Business Today

Whirpool: War and peace

     Print Edition: Aug 5, 2012

Whirlpool President (Asia Pacific) Arvind Uppal tells Shamni Pande:

Ours is a war-time industry. We live by fighting for market share every morning. The battleground changed radically in early 2000 with the entry of many new Asian players, but we did not respond to the new war conditions swiftly enough. These were competitors we were unfamiliar with both here and globally.

Competition from new Asian rivals had pushed Whirlpool into the red
Boosted employee morale. Focused on strengths such as people and product innovation

I joined this company in early 2005 and realised that morale was low due to the losses being incurred. It is not uncommon in such situations to find people intent on doing good running at cross-purposes. That leads to counter productive situations - not unlike what is happening in our economy.

I realised that morale was the first thing that needed to be addressed. Get everyone on the same page and boost morale to create a winning team. My team needed to know that it was not wrong in its thinking, but the company had to pull together towards a common goal.

I had to weed out irrelevant distraction such as how many categories our competitors were operating in. I had to focus on our strengths: our people, who were excellent, and our ability to focus on product innovation.

We needed to operate almost like specialists, to offer a wide choice to consumers.

We continue to remain focused on home appliances and are a leading player in refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves and air conditioners.

Watch video We have entered the water solutions market and also offer high-end kitchen solutions. Our target consumer is the woman. She is an evolved shopper and we realise that money is made in the finer details of innovation.

The company, as everyone knows, has turned around and has the best profitability margins in the industry. I believe that you take only one degree turns in war situations as you need to minimise your exposure and risk. Larger turns can happen during peace-time operations.

 Stories of other companies that faced tough times and emerged stronger, told by the people who were in the thick of things.
 Nitin Paranjpe on HUL Himanshu Kapania on IDEA
 Mahendra Mohan Gupta on Jagran Prakashan Rakesh Jain and Sushil Agarwal on Aditya Birla Nuvo
 Sanjay Lalbhai on Arvind Mills Peter Mukerjea on Star India
 Sanjiv Goenka on CESC Bhavarlal H. Jain on Jain Irrigation Systems
 Govind Shrikhande on Shoppers Stop Sunil Pahilajani on Greaves Cotton
 Anu Aga on Thermax
 Sunil Duggal on Dabur India
 N. Srinivasan on India Cements Arvind Uppal on Whirlpool

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