Ruediger: There is a market developing for steam cleaners and Karcher last year introduced a high powered steam and vacuum system for kitchens, hospitals and also for shopping malls. The costing may be high here but there are enough customers in India looking for solutions and want to be detergent free.
Markus: We figured out that market requirements are different in various regions. Earlier, we used to develop products for the bigger and advanced markets in Europe and America, where we could cover 50% of the market. In India, China or Brazil it would be just 10% forming the top segment.
If we want to cover 50% of the market segment in all countries, it means a different solution in India and in the US or even in Singapore. We have launched more and more products, though not for the entry level user segment. The focus of such machines is more on simplicity and reliability and not on too many gimmicks.
An innovation for the purpose of innovation might be nice, but what is the value addition?
– Markus Asch
Typically in India, the machines are used for longer duration compared to Europe and North America and are focused on ease of service. We are launching a vacuum cleaner wherein in 37 seconds a turbine can be changed. Turbines offer up to 400 hours and can be replaced by undoing just three bolts.
We have launched pressure washers with exactly the same focus because they are being used 18-20 hours a day in India. Looking into the future, we will also launch scrubber dryers with the same focus – very simple and adapting to the local requirement. In innovation, there is simplicity and ease of service.
Ruediger: We need a good distribution network and we already have 10 branch offices in India with trained sales people who can go in all major areas, explain new products and do demonstrations. The branches are also equipped with equipment which can be used to explain to the customers the performance of the machine as promised by the sales.
Besides demonstrations, we are also conducting seminars for our customers like we were doing along with Clean India Journal earlier. We have just finished a series of eight seminars held every two months where we introduce technologies. The next eight seminars will be on steam cleaners. We try to educate the customers and help them to understand the technologies and cleaning solutions that are available so that they can decide whether they want to spend money on them or not.
Markus: Two years ago, the Association – VDMA – started the training programme in India. The whole purpose of starting this programme is to raise the level of knowledge of technology and its benefits. So we are through training organizations, training cleaners to get to a higher level and to drive efficiency. We have been recognized within the Association as a shining star for imposing and introducing training programme and therefore, providing quality to assist cleaners.
Ruediger: We are also initiating to get recognized for this education from the National Skill Sport in India. This is in the process and by the end of this year, we hope that we will be recognized by the government and this will boost the programme even further.
Karcher India positioning in the global map
Markus: Products by itself will not bring about the difference. Right products with right solutions and as per the local requirement is what we provide internationally. India is big and quite different and that is why we are heavily investing in every region. While we have regionalised operations, sales and services, the quality, knowhow and technology has to be transported. One of the first tasks is to develop the region, develop the people and develop the competence step by step based on priorities.
Education process is very important in India as people don’t know what is available.
– Ruediger Schroeder
One side it is not like you spend a couple of lakhs you need the products but you also need the organization for it.
Filling this gap
Ruediger: In principle, the market dynamics in India are not very different from that of other markets. Since labour is easily available, the right ways of cleaning are not always followed. So it is a process we can only try with training, education and publications to educate people and make them understand what is right. It is a process and cannot happen overnight. But we see a lot of companies in the BSC sector, the bigger ones and also the middle level companies that are quite progressive in their approach. I am very optimistic that the standards of cleanliness and hygiene will grow very fast in India in the coming years. We will try to do our best to help the market.
Markus: We had a meeting and discussed the need to raise the awareness of cleaning in the market in totality.
You deserve the right for a clean toilet in the hospital and airport because you paid for it. A BSC cannot bring about the change and even if you speak to the customer of the BSC, they too would not be able to do anything. But if you ask the public, they will do it. If we raise the value of cleanliness in the public this will change the way our industry will go. And this is our plan. We try to do it now with many Associations in Europe; it’s a vision and a dream.
The question is, why is it that today companies invest in nice coffee machines because they want to treat their people right. But they reduce their cleaning schedule – five times or three times a week. This is because nobody first of all understands the value and sees what’s happening.
In India, in hospitals people are now starting to understand that hygienic places are required. But still there are hospitals where people have not understood the message as yet. It will come.
If you take the shopping malls, about 20% of them are of top class. They are clean. People have spent money on that because they know if it is not clean, they will not have the audience. Others will see that and follow. Cleaning is not an investment in India but a necessary evil and an expense.
Markus: For us India is a challenge on one side and a fantastic opportunity in the future. We know it takes investments in building the future and that’s what we are willing to commit than what we are doing presently. What we can state is that we have a clear commitment to India.
Ruediger: Karcher has a very clear vision for India. When I joined I was very convinced that it will be a lot fun to work for that company because they really see the potential of India and they also see the challenges; they are committed and are willing to invest to make India one of the key players in the future. If the development in India continues to grow hopefully 8-9% annually, we see a lot of growth and we want to do it right. We want to be the market leader in India. There is only one way India can go…