During the last couple of years, there have been significant developments in the cleaning industry with leading equipment manufacturers strengthening their market positions and adding value to their brands.
In keeping with the strategic plan to double the performance during 2007-11, Denmark-based Nilfisk-Advance began independent operations in India last year, besides acquiring several companies in Europe and North America.
“India is a grown and different market but has not been fully developed. Unlike the advanced European market where most cleaning is done with machines, the Indian market remains labour-intensive,” says Martin. The Indian culture, mindset, and attitude make all the difference. “People assume that if the dirt is gone it must be clean. But the bacteria are still there and the dirt is mostly just moved from one corner to another.” This requires a change in the mindset, which is a slow but ongoing process.” In India, Nilfisk is looking at a steady growth as the market develops itself in years to come.
Besides the corporate sector, the large and impressive Indian industrial sector is looking at cleaning solutions. Hot water high-pressure cleaning is much in demand for removing oil, grease, and sediments as well as to clean bathrooms fast and efficient. The “clean factory = good factory” mindset is growing fast and companies are experiencing the positive effects from motivated and better performing work force as well as an improved professional image with their customers. There is more scope for direct sales in these areas – not only for the equipment manufactures but also for the cleaning contractors and facility management companies. Martin expects close corporation between Nilfisk-Advance and leading facility management companies in this field.
A major problem faced by cleaning contractors today is employee retention. Much of the time and effort that goes into training workers gets wasted when they are gone the next day. But there is a slow change in the attitude amongst workers. At the one hand, they realise that mechanised cleaning is a must but at the other hand, this means reducing the labour force. At the same time, mechanised cleaning is also a matter of pride. “It was a pleasure to see the operator’s face light up with pride, as I watched him running the scrubber-drier at the Mumbai airport the other day,” says Martin.
Eureka Forbes, which has been the largest distributor of Nilfisk products in India since 1995, is selling Nilfisk products to large key accounts and the government sector. “Our network of dealers will focus more on the Nilfisk-ALTO products and Viper products. The combination of these three brands means that Nilfisk-Advance is able to offer the largest product portfolio of any cleaning equipment.”
Nilfisk remains the key brand and it is known as one of the best products in the industry. The focus has always been on vacuum cleaners, sweepers, and scrubber driers for any type of commercial cleaning. Nilfisk also has a large portfolio of ride-on machines and street sweepers.
Nilfisk-ALTO offers one of the most extensive portfolios of professional high pressure washers and a range of top quality heavy duty wet & dry vacuum cleaners as well as a large range of floor care machines. The key markets are industry, pharma, healthcare, airports and automotive.
The Viper range is best known for its strong single disc polisher, a range of wet & dry vacuum cleaners, and a series of low priced scrubber driers, carpet extractors and more. Viper products are used across the industry and commercial cleaning sector.
“Today’s Facility Management companies and cleaning contractors demand high uptime and productivity. We need not promise that we can deliver on these expectations; we have already proven it through more than 100 years as a leader in the industry,” adds Martin.
Nilfisk-Advance has a number of factories in Asia, Europe and North America. All the products manufactured are consolidated in Denmark at a large distribution centre in Copenhagen. “This is the only way we can manage such large and complex production capacity while ensuring timely and accurate deliveries worldwide.”
At present Nilfisk-Advance has its own office in 41 countries and distributors in some 70 other countries. “Singapore is our central distribution centre for South East Asia. From here, we can deliver machines and spare parts in very short time to India and other Asian countries. Combined with our go-down in Mumbai we have a lean and efficient supply chain in place.”
India is following the same pattern as Europe and America did years back. The first products to enter the market were high-end quality products. Once the market started to develop, which is the stage India is at, many people looked towards cheap products to keep the initial investment down and maintain cash flow to support their operations. “This is typically not the lasting trend and we foresee that the market in India will slowly change to high-end quality products.” Why you may ask? Let’s face it, maybe some 99% of all cheap products are made in China and then sold under different names. Even highly respected companies are now buying from China and sell the products with their own brand name and machine colour. The products are cheap; quality and service ability is inconsistent and doubtful. The result is, at best, mediocre performance with frequent break down leading to extensive loses in time (which is often penalized), high repair cost, and reduced uptime over the life span of the product. When you compare the total cost of running the cheap products vs. the high-end quality products then it is clear which investment is the better – the high-end product. It is also worth noticing that brand awareness is growing in India and any contractor should consider the indirect benefit of carrying top brands rather than cheap brands.
Nilfisk-Advance did not want to lose out on the “budget” market but at the same time did not want to jeopardize its brand equity. “We had to strike a balance between our top quality products and a budget offering and we soon realized that the common strategy of buying from Chinese manufactures and just put your brand label on the side would not be the right approach.” After having looked into many possibilities, Nilfisk-Advance succeeded to acquire Viper Industries, which is a Chinese based manufacture of mechanical cleaning equipment targeted for the American market. “With Viper we are able to offer a cheaper product offering while maintaining a good standard of quality. The prices are not the lowest in the market but our customers will experience the obvious quality difference and we provide after sales service both from our own office in Mumbai and through our network of dealers.”
Battery operated scrubber driers are by far the most sold machines in Western countries and also in Singapore, while cable operated machines remain the most sold in developing countries such as India. This is not surprising since the cable operated machines are slightly cheaper and requires less maintenance. However, the battery operated machines yields much higher efficiency and you do not have to deal with the cord which frankly speaking is a big hassle for the operator and is a potential danger to any person passing by. We like to see the market adapt faster to the battery operated machines. Perhaps we can speed up the process if all the manufactures put more focus on these products.
Nilfisk is about to launch an updated version of its popular battery powered scrubber drier, the Nilfisk BA 531. “Knowing that the market is very price conscious we have decided to launch the BA 531 at a price point that will attract a lot of attention.”