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Interview with Electro Rent Asia's David Whitfield

May 24, 2019
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Electro Rent (formerly Livingston India) is a leader in the rental of test and measurement (T&M) equipment, serving telecom, semiconductor, automotive electronics and other key markets. The company, which has been associated with the Indian telecom industry for many years now, is helping stakeholders in expediting the installation and commissioning of new technology roll-outs. In an interview with tele.net, David Whitfield, chief executive officer, Electro Rent Asia, talks about the trends in the rental T&M market, and the company’s focus areas in India…

What are some of the emerging trends in the T&M space?

Our customers are increasingly becoming careful with cash. They now recognise that for their businesses and shareholders, it is much better to use rental equipment rather than buying new ones every three to four years. The life cycle of equipment is getting shorter, particularly in light of the evolving technology landscape. After 2G, 3G took centre stage but it was relatively short-lived, and then came 4G. It was not very long ago that the 10 GB Ethernet was considered very modern and fresh, but that is not the case any more. New technologies are emerging at a fast pace and thus the life of test equipment is getting shorter. Therefore, it makes more sense to opt for a rental or pay-per-use model.

From an Indian standpoint, our customers’ requirements are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Companies want to bring down the time to market for their products. They do not want to place an order for the equipment and then wait for weeks/months to get the delivery. They can easily and quickly get it on rent.

What are your key focus areas?

We have an inventory worth over a billion dollars, and are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year on growing and updating this inventory. In the past decade, we have grown in size, enhancing our reach across the world. Over the years, we have ensured that we are able cater to the needs of not just multinational firms but also emerging companies.

Currently, we have over 6,000 customers across 100 countries worldwide. We are the market leaders in the global rental T&M space. Going forward, our focus is to continue our growth momentum and expand further. Also, one has to look into the entire life cycle of T&M equipment; we provide our customers equipment-as-a-service. We are not just involved in test equipment any more; we are also delivering technology products. We provide equipment to the industrial sector as well as to heavy industries. T&M equipment is becoming more sophisticated and complex. We provide our customers with support services that enable them to optimise the equipment they have on rent.

Who are your key customers in India?

We have big semiconductor companies, telcos and distribution service companies as our clients. They have traditionally bought equipment but are now turning to the rental market as they switch to an opex model from a capex one.

How has the consolidation in the Indian telecom sector impacted your business?

Consolidation has been good for us, especially in terms of business opportunities. Indian users are driving tariffs down to very low levels, at a time when telcos are rolling out new technologies. While traditionally telcos have bought equipment, given the current scenario, they find the rental market more attractive. This is because they do not have to spend so much cash on which the return on investment kicks in after 5-10 years. Opting for rental equipment gives them flexibility.

According to you, how prepared is the Indian industry to launch 5G services?

Clearly, the industry seems to be extremely keen to roll out 5G services. Our customers in India are looking for support for 5G trial projects. In fact, globally, several companies are conducting 5G trials, and they are asking us for the latest-generation products, not just from the network operations’ point of view but from the development aspect as well. We see that their needs are fast changing and they are always looking for something new. As 5G comes in, companies would need to swap their existing equipment with new ones quickly, and in a cost-efficient manner. As a rental company, we can help them achieve these objectives.

Do you have a regulatory wish list?

We would like to see more government support by way of regulations. We are good at handling the complex import and export regulations. But processes in India are more complex in comparison with Europe. We would like to seek help on this side, as we have significant staff strength in India and are investing in the country in a big way.

 
 
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