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Talking Point | November 2014

Symphony has well-established clientele in textile space

Established in 1988, Symphony leverages a unique and successful asset-light business model for its residential coolers in India and in-house lean manufacturing for its industrial coolers in Mexico to achieve sustainable and profitable growth.

Headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Symphony is a global company committed to develop sustainable and responsible products.

Every day millions of people across the globe use Symphony products for their everyday cooling needs.

Achal Bakeri, Chairman and Managing Director, Symphony Ltd, talks to the Editor of the Indian Textile Journal about the beginning of their company and their turning point in its fortune.

Excerpts...

ITJ Editor: Can you tell us about the beginning of Symphony and the turning point in its fortune.
Achal Bakeri (AB):
It was in 1987 when our family moved into our new home and we felt the need for desert coolers to beat the heat of Ahmedabad, where the temperature often soared beyond 48 degrees Celsius during summer. Housed as they were in tin boxes, these desert coolers made a lot of racket. They were not only noisy but also gathered rust and often leaked. The air coolers that we had installed in our new house were of very poor quality. I was irritated, but an interesting thought crossed my mind. Despite their bad quality, air coolers were still being lapped up in large numbers. I saw a huge business potential in superior quality air coolers and accidentally entered the segments.

At that time, I was just returned from the US after completing an MBA to join my father´s real-estate business. My first challenge (which was thrown at me by my father) was to design a noiseless air-cooler, which looked like an air-conditioner. I took the help of my peers from the National Institute of Design to design such an air-cooler. The product I had designed was a first of its kind - an air-cooler housed in a moulded plastic body, which resembled a window AC. Till then, air-coolers were notorious for creating a cacophony. The air cooler we designed created symphony. So, we named our product ´Symphony´ - a mechanism that just made a humming sound and was sleek. Not sure of the response we would get, we decided to go for a soft launch of the Symphony air-cooler in 1988.

Encouraged by the success of its air coolers, we started expanding its range and diversified into other consumer durables such as geysers, room heaters, exhaust fans, flour mills, washing machines and water purifiers, which were in fact counter products to its main product line. However, unlike the air-coolers, which had seen roaring success, these counter products spelt doom for the company.

Within eight years of the company´s decision to diversify into new products, Symphony´s net worth got drastically eroded as a result of spreading its capital investment too thin. Symphony got itself registered with the BIFR in 2002, as its net loss amounted to Rs 31 crore for the year ended 30 June 2002, on a total income of Rs 28 crore. It was really a nightmare. Some of my friends advised me to declare bankruptcy, others told me to join my father´s construction business, while some others suggested I should leave the country and settle in the US but, I decided to catch the bull by its horn. Basically, I had complete faith in my products. I was also confident about the future because the future belonged to eco-friendly, energy-saving air-coolers and not air-conditioners. We proposed a restructuring scheme to the BIFR and decided to exit from all products other than coolers and geysers. This decision paid off and, by 2007, we became debt-free and started making profits by 2008. Today, company´s market capitalisation stands at about Rs 4,600 crore.

Another thing that I consider as a milestone is<

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