a major impact."

The primary sales season for refrigerators, the top-selling product of Walton, begins in March. This season, it was spoiled for the coronavirus.

Bangladesh's first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on 7 March and three weeks later the federal government put the country on shutdown until 30 May.

"Together with the domestic market, our export market was also smacked down by the contagion. We had geared to complete our shipments within October to November in order that we're able to grab the Christmas sales."

But all preparations have already been impacted.

The business had orders for 2.5 lakh refrigerators and 22,000 ACs from India. It only were able to dispatch 2,000 ACs, with the rest deferred.

"Now, we are dealing with the situation but nonetheless we fear a fall inside our profits and turnover by at least 30 %. Hope lies in the actual fact that the impact was not as bad as we had feared."

Fearing the worst in early March, Walton had stopped all new investments, procurement of recycleables and kept a huge amount of cash with banks to make certain that its employees get their salaries, Alam said.

Just before the general shutdown began on 26 March, Walton disbursed Tk 77 crore among its 20,000 employees in 22 production bases from the profit-sharing fund for the 2018-19 financial year.

"In this pandemic period, we want to provide some relief to persons and frontline health workers."

The company also started work on manufacturing various lifesaving medical equipment including ventilators, protective face shields, safety goggles, UV-C disinfectant system and medi-cart robot alongside hand sanitisers.

"We are yet to provide the ventilators available in the market but we will be ready to produce 100 ventilators when we get approval after completion of clinical trials."

Now, Walton can manufacture 8,000 international standard face shields and a lot more than 8,000 safety goggles a day. They can be purchased at home and abroad.

"We always make an effort to meet people's demands with new designs and modern technology, so if you visit a shop after 90 days you will surely discover a change atlanta divorce attorneys product of ours. This is a continuous procedure for ours."

Apart from these, Walton can be expanding its washer factory and the factory of some kitchen appliances like clothes iron, blender, induction and rice cookers, microwave oven and pieces along with base polyol chemical factory, which is found in the rigid and flexible foaming industry.

"We are extending the investments in the products as local demand is rising together with global demand. The neighborhood consumption of the products is still not so big but it keeps growing. So, there is huge potential," Alam said, adding that the consumption would rise along with urbanisation and growth of per capita income.

Alam also touched after the thorny subject of job and pay cuts amid the pandemic.

Many companies were cutting jobs during the pandemic, which was not a good decision because employees are assets, he said.

"When the situation will turn around, how do you want to find efficient people? Moreover, unless you the stand by position your employees in times of peril, you will not get the true dedication from your own employees when things are normal."

To ensure sufficient liquidity at hand as of this juncture, entrepreneurs need to take measures.

"But cutting jobs cannot be one such measure. They can halt capital investment at this time to manage liquidity."

He recommended persons diversify their products. For diversification there should be a target to realize specialisation; otherwise, it would not be possible to compete available in the market.

He said patience is of the essence to survive during such a crucial time. "If persons survive, profits should come again."

Walton started out its manufacturing journey as a motorcycle manufacturer but later pivoted to electronics.

Asked the reason behind the move, he said they stopped making conventional motorcycles as the major resources of the world's best engines were on their way to closing down.

Engine-run motorcycles are likely to turn obsolete globally, so Walton is shifting to battery-run engines. "However, our people are still keen on engine-run big motorcycles."

Walton has a plan to go for bulk production of battery-run electric motorcycles based on suitable policy support from the federal government.

It already has the production plants for batteries and motors of international standard, which are needed to produce electric vehicles, he said.

Giving an answer to another question, he said these were now concentrating on ensuring high quality, that these were using copper condensers in refrigerators.

Copper condensers boost the life span of the house appliance and make those more energy conserving.

"We produce our refrigerators with the idea of keeping those usable for twenty years."

Walton is producing compressors with technology developed in Germany and has an gross annual production capacity of 4 million. The business has geared to manufacture 10 million compressors annually within 2025.

"Our compressor may be the world's most silent, whose noise level is 28 decibels on the average, whereas, other global manufacturers' products have noise degrees of 35 to 42 decibels. As our product is new in the global arena, we tried to make sure good quality so that persons get amazed by the performance."

Walton exports its products to a lot more than 35 countries, including the US and Europe, and today it is working to expand the market to South and THE UNITED STATES, Russia and different Europe.

"We are targeting to export 1 million compressors by 2021, which is likely to increase to 5 million by 2025. We are marching forward to be the world's fifth top electronic products and parts manufacturer by 2030."

To meet up the ever-increasing demand for highly efficient, lightweight and cost-effective compressors, its research and development team is attempting to develop a new series of high COP (coefficient of performance) inverter compressor which will set a fresh standard of performance around the globe and will be introduced by the end of 2021.

"After we had some limitations in developing modern tools. But now, we've complete R&D facilities comprising experienced and skilled engineers from your home and abroad. So, our quality has developed massively within the last five years."

The company has a laboratory named NASDUT-UTS that maintains global standards and recognition for quality testing.

Its qualification covers at least 80 % of the countries for quality, safety, including of the environment, energy efficiency and many more.

"We had to invest at least a decade building up this infrastructure, which in other places is made by the state."

Alam recommended ensuring an even playing field for each and every industry, saying it's important for businesses to flourish, create enough jobs, reduce import costs and present a boost to economic prosperity.

"Though many timely initiatives of the government geared up the development of the local industries, there are more things to improve and policies to amend."

He highlighted that the import duty on some hi-tech products and elements were greater than the imported finished goods, a predicament which halts the progress of the local industry and, somewhat, discourages entrepreneurs.

Alam cited the exemplory case of Taiwan, where the authorities highly motivate industrialisation and create an even playing field for local producers.

The country comes with an authority that stays tuned to the needs of entrepreneurs and analyses which sector needs what policy support, that the country's exports is big in context to its population.

Taiwan's exports amounted to $329.3 billion in 2019 when their population is 2.36 crore, in line with the World Bank data.

Bangladesh has huge potential as business relations among the united states, China and India are deteriorating.

So, the government must provide suitable policy support now for industries to flourish and grab the chance, he added.