RACA Journal had the opportunity to chat with managing director & general manager (Sub-Saharan Africa) of Johnson Controls International (JCI), Shiven Sukraj, to discuss what’s on the table for the company’s drive and growth in the region.
The appointment of Sukraj came into effect at the beginning of the year (2022) and encompasses a vast skillset of doing business locally and across the African continent. He has held several positions and at some of the country’s largest entities over his career to date. Additionally, he has a substantial knowledge base of industrial-type operations, business development, and ‘how to’ in Africa.
These specialist skills align to JCI’s current pathway of re-inventing the local brand and positioning the business to better serve their customers in the African market. “As a legal entity, operating in South Africa for example, businesses need to have the necessary ‘licenses to operate’– meaning meeting the certification requirements required by the country and various industries that are served or intended to be served by the business. Achieving these certifications is our immediate focus that we aim to conclude by the latest, in the third quarter of this year. A lot of energy is being directed towards this objective, because for our business to remain relevant and to access previously untapped market opportunities, obtaining the right credentials is a key enabler – these credentials don’t only include local certification requirements, but also international-level standards so that customers can reap the value of working with a multi-national company”, says Sukraj.
Once JCI has concluded this step, they will be positioned to expand their footprint and penetration into various other previously untapped markets and industries for the business across the Sub-Saharan continent.
According to Sukraj, what is also becoming increasingly important today is that businesses are adopting the treatment of the workspace as individual ecosystems – where one effectively and accurately manages elements like ventilation, cooling or heating, lighting, access control and building occupancy. This is where JCI is able to provide excellent solutions from its global portfolio perspective that will be rolled out locally. Here, their flagship software platform – OpenBlue – has the ability to integrate all of a customer’s different facility components together and deploy an effective strategy to manage these services based on occupant location and needs – as opposed to an inefficient workspace with a discrete, uncoordinated services approach. This means enabling facility operators or tenants to use energy more efficiently and at the same time enhancing the occupant health measures in the workspace.
“JCI has become far more active in the control space. The increased economic activity of populations on the continent has resulted in increased workspace demands, with a focus on adapted HVAC and industrial refrigeration (due to COVID requirements and the need for energy efficiency in operations). HVAC and refrigeration are further driven by increasing urbanisation, population growth and a rapidly-expanding digital economy that requires more data centres on the continent– all of which are predominantly reliant on cooling technology. JCI is privileged to count among our customer-base, some large clients across various sectors where their requirements in HVAC&R are quite demanding and involve precise temperature control. We certainly don’t take our customers’ business for granted and we are rather planning to provide more of our globally proven value adding solutions and services to our current customer base and in parallel, also to roll out to the rest of the sub-Saharan market” Sukraj adds.
To ensure that the business is aligned with customers’ needs, JCI (locally) has implemented agile and focussed lines of business that provide end-to-end products, solutions and services in the areas of HVAC, Controls, Fire, Security and Dx (which includes traditional air conditioning, mid-walls, VRF units, etc). Each of the business lines are fully empowered to drive the growth in the sub-Saharan market with dedicated resources for sales and execution.
With these business changes, JCI will be positioned to build the necessary skills, access untapped geographies, provide more value to its current customer base and expand into fast growing industries and large industries that they previously were unable to access. The next level of growth Sukraj advises means “shifting our centre of gravity”. Clients have many products and systems installed in their buildings – whether fire protection, access control, the HVAC systems, lighting, occupancy, space management, desk management, etc and JCI’s Open Blue platform integrates all of these into one user-friendly platform. Integration further doesn’t stop with the JCI solutions alone – integration of third-party devices or equipment is also possible.
“Considering our long-term objectives, and given our new structure and planning, we aim to be the premier supplier for all of the sectors we serve in South Africa and across the sub-Saharan region. We are fortunate to have within our portfolio the necessary products, solutions and services that customers locally need. We understand that customers in our region have unique requirements in the areas of access control, HVAC, fire protection & detection and building controls – both in terms of a correct solution and in terms of service support. To this end, the organisation and structure we have put in place is now equipped to match these customer needs with JCI’s vast portfolio, experience and people, and so deliver competitive, world class offerings to the local market. Globally, JCI is already seen as the leader when it comes to sustainable solutions across its product offerings and we aim to bring that same status to this region too. Locally, we already have a well established and respected brand perception in the market and will be certainly be addressing areas where we have faltered over the years. The local team is very experienced and excited about enhancing JCI’s penetration in the market. We look forward to engaging our current and potential customers and showcasing the value we can add to their businesses”, concludes Sukraj.