With more than 20 years of experience in the pump industry, George Rajkumar has been associated with Grundfos India since 2001. As of January 1, 2021 Rajkumar was named the Country President of Grundfos India. Over the course of time, he has held various positions in operations, customer support and supply chain in India, Singapore, South Africa and in South American countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Since 2013, he has been involved in formulating new strategies for expanding the company’s foot print in India, including setting up a green field manufacturing centre in Ahmedabad, India. In his recent role at Grundfos, George Rajkumar was the Director Operations Strategy for the Asia Pacific Region. Rajkumar holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from Bharathidasan University, India.
Grundfos is a global leader in advanced pump solutions and a trendsetter in water technology. Please tell us about your journey into the water sector so far.
We are a global water technology company committed to pioneering solutions to the world’s water and climate challenges and improving the quality of life for people. Pumps are our business. We are a pump company connecting with millions and millions of people every day, and we set the standard in terms of innovation, efficiency, reliability and sustainability.
Since 1945, when we started our business in Denmark, we have grown and are now represented by more than 100 companies in over 60 countries and in addition, our products are sold in many countries by local distributors.
In India, we started our operations in 1998. Currently, Grundfos India has more than 450 employees and works with more than 350 distributors and dealers with 8 branch offices and many more home offices across India. We also have two manufacturing centers in Chennai and Ahmedabad. Furthermore, Grundfos India takes care of sales operations in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives.
When we started our journey in India, Grundfos filled a vacuum in the market with the introduction of pressure boosting systems to achieve sufficient water flow for consumers. We also supplied uniquely developed 3-inch pumps for agricultural applications, which are capable of functioning at more than 8000 rpm, as opposed to the traditional pumps that run on 2900 rpm.
Grundfos also introduced the concept of lifecycle cost or cost of ownership for the first time in India and in the Indian pump industry. We encourage our customers to focus on energy efficiency and reliability of the product over the duration of its life, rather than just considering its initial cost. By creating this awareness about energy conservation and optimization through technology, we established our brand image in India. Today, we are well known as one of the top pump solution providers in the Indian market.
What has your journey been like in Grundfos India?
In early 2000s, I began my journey with Grundfos, where I was a part of the sales team, helping set up the sales operations in India. Back then, we did not have manufacturing and assembling centers in India, so we imported products amidst challenges like high duty barriers, and accordingly strategized our expansion into the Indian market. In 2004, Grundfos received clearance to set up a factory in India and Grundfos India’s first assembly center was established in Chennai.
I am extremely happy to have played a role in our expansion in Ahmedabad, when we established our facility in 2017. Logistically, the Ahmedabad facility covers distribution in the North and West of India for convenience as well as cutting down CO2 emissions, while the Chennai facility takes care of Southern and Eastern India.
For a few years, I have also worked in South America and South Africa in the Grundfos’ supply chain field. Before taking over as the Country President, I was the Strategy Director for Operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
What are the current practices for advanced pump solutions in Indian cities?
With metering and guidelines on groundwater extractions, organizations are setting up sewage treatment plants (STP) and effluent treatment plants (ETP), to ensure treatment and reuse of water. Industries are also adopting zero liquid discharge (ZLD) initiatives to reduce the wastage of water.
Moving on to commercial buildings and residential communities, it is good to know that STPs and ETPs are being implemented for recycling of water.
Within municipal water supply, water leakages are majorly caused due to excessive pressure. The combination of inefficient and older pumping units and process equipment, combined with outdated water management practices can result in higher operating costs and lower revenue, thereby negatively impacting the city’s water management. Through the right technology and the technical know-how, a pumping system can not only save space, energy and human intervention, it can also cut down the costs and in turn manage the water efficiently. For example, Grundfos Demand Driven Distribution (DDD), offers water distribution with critical point measurement and advanced flow adoption. This DDD system can be designed for an efficient water distribution network at the pumping station. In general, the controller in the distribution system should control the pumps based on the demand at the critical points. This can help reduce water leakages and conserve energy too. DDD can help reduce water leakages by 20% and energy consumption by 25%.
What would be the 3 most important issues in the Indian pumping industry in the coming years?
Unorganised pump market: The pumps market is largely an unorganized sector in India. While there are associations within the market like IPMA, these associations represent the issues in the pump market to the State Governments and Central Government. But if you see there are only about 350 pump brands registered under Bureau of Energy Efficiency in India[i]. For example, there is no law or regulation on the standard of basic pump efficiency. While there are regulations for agricultural pumps[ii], the other markets (Industry, Domestic, Wastewater management) don’t have a standard practise. If the government intervenes, organises the sector and helps in implementing a regimen of basic standard for the product, it can reduce the onus of problems within the pump market. This can help accelerate healthy competition within the market, pushing us to innovate more efficient solutions.
Duplication/counterfeit of premium products: Many a times, products developed with advanced engineering and backed by elaborate market research are duplicated illegally. As a global leader in the pumping industry, Grundfos has been facing product duplication issues in the market. Though these counterfeit pumps look like our products, their quality and efficiencies are nowhere close to ours. Through government policies this issue can be addressed by stricter laws and legislation, where the duplication of products can be penalized. Additionally, creating awareness within the customer puts the duty back on the consumer to be aware of the products that they buy and the need to understand the concept of product-life-cycle cost. It is important for a consumer to understand and calculate the cost of the product all through the product’s life cycle instead of just focusing on the initial investment.
Adoption of digital technology: There needs to be a push on the adoption of digital technology that can improve efficiency. Consumers can benefit through digitalization, as it not only improves the efficiency of their systems, but it can help give them better insights into how their systems are operating and can reduce costs and water and energy usage as well. Example, Grundfos has iSOLUTIONS and IE5 efficient motors that can easily reduce energy consumption, while also managing water efficiency in any given sector. There is an array of opportunities for the pumps industry to develop digitally intelligent solutions for recycling the available resources and to create a circular economy for water.
[i] PowerPoint Presentation (consultmcg.com)
[ii] Microsoft Word - ESD IPS Standards.doc (prayaspune.org)
What kind of actions are taken to control the counterfeit of products?
The actions depend on the legislation from country to country, and on how seriously they uphold Intellectual Property. There have been instances where we took counterfeit products to court and won cases. In India, we have also seen scenarios where our products as well as our marketing material and literature have been copied. It becomes difficult to curb it when our ideology is copied and not our products specifically. However, it is important to note that, while the duplicated products may look similar to ours, the efficiency and quality is nothing close to our products. For example, the stainless-steel used for our drinking water products withstands 760 hours of salt spray test. We invest greater time and money compared to our counterfeits to resist corrosion that can contaminate water. This is where efficiency and reliability of Grundfos products adds value to our customers over the counterfeits.
How has the response been among your industrial customers with regards to smart technologies?
Most solutions we provide are equipped with internet of things (IoT) features to enable better performance. Our iSOLUTIONS forms a fully connected network within the system and ensures mutual communication between our equipment. This is going to be the future of smart industries and we anticipate a great demand in digitally connected products. Our customers enjoy enhanced productivity of their pump systems as well as energy savings, thanks to our smart technology. Recently, we have equipped an industrial facility in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh with Grundfos iSOLUTIONS. This provided the customer with optimized automation in the industrial processes while conserving energy.[i]
What is the approach of Grundfos to contribute towards global sustainability?
Sustainability is in our DNA and is at the core of Grundfos’ principles, dictating how we do business. We implement principles of sustainability into our products and solutions, aligning with the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) 6 which aims to improve sanitation and access to clean water and SDG 13 on climate action. Going by our purpose statement, we are committed towards creating solutions to address the world’s water and climate challenges, thereby improving the quality of life for people across the globe.
At Grundfos, we have set our own goals of reducing water usage and emissions by 50% within 2025 as compared to 2018. We also aim to be a climate positive organization by the end of 2030. These are the main ambitions driving our sustainability initiatives.
Grundfos is also moving towards a circular economy, our products are designed to allow recycling and reuse. For example, most intelligent pumps use permanent magnets to run at high speed and are highly hazardous material to dispose. We have taken the initiative to collect our pumps from our customers after they reach their end of life period to ensure that it is recycled. We also provide consumers with the information to identify when a pump would reach its end-of-life period, so that the disposal can be done in a responsible manner.
Additionally, our Indian headquarters is extremely significant for us as it is the first commercial building in the country to receive LEED Gold certification. We continued to expand our facility, and in 2013, we converted our factory into a green factory. Persistent efforts to achieve highest levels of sustainability, encouraged us to apply for voluntary recertification of our building in 2013, when it was elevated to a Platinum rating. As of 2020, with the factory also receiving this rating, the entire premises was LEED Platinum rated.
We have also set up a 250-kWh solar power panel that produces about 287 MW energy, allowing us to reduce 242 tons of CO2 emission. About 24% of our power comes from green energy sources.
Today the major challenges are to reduce energy consumption and water usage. How do you tackle the energy and water challenges?
Energy: World Bank figures show around 200 million people in India still lack access to electricity. Given the tropical nature of the country, we should focus on the adoption of solar energy. Till date we have sold 50,000 solar pumps in the country. In 2020 alone Grundfos India supplied 7,156 solar-powered pump sets to Maharashtra Government. With these installations, more than 7,000 farms receive irrigation water which has saved 21,310 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Grundfos is also the first in India to move towards IE3 motor. On the National Motor Exchange Program, we have voluntarily adopted the IE3 motor in 2016-17 for energy efficiency. As of last year, we have upgraded to IE5 for building more energy efficient products.
Water: About 80% of India’s water resources is being used for agriculture purposes.[i] Even if 10% of water that is wasted during agricultural processes is conserved, the country can fill the gap between the water supply and demand much faster. Through solar irrigation, one can ensure that water is pumped basis the need, therefore avoiding water wastage. Additionally, deployment of smart sensors that can study moisture levels in soil and crop patterns can protect the field from being over watered. This also ensures that the groundwater extraction is limited.
Though the Indian Pumps market is fragmented and saturated with pump manufacturers, Grundfos has been positioned among the top five pump companies in the Indian market over these years. What was the approach then?
When we entered the Indian market, we made our mark in domestic water supply segment as well as the boosting segment.
Apart from being just a products supplier, we also positioned ourselves as solution providers, where we do not just offer products for utility, but assess and design pumping systems for optimal performance and energy conservation. This has enabled us to help our customers in solving their specific challenges. The technical superiority, reliability and efficiency of Grundfos’ products are difficult to match, therefore enabling Grundfos to create its own space in the market.
Furthermore, we also perform pump, energy and water audits, which helps us to check on critical parameters such as energy consumption, amount of water being pumped, water wastages among others.
Please tell us about the R&D at Grundfos?
At Grundfos, we believe that in order to be a solution provider, one must be an active developer of solutions. In the year 2020, Grundfos reinvested 4.5% of its global turnover for the research and development of products and solutions. Over the past decades, we have augmented R&D to improve the product performance, energy efficiency, and overall sustainability. We have several technology centers across the world, including an R&D site in India, where we continuously invest and develop on hydraulics, motors, digitalization, etc.
Could you talk about the current policies put in place by the government for the water sector?
With respect to water, the government is taking several initiatives to govern water efficiency. A great example for this is the Jal Shakthi Ministry, prior to which multiple ministries were involved in managing water. Today, the water sector is looked after by an autonomous Ministry that ensures water management is prioritized in the country. The recent “Catch the Rain” initiatives goes to show how dedicated the government is to conserve and promote rainwater harvesting.
The Jal Jeevan Mission is one of the best initiatives taken to ensure water accessibility, and has now expanded from catering the rural to the urban areas of the country. The program is also encouraging newer technology to penetrate the market and solve water related concerns in the country, further paving way for the development of sustainable solutions. For example, recently, Grundfos’ AQPure, has been shortlisted as one of the recommended innovative solutions by the Jal Jeevan Mission and Swachh Bharat Mission, as an innovative technology under the list of recommended technologies by the Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation’s innovation portal. AQPure is an ultrafiltration system that is capable of treating water and supplying clean drinking water even to remote locations.
There is scope for water treatment initiatives that can allow grey water treatment for reuse, therefore conserving water in India. Stronger policies for wastewater discharge and implementing a penalty system for irresponsible wastewater disposal can encourage industries and citizens to move towards recycling water. Most industries these days are mindful of their water usage and wastewater disposal, and are voluntarily adopting water treatment systems.
What are the current metering solutions used by Indian water utilities?
Smart metering has evolved to be the need of the hour which is driven by increasing measures toward water security and monitoring of Non-Revenue Water (NRW). The water meters logs-in daily consumption data and events such as leakage, tamper and reverse flow on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis. These metering systems play an important role in helping customers gain a realistic picture of their actual water consumption on a real-time basis. Using these smart meters, utilities providers exercise better control over water consumption patterns.
Today organizations are using ultrasonic meters for water metering. It is essential for water meters to be digitally connected to a network to help local bodies monitor the extraction of water. Through the combination of metering and data analytics, water can be managed better.
How do you see Grundfos positioned in the Indian market in the next few years? What kind of changes is the organization implementing?
From the start of the year, Grundfos has restructured its organization’s functioning. Earlier, we worked on a geographical-based structure that segregated the market into North, East, West and South. Currently, we have moved to a customer-centric structure that allows us to be closer to the customer and provide solutions to different customer segments. Grundfos is catering to the four main segments, that are Domestic Building Services, Commercial Building Services, Industry and Water Utility. An addition is the service solutions that supports the sales, which looks at proactively servicing products, conducting audits and customer services. Our approach is to be agile and resilient towards customers’ needs.
So far, we have been known as a trendsetter and market leader in India. Grundfos is also prominent for the energy efficient and sustainable solutions it provides in India. Moving ahead, we aim to achieve top-of-the-mind recall; when people think of pump and water solutions, it is Grundfos that they must turn to. Additionally, we do not aim at being the largest player, but we strive to be a significant player in the market. This stems from our commitment to provide impactful solutions that are focused on sustainability and fight climate changes. We will continue to support the government’s initiatives and be a forerunner in providing energy and water efficient solutions. It is a long way to go for us in terms of increasing the awareness of our energy and water conserving solutions among our consumer base.
What is the motivating factor for you?
I truly believe that change is constant in life. The recent organizational restructuring has provided me with an opportunity to lead Grundfos in India as Country President. This is a major motivating factor because of the trust placed by the company in me to lead them in such challenging times.