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Interview with: Hartmut Jenner, Win your brand before you build your brand

Winning innovation award

Historically, Karcher is well known for its pressure washer systems and making a mark in the floor care segment has been important to us. We got into the floor care segment as late as the 90s and we took time to develop this market. Today, we are an important player in this segment. This, of course is a big satisfaction after having invested and developed technologies.

Innovation continues to be the most important growth factor for Kärcher. After worldwide major innovations in 2008 in the field of hot-water pressure washers, the winning the innovation award for the step-on BD 50/40 RS scrubber drier in the floor care segment is unique. This fast, user friendly and manoeuvrable scrubber-drier is robust and has attachments for various applications like scrubbing, sweeping and vacuuming. The compact design makes it very agile so they clean right up to the edges of even irregularly shaped spaces. Available for the price of a walk behind, this machine has excellent suction capacity even as it turns. It is a sensational product! I cannot imagine that somebody does not need this product. And it’s just correct that we got this award.

Apart from BD 50/40 RS, we also launched other interesting machines, including Karcher T 10/1 Professional dry vacuum which provides sophisticated solutions for contract cleaners; Karcher BD 40/12 C Bp battery-powered scrubber-drier for cleaning small areas economically; and the Karcher hot water high pressure cleaner HDS 5/11 U, an entry level unit that can be taken almost everywhere.

What about marketing BD 50/40 RS in India?

Many sectors, especially the industries, are looking at faster productivity from smaller machines. The BD 50/40 RS can reach a lot of areas in industries that are congested and can easily reach places which are not so easily accessible.

India has been engaged in labour-intensive cleaning practices but the concept of cheap labour is slowly disappearing. Especially in Delhi or Mumbai, there are not enough people to even sweep and clean. Further, the minimum wages has shot up by more than 30% in Delhi with the Commonwealth Games in the offing. Definitely, people are going to be looking at mechanised cleaning solutions for faster productivity and better results.

Hence, one of the challenging tasks before the cleaning industry is the spread of awareness about mechanised cleaning equipment. Manmachine, distributor of Karcher in India, is holding seminars and customer training programmes, especially for building service contractors.

It is not just that people do not want good machines. Customers or end users have to understand that productivity is key in floor care and this machine is a revolution. Our punch line today is making machines for the operator and multi-functionality.

India Strategy

India is one of the most important and booming markets that Karcher will follow and we are in discussion with Manmachine to further develop this market together. In the next 12 months, we will come out with a common strategy for India.

Among the various segments developing fast in India, we are currently focusing on industries. More and more industrial hubs are coming up and there is a lot of potential for cleaning activities where the manufacturing is process-based. Meeting the appropriate levels of cleaning in these industries becomes essential in order to maintain the quality of the product, especially when it is meant for exports. Karcher is looking at providing customer-based cleaning solutions. The cleaning machine has to bind with the culture of the country it is being used in rather than the culture of the country it is manufactured in.

We are working on special single disc machine, for example entry-level scrubber-driers and sweepers that can suit the Indian market much better than the others. The products mix will cater to the present and future needs of the Indian end-users. The concept of Asian strategy will boost up India operations as one of the biggest in the near future.

We are also aware that if we want to be successful, we need an Asian product factory. Asia for us is not always China, it is also India. It is important to be present in a large market like India; not necessarily to manufacture everything but partially to meet the Indian demand. In the future, the chief costs will increase significantly and carrying products left to right from all over the world would be expensive.

What about car wash in India?

Two years ago, when I visited India, I saw high pressure cleaners when washing cars that waste much water and had less pressure. It’s then that we developed a special machine for the Indian market. The car wash segment has significant potential, especially in bigger cities like Mumbai. Karcher launched the pressure washer HD 7/17 for the Indian market last year which is suitable to Indian voltage conditions, uses less water, reduces cleaning time to less than half and saves energy. It was introduced to auto giants and in the last one year, we have got four manufacturers – Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Toyota and Carnation – to approve this machine as garage equipment. We are going to see the biggest market in the auto segment this year. Beside this, we also have automatic car wash installed in Mumbai.

While investing in products is important, so is investing equally in sales and services. After sales service is a must for Karcher products. For example, if you like to have your car washed and the equipment does not work at this place you will go to another site to let your car wash. Service is not service, it is what the customer expects for his product that is in use.

Karcher supports with good after sales training to the customers and the distributors alike. By virtue of having partnership for more than 10 years with Karcher, Manmachine has in-house trainers who have visited Germany many times for ‘Train the Trainer’programme and today are capable of training others.

The after sales service in India is challenging. Language and territory are issues with India being a large and diverse country. Sometimes the geographical locations also pose a very big challenge. Last year, Manmachine started the Happy Customer concept in India: A technician going out into the market for servicing have to get at least one Happy Customer every month to get his salary. There is also an incentive scheme for technicians who get written appreciation of our services on the customer letterhead.

Further, the challenge also lies in the huge range of Karcher products unlike other brands which have comparatively smaller range of machines. People’s expectations from Karcher machine are very high as we have presence in hotels, industries, auto, shopping malls… everywhere.

Public Service projects

Globally, Karcher focuses on sustainable business and has supported charitable, social and cultural installations in many countries as well as getting involved in environmental protection. Kärcher has made use of their own technology to contribute to the maintenance of valuable monuments. In the last 25 years Karcher has undertaken around 90 cleaning projects on historic monuments. In 1990 for example, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro underwent gentle, expert cleaning. In 1998 the company completed its largest facade cleaning project, the Colonnades on St. Peter’s Square in Rome. In 2002 our experts removed damaging layers of dirt from the Colossi of Memnon in Luxor, Upper Egypt, that are over 3,300 years old. In 2005, the company caused a stir by cleaning the US Presidents’ heads sculpted into Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. The Potemkin Stairs in Odessa were cleaned 2009 and the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart was cleaned of soiling that would have damaged the stonework in the same year.

There are three reasons as to why we take up cleaning projects – public relations, spreading awareness as people in many countries do not yet know what cleaning equipment can do and innovation as each of these cleaning projects requires specific cleaning.

We have recently taken up a project in Rotterdam at the Euromast Tower. High pressure jets with rope access are being used to clean up the monument which is similar to what we did at Seattle and at Mount Rushmore. National Theatre in Prague is a major project that will take at least three months. A major project in Tokyo is likely to begin in November and take around six weeks to complete.

But strategically, we are also looking at cleaning monuments in India. Even though we are booked for this year, may be we can clean the Taj Mahal one time!

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