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Still bullish on India growth story: Rajiv Bhalla of Barco India

The display technology firm reckons that India's under-penetrated market for cinema screens and under-served market in healthcare provides huge opportunities for growth of the company

Rajiv Singh
Published: Jan 10, 2020 04:07:38 PM IST
Updated: Jan 10, 2020 05:25:06 PM IST

Still bullish on India growth story: Rajiv Bhalla of Barco IndiaRajiv Bhalla, managing director of Barco India
Image: Barco India
Display technology firm Barco India, a subsidiary of Belgium-based Barco NV, is betting big on the new year to drive growth. It says the massive headroom for growth in India is keeping the company optimistic. Rajiv Bhalla, managing director of Barco India, which operates in entertainment, enterprise and healthcare, points to the under penetration of cinema screens in the country compared to the global average, and also the dismal doctor-patient ratio in India as opposed to the WHO-prescribed 1:1000 limit. These, he believes, “Are huge growth opportunities for us,” he told Forbes India. Despite the macro-environmental challenges, he lets on, Barco is still bullish on the India growth story and the opportunities that it provides the company. Edited excerpts from an interview with Forbes India.

Q. How was the growth been last year?
Barco India has seen double-digit growth since 2016 and we are looking forward to maintaining the momentum this year. The slowdown in the country’s growth rate vis-à-vis last year can be attributed to the drop in spending by various government departments and large corporates. In recent years, we have steadily evolved from being a tech ‘specs’ vendor to a partner that delivers bright outcomes. We have a strong focus on R&D and innovation, and also plan to leverage digital technologies to create substantial value to complement our market-leading hardware solutions with the required software and services.

Barco caters to three major verticals—entertainment; enterprise & healthcare—and we expect to see continuous growth across these segments, especially given the under penetration in the Indian market. According to industry reports, India has one of the world’s lowest cinema screen penetrations at around six screens per million as against an ideal of 15 screens per million people. In the healthcare space, studies maintain that the doctor-patient ratio in India is lower than the WHO-prescribed limit of 1:1000, and given these statistics, these are huge growth opportunities for us, despite the macro-environmental challenges. Barco is still bullish on the India growth story and the opportunities that it provides us.

Q. What has been the biggest learning and mistake in 2019?
At Barco, we see every challenge as an opportunity and every slowdown as a trigger to course correct, sharpen our core competencies and relook our Go-To-Market strategies. In 2019, besides learning to “Think with the customer”, we realized that it is necessary to “Team up together” to win globally. There are multiple integrators that sell across continents and the customer now wants identical, if not better, levels of service and support and we aim to provide the same. We have also learnt that the customer is now looking for an outcome instead of only a product and is willing to pay a premium if their requirements are understood and met. Barco has learned that in today’s fast-paced, digital world, innovation and agility are more important than ever.

Q. Cinema constitutes 43 percent of your business. Can the OTT explosion impact it as people cut down on going to theatres? Do you think cinema can survive OTT onslaught?
Though OTT is repositioning the realm of media and video communications, if you look at it organically, each platform offers a different opportunity. While we see the OTT platforms pushing user-specific content for easy home viewing, cinema-going experience is something that cannot be replicated or replaced.

OTT platforms is strong competition but large multiplex chains continue to increase screens and offerings. Right from the time you enter the theatre’s lobby, you get an immersive experience—from the concessionaire to digital signage, to the movie experience itself, using Barco’s laser projectors.

Q. Have the Smart Cities project helped you scale your presence in India? What role do you see for healthcare in your expansion plans?
There is a huge potential for deployment of smart city technologies and applications in India. Barco’s innovative solutions, coupled with a proven global track-record of facilitating smart city projects ensure that we have a strong play in the domain. The portfolio includes large control room focused video walls, high-brightness displays, controllers, and software solutions that help in improving performance across various departments such as traffic management, security & surveillance, telecommunications, utilities and process control systems. By facilitating real-time information sharing between different stakeholders, we allow individuals, businesses and public enterprises identify and respond to incidents in the real-time and help build safe and smart cities.

Our current deployments include command and control centres that are the heart of any smart city. The centres enable authorities to keep track of smart facilities and take pro-active measures and informed decisions on the basis of the data and insights it provides. Some of our successful installations include the Andhra Pradesh Real-Time Governance (RTG) Centre, which is made up of a "command and control centre". It is the core of all operations, along with a ‘war room’ that is used during critical events or disaster management. Both these areas are equipped with Barco laser video walls. Then, there is UP Dial 100. The Lucknow centre is equipped with Barco’s advanced video wall consisting of 180 rear-projection LED cubes in multiple configurations. These ensure quicker and more accurate tracking as well as the resolution of issues including complaints, crimes and queries.

In the healthcare domain, India is facing an acute shortage of trained technicians. Diagnostics form a significant part of healthcare delivery and proper diagnostics require cutting-edge medical equipment. Barco’s clinical displays are globally renowned for their top-notch image quality and ensure that medical professionals have a solid platform to view clinical images and patient information accurately. Our network of medical imaging solutions currently guides 5,000 surgical procedures per day, and we are the leaders in the Digital Reporting Equipment segment with around 60 percent market share. While healthcare contributes about 9 percent to the overall revenue of Barco in India, we are looking at optimising our potential and increasing our penetration going ahead, as Barco has the capability of playing an important part in the space. Our intuitive workflow toolset is designed for enhanced visibility of subtle details, optimising the doctor’s focus during reading sessions and increasing the pace of work.

Q. How is the Indian market different from global markets? Where is India in your global scheme of things?
Barco India is one of the key emerging markets for Barco worldwide. Our journey in India started with a team of 50 in 1996 and today, we have a strong team of over 500 people working with us, which is about 15 percent of the Barco worldwide workforce. We have a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and a software development center at Noida, which is one of our larger manufacturing facilities outside of Belgium. We have seen double-digit growth in India in the last three years, and have devised an ‘in country, for country’ strategy to tap into opportunities in smart cities, entertainment solutions, and the burgeoning health-tech space in India.

There is a demand for quality products at competitive prices, and keeping this in mind, we have worked towards India-specific offerings, value definitions, market outreach, and price points. We plan to leverage our local manufacturing, R&D, design, development and commercial ability to build on local product management capabilities to address India-specific opportunities. We have also invested in local talent that is empowered to represent India’s market opportunities within the global Barco community. Our goal is to drive growth by creating more value for our customers in India. Building on decades of experience and expertise in imaging, we plan to keep investing generously in R&D in order to fuel the innovation pipeline and consolidate our market position in the country.

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