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“AIS has Pioneered Innovations in Glass with the Best ‘Green’ Parameters”
Vikram Khanna, Asahi India Glass Ltd.
Vikram Khanna talks about AIS Glass company, its growth and success stories, AIS’s various product categories, facilities and infrastructure, some of their major projects, market for glass in India, AIS’s contribution in bringing about the current revolution in the façade and the fenestration sector, main challenges faced by the glass industry, and the future of façade and fenestration industry in India. Excerpts from the interview with WFM.
Please tell us about your company AIS and yourself? How long you have been in this business and in the Indian market?
Asahi India Glass Ltd. (AIS) is India’s leading integrated glass solutions company and a dominant player both in the automotive and architectural glass segments. It commands over 70% share in the Indian passenger car glass market. Established in 1984, AIS’ footprint today spans the entire spectrum of the automotive and architectural glass value chains. AIS provides end-to-end solutions right from manufacturing of glass, processing, fabrication and installation services. We cater to customers in domestic and international markets. It is a sand-to-solutions organisation offering varied types of glass products & services for institutional buyers as well as retail customers.
I currently hold the position of COO – Consumer Glass, COO – Architectural Institutional Business, and CIO & CMO – AIS. During my tenure at AIS, I have always strived to enhance and further improve the company’s profile and standing in the market.
Tell us briefly about your journey with the company over the years?
I started my career with ITC Hotels in 1987. I joined the Indian army the same year and spent 8 years as an officer. I went on to do a full time MBA program and joined the corporate sector in 1996 as the Head of supply chain and held that position till 2003. I was appointed as Vice President Commercial with additional and direct charge of Sales & Marketing, a position that I held from 2003 to 2006, post which I was Director Commercial for AIS Automotive. As the sales and marketing head over six years I became the face of the company across OEM’s and led the company’s initiatives for exports and other product lines in glass including the mass transportation and white goods segments.
In 2009-10 I moved to a role to grow the automotive aftermarket business in distribution and retail as COO Auto Services. With my experience in the ERP implementation I was also appointed as the CIO for AIS the same year. In 2012-13 I was appointed as COO AIS Consumer Glass.
This was a new vertical that was carved out of the automotive and building glass verticals and included businesses that were front end focused and involved high performance glass products and high potential consumer brands for the future. The same year I appointed as the CMO of AIS with a view to drive marketing strategy and grow the AIS and sub brands of AIS.
Over the past 24 years, I got the opportunity to work in most businesses of AIS and that has given me a great all round experience and understanding of the automotive and building & construction markets and allowed me to contribute meaningfully to the growth of the company.
Tell us about your major success stories in India in the recent past?
From being a ‘single product, single customer’ company, AIS has grown to become an industry leader with 13 plants and sub-assembly units and an impressive clientele featuring a host of leading domestic and international companies. The company has maintained focus on developing an integrated value chain for automotive and building & construction markets. In the façade and fenestration segment, AIS delivers a consistent and high quality value proposition through its product and services, which are competitive and compelling.
AIS forayed into the doors and windows segment in the year 2011 under the brand name AIS VUE, which is now known as AIS Windows. The fact that the Indian market was rapidly moving towards uPVC windows presented AIS with a unique opportunity to add to its existing portfolio of glass products so as to offer a customer end-to-end solution from one source. AIS Windows now offers windows and door solutions in uPVC and aluminium and has thousands of satisfied customers today. We have recently commissioned a state-of-the-art windows facility in Faridabad and added the aluminium line of windows and door solutions.
In the end of 2017, we restarted our float plant in Taloja. It is currently the most advanced and updated float plant capable of producing flat glass for all high-quality sensitive applications like offline coating for buildings and automotive glazing.
We continue to build our coated glass business in both the trade and institutional segments.
We are leaders in the hard coat glass segment, and in soft coat we continue to build market share by winning and executing a range of projects with many of them being from the same clients.
In 2019 AIS has set up its 5th automotive glass plant – a new green field project in Gujarat, mainly to service the requirements of the Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) plant in Gujarat. The A5 project is a state-of-the-art automotive glass plant with the latest global technologies with the ability to manufacture all value added glass products for automotive glazing.
AIS has made an investment of Rs. 500 crores in this project over 2 phases. In the first phase the plant will have capacities to produce 1 million laminated and 1.2 million tempered glass sets per annum. The A5 plant will further strengthen our scale, flexibility and ability to seamlessly service our customers across India. This investment is in line with the make in India initiative launched by the Government of India. In 2018 AIS entered the fire resistant glass market with our product line called AIS Pyrobel and have been well received.
What are the product categories offered by AIS for the façade and fenestration?
AIS has a wide portfolio of glass products/solutions which are necessary for façades: High-performance glasses – A metallic coating is applied to one side of the glass in order to significantly increase the ability of the glass to reflect both the visible and infra-red (light and heat) range of the electromagnetic spectrum. High performance glass, also known as heat reflective glass, reduces heat gain and glare from the exterior and allows optimum visible light transmission to the interior.
It facilitates energy savings through reduction in interior solar heat gain and cost reduction in the cost of heating and cooling systems. It also improves occupants’ comfort as interior temperature variations are less and easier to control and it also reduces the air conditioning load of the buildings.
AIS offers a wide portfolio of high performance glasses. The hard coat range includes (with the superior CVD technology) AIS Opal which is available in 5 vibrant shades. The soft coat range Ecosense, the green standard in glass comes in five categories – Enhance (Solar Control), Exceed (Solar Control Low-E) and Essence (Low-E), Edge (Solar Control and Thermal insulation), Excel (Solar Control & Double Low-e) high-performance glasses.
Ideal for solar and thermal insulating parameters, Ecosense combines aesthetics with environmental sensibility and conforms to all International and National Green Standards, making it the natural choice as a green building solution.
AIS Windows offers end-to-end, professional fenestration solutions by integrating together the material of your choice – be it uPVC or aluminium with the required glass product to give a window system solution in terms of an energy efficient window/Security solution. AIS Windows gives customers a 360 degree solution, viz design consultation, glass & frame selection to installation and most importantly, post-installation support.
Throw some light on your company’s facilities and infrastructure?
AIS has a pan India presence with 13 plants including float and automotive and architectural processing plants and automotive sub assembly units. We also have a distribution and retail infrastructure of 46 depots and 90 plus stores respectively to service the trade and consumer segments. We have 8 offices across India.
How do you see the façade and fenestration industry evolving in India?
Due to its fragile nature, the use buildings was earlier restricted only to windows and other small installations. Due to the development of new construction techniques, value additions and processing being done on glass, this material is now strong and durable and hence considered a viable choice for more complex structural requirements. Glass is now being used for façades on an unprecedented scale to create remarkable designs and yield eco-savings. Use of glass in façades gives a building a sustainable new look and is easier to maintain. Glass Panel Façade systems offer versatile, high performance coverage, with a wide range of stylish design possibilities.
It is one material that is aesthetically pleasing, eco- friendly and economically viable. It is a smart, adaptable and versatile material, lending itself to endless possibilities both in terms of design, functionality and speed of construction, across exterior and interior applications. All in all, glass in the façade stands in a league of its own. The reason for this is simple to understand – glass speeds up the pace of construction, enhances the visual appeal of buildings, adds a touch of modernity and elegance, gives the building an enduring new look and helps the building gain recognition for its stylish and luxurious environment friendly ‘green’ architecture.
The Indian façade and fenestration industry has been accepted as an emerging industry looking at the advancement in its size, technology, etc. Given the green nature of glass, the advantage it brings in speed of construction and energy savings and the increasing desire of people to have work and residential spaces well lit and connected with the outside world, the glass and therefore the façade and fenestration industry will continue to grow and modernise. In line with the consolidation in the client- developer/builder segment, the façade and fenestration industry will also witness consolidation and emergency of some high quality pan India and regional level industry players.
The market will continue to organise through regulations that enforce technical and quality standards, standardisation, consolidation that drives scale and cost economies leading to the growth in glass façades and system windows.
What has been your organisation’s contribution in bringing about the current revolution in the façade and the fenestration sector?
The entry of AIS into the high performance soft coat market helped guide the market to sustainable use of glass by proposing solutions for façade glass based on the introduction of energy simulations, daylighting and glare studies thereby ensuring a more responsible and sustainable use of glass in façades. AIS is a long term partner with TERI for the promotion of sustainability by the use of the correct glass as required by the orientation of the building in both façade and window applications
AIS has pioneered innovations in glass processing technology to develop both single-glazed and double-glazed products with the best ‘green’ parameters. This is giving developers and architects a greater choice and the ability to explore possibilities. AIS continuously studies the Indian climatic condition to develop new products. It also focuses on improving existing products on different parameters. In the last few years, AIS has developed quite a few products in the high performance glass segment.
AIS is also at the forefront in the fenestration industry to lead the use of high performance glass in windows to ensure energy efficient, acoustic and security solutions in the retail market by educating clients of how one can deliver these solutions by integrating the right window system and glass.
AIS is actively supporting government bodies in shaping the codes and norms related to glass and glazing for buildings which constitute of codes like ECBC, NBC, GRIHA, etc. In addition to this, AIS is an active member for developing glass and related standards along with BIS.
Recently AIS has come together with TERI to initiate a window labeling program (A window rating program which considers key parameters for lighting, energy efficiency & quality of installation while rating a window), bringing energy efficiency in the residential and affordable housing and increasing the awareness level amongst the key stakeholders in the construction industry. This initiative will enable the overall construction industry to move to the next level, so that it bridges the gap between developed countries and Indian construction industry.
Please tell us briefly about a few of your iconic and innovative projects?
We have recently done few iconic projects in India namely, DLF Cyber Park (Gurgaon), Lodha Trump Tower (Mumbai), ITC Green Center (Bangalore), Delhi Police Head Quarters (New Delhi). We are also doing Lodha World View – which is one of the most premium residential projects in India. For DLF Cyberpark we developed a completely unique product as per the client’s brief and requirement – low e glass with high external reflection (~40%). We named this product as ‘Exceed Platina series’ under the brand name AIS Ecosense. For Trump Tower too, we developed a new product under our Solar Control range ‘Enhance Gold’, as the requirement was of glass in gold shade.
As per your view, how important is the role of right glass selection helping in achieving façade/fenestration system performance, optimum acoustic and thermal insulation as well as the desired aesthetics?
For any façade/fenestration system performance to be achieved the integration of the correct glass in terms of technical parameters and configuration is a must. Gone are the days when glass, used primarily in interiors, used to be a choice made by intuition. Today glass has started assuming a major role in the modern day buildings not only adding to its aesthetic value but also enhancing the performance of the building in terms of energy efficiency, safety, sound insulation and lot more.
Various analytical & scientific approaches have been developed in glass selection, which makes its choice as a glazing material, not only enriching but also beneficial. AIS has an in-house technical team who helps influencers and customers select the right glazing for their projects after examining various parameters like sun path, wind load analysis, etc for the project and area.
The major factors that one needs to consider before deciding on the type of glass are:
• Aesthetics: It is a combination of the product, location, design and architectural intent
• Energy Efficiency & Daylight: The glazing should help in achieving energy-efficiency and optimum day lighting.
The below given factors help in selecting the right glass:
o Visual Light Transmission o Internal Reflection o External Reflection o Solar Factor o Shading Co-efficient o U-Value
• Climate analysis: The climatic condition of the location is important to select the type of glazing as different weather conditions have a different impacts.
• Optimum orientation of building: Before selecting any glazing material, the study of building orientation is a must, if rightly oriented, we may get energy efficiency without using high-performance glass. (For Indian context, South West orientation is responsible for maximum heat gain)
• Shadow analysis: Shadow of the building as well as surroundings also impact heat ingress (direct & defused), hence changes the glazing requirement.
• Daylight analysis: Study of available lux level, window size and other passive design should be considered before defining the required VLT of a glass.
• Strength, safety & sound insulation:
o Strength – Use tempered, heat-strengthened or laminated glass o Safety – Use laminated glass; select the type of lamination according to safety requirement and safety norms o Sound insulation – Use a laminated glass with a special acoustic interlayer
How well aware do you think are architects and builders about the availability of the glass products, its functionality and categories?
Influencers and decision makers are reasonably well aware of the technicalities in glass, as also the value added glasses. However, more education and training is required for them to be able to select the right glass product for application in any unique context. This is an ongoing process that will continue to play out and build expertise in the market. All glass manufacturers have a stake and responsibility towards this. AIS for its part continues to do this through technical presentations and seminars at a company and industry level.
However, awareness about some specialised product lines like the use of fire resistant building materials, especially fire-resistant glass is very low in India. Users have limited knowledge about different types of fire-resistant glasses available and their suitability for different applications. There are different types of fire-resistant glasses available like E (Integrity), EW (Low radiation) & EI (Insulation), but users are not aware about the differences between them, benefits and applications.
What do you see as the main challenges faced by the glass industry?
India is at the forefront of the green building revolution through focused initiatives towards creation of effective green building material that address key parameters, such as the solar factor, heat gain, U-value, visual comfort, safety and sound insulation. With new types of glazing solutions – internal and external – spaces are becoming more efficient, even as new possibilities are getting unleashed in terms of design and aesthetics.
Some of the challenges are:
• The inherent climate of India is predominantly tropical and with its huge population it is a challenge to provide a solution for green architecture which covers site planning, water efficiency, energy conservation, along with bringing innovation and human comfort.
• The awareness level amongst the key stakeholders about the selection of right product to resolve the problems mentioned above is quite low, especially in Tier2 & Tier 3 cities.
• The codes such as ECBC, NBC which are being formulated by the government bodies are still guidelines, and not mandatory
• On the implementation side, for green buildings to be truly successful in India, it is imperative to establish a strong post construction monitoring system so that the buyers are not reluctant to pay a premium for green buildings due to unavailability of evidences for savings in operational costs.
Where do you see the façade and fenestration industry evolving over the next 5 years?
The architectural segment has witnessed a pickup in demand for commercial spaces. While the residential segment is still slow the first signs of some green shoots is visible. Amid evolving consumer aspirational needs, value added glass is fast picking up, gaining popularity in residential buildings too, apart from the retail and commercial spaces. The ongoing shift towards Green buildings shall only further push demand for high performance glass, opening up a huge opportunity for expansion in the architectural segment.
Given the green nature of glass, the advantage it brings in speed of construction and energy savings and the increasing desire of people to have work and residential spaces well lit and connected with the outside world, the glass and therefore the façade and fenestration industry will continue to grow and modernise.
In line with the consolidation in the client- developer/builder segment, the façade and fenestration industry will also witness consolidation and emergency of some high quality pan India and regional level industry players. The market will continue to organise through regulations that enforce technical and quality standards, standardisation, consolidation that drives scale and cost economies leading to the growth in glass façades and system windows.
Vikram Khanna, Asahi India Glass Ltd.
CIO & CMO
Vikram Khanna is a man of many facets, and in his time at AIS, he has made admirable use of his acumen to enhance and further embellish the company’s profile and standing in the market. He joined the Purchase department of AIS in the capacity of Material Head, in 1996 and held that position till 2003. He has worked in various roles and capabilities in AIS, including COO – Auto Services, COO – Consumer Glass, CIO, CMO and COO - Architectural Institutional Business. Over the past 24 years, Vikram Khanna has enhanced the value of every department he has been a part of, contributing to the overall growth of the company, and he is committed to carrying on in the same vein in the future.