What does your company do?” is a question that still stumps Ashish Gaikwad after all these years. Honeywell Automation India Limited (HAIL) has been in India since the mid-1980s. It is a name that rings a bell in the minds of people, with not much clarity on what it does. In reality, it is a leader in the sphere of integrated automation and software solutions, making it an industrial IT company. “I just say we are a technology company,” says the soft-spoken Gaikwad, HAIL’s managing director, with a smile, giving the impression that it’s often too complicated to explain and even harder to understand.
In India, the company has a product portfolio in areas as diverse as environmental and combustion control, apart from providing engineering services in the field of automation and control to its global clients. Globally, Honeywell has been around for well over a century with revenue of $40 billion. Through its four business areas, it manufactures, among others, products for aircraft, which aids in predicting the weather, collision avoidance systems and even the famed black box. Apart from this, it provides the technology in making various fuels out of crude oil and even manufacturing a fibre that eventually goes into bullet-proof helmets or tough jeans and hand gloves for industrial workers.
HAIL’s growth story has been a steady one. For FY18, it registered revenue of Rs.26.98 billion compared to Rs.16.60 billion in CY12. Stock price performance, however, has far outrun revenue and profit growth (see: Runaway demand). Its growth is the result of getting not just more business from its traditional oil and refining segment but spreading its wings beyond that. It is a strategy that has worked well and the company now is readying itself to make the most of government-led initiatives to connect India, where it believes it has a huge role to play.
Much as Gaikwad underplays HAIL as just being a technology company, it helps many a large customer facing a challenge and in need of some serious levels of expertise. “HAIL was present when India really needed automation. That started off in the late 80s and early 90s,” he says.