Ruediger Schroeder has taken over as President and CEO of Roots Multiclean Ltd recently. India and Roots are not new to him. “I have been visiting India well over 20 times for the last 17 years and I’ve been involved in the growth of Roots,” said Schroeder in a conversation with Editor-in-chief Mangala Chandran during the Clean India Show in Delhi.
We want to know more about your association with Roots
It might be still a little unusual for a person from Europe or the United States, where I lived before, to come to India and take a CEO position but I think India as an economy is growing very rapidly and it is getting a lot of attention from the world and people are curious to know what is going on here.
I have been working for over 25 years in the cleaning equipment industry, first in Europe for the Hako Group and then for the Hako subsidiary in the US for four years. The cleaning machine markets in Europe and the US are quite saturated whereas markets in Asia are growing. They are really attracting experienced professionals and that is the reason I came to India. I like the challenge of growing and expanding the business of Roots in the Indian market.
Established in 1994, Roots is the oldest company in the cleaning industry in India. I was there for the inauguration because at that time, I was responsible for the Indian market and I was leading the negotiation about the joint venture between the Hako Group and Roots Industries. So, over the last 17 years, I’ve followed the development of the Roots Group and I have seen how Roots has grown to be a leader in supplying a complete range of cleaning equipment to the Indian market.
One of the reasons behind the success of Roots is that the company has from the very beginning invested in developing its own marketing network. We currently have 12 branches across India with over 270 people working in sales and service in these branches. It is important to add here that we are not only sell our products, but also offer solutions and are maintaining the products for our customers. I think that is very important and also appreciated by the Indian customers.
What are the new products you are planning to bring into India, to manufacture and to market?
At the Clean India Show, we have launched a couple of new products which are designed by our R&D team and which are now going into production – a single disc machine and a complete range of walk-behind scrubber driers (cable operated). We have now a range from 35 to 60cm and I think that is where the majority of the Indian market is looking for at the moment.
We have more projects in the pipeline and in the next 12 months, Roots will launch a couple of new products which are especially designed for the Indian market place. I think a lot of importers have realised that the requirements of the Indian market is a little different from markets in Europe or the US. Roots products are designed for the Indian market – strong, simple and durable. You can still find the old E43, manufactured 10 years back, in the market place and customers are happy using them for many hours a day.
In terms of expanding the market, how are you going to approach the sectors which you have not already serviced?
I think there are mainly three growth sectors in the Indian cleaning market – one, the contractor market, then the hospitality industry and the third market is the government sector. We are developing in our sales organisation a special division for these customer groups and we will have special sales people targeting each group. I think it is also good for the customers because these sales people know their business, talk the same language and know about the special requirements of their customer group.
You have been visiting India for the last 20 years and have seen the Indian Cleaning Industry growing…
I think the cleaning industry took off 17 years ago very slowly. There were mainly joint venture companies and FDIs who were interested in mechanised cleaning equipment. Indian companies at that time hadn’t heard anything about cleaning equipment. The foreign owned companies had a clear vision about clean workplaces, so they asked around for cleaning machines. That is how I think Roots really started. The first customers were mainly joint ventures like Mico Bosch and others who by the way are still Roots customers.
With the opening of the Indian economy, more Indian owned companies were looking for increasing their exports. They were getting international visitors in and they had to do something to bring up the cleanliness of their factories and that is where we thought we could grow our business. The government did realise too that it had to do something and that besides manual cleaning, there were other means of maintaining hygiene and better cleaning standards. It was relatively a slow process. Over the last five years however, whenever I’ve come to India, I have seen changes all over. We see new airports being erected, shopping malls coming up; the requirement for cleanliness and cleaning equipment is really growing considerably because all these new big buildings need different cleaning solutions.
How do you ensure that the service providers use your equipment properly?In many of the airports and malls, we find the equipment are not really used as per the instructions given.
This is indeed a major issue faced by all suppliers of cleaning equipment in India. The level of education of the users is very low or non existent. We use our sales and service network to install every machine and give training to the operator. But if the operator changes every couple of weeks then providing free training is a little bit of a problem, because this is not included in the pricing. We offer free training to our customers, but if the operator changes too often then they have to pay for it. We are trying to cater to the customers through instruction videos and detailed manuals. And also if the customer is willing to get into a maintenance contract, then our service technicians visit the customer regularly, maintain the machine train the operator. Cleaning equipment usage is still a big issue for most companies and it will take some time until it will be as normal as in Europe or the US. Meanwhile, we have to keep educating people.
Twenty years back there were only a handful of companies. Today there is tough competition…
Yes, of course, we are feeling that a lot of foreign companies are trying to sell their products through local dealers. I think, our company has a big advantage in that. We have our own vast sales and service network so we can supply machines to national companies with offices all over India and we can do the service everywhere in India with our own well trained staff. Secondly, as a manufacturer of machines in India, we have a price advantage and we are utilising this definitely to our advantage. As we are doubling our production capabilities in the next months we are ready for a strong growth in the financial year with a very compatible comprehensive product line.