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For over one-and-a-half centuries, the German-Austrian Werner & Mertz group has been a leading manufacturer in Europe’s cleaning industry. It distinguishes itself from competitors by making sustainability and environment-friendliness integral to every product it develops and markets. The company has entered the Indian cleaning market at a critical time in history.

Thomas Ulbricht, the new CEO of Werner & Mertz, Germany, spoke about the new approach and his plans for India with Mohana M, Editor-Clean India Journal. Excerpts

Thomas Ulbricht,The new CEO of Werner & Mertz, Germany

Q. How would you position the Werner & Mertz Professional range of products in the global market and in the Indian market?

A: Over the past several decades, Werner & Mertz Professional has gained a reputation internationally as a pioneer for cleaning concepts based on sustainability and circular economy. Our products are distinguished most of all by their high quality and the combination of efficient cleaning power with compliance to the strictest environmental standards. We thereby show that sustainability and cleaning performance are not mutually exclusive.

Sustainability is not a trend for us, but a company tradition we have maintained for many years. We follow the circular economy along the entire supply chain, from formulations and production processes to packaging. Our brand name products are manufactured only in our EMAS-certified factories in Mainz (Germany) and Hallein   (Austria) in compliance with the highest quality standards.

In keeping with the slogan “for a circular future”, our company and product concepts actively support the circular economy today. Especially at this time, sustainability is moving into focus and is becoming increasingly more relevant around the world.

Q. How does Werner & Mertz perceive India and what are its plans to establish itself in the Indian market? What will be most challenging?

A: Entry into the Indian market is an enormous opportunity for us. At the same time, it is also a great challenge as far as the size of the country and its infrastructure are concerned. We are eager to take on the challenges presented by the varied customer needs and requirements.

To establish ourselves in the Indian market, we want to use contacts to reliable partners who can promote our corporate philosophy for sustainability and the circular economy and represent our brand name products and service concept. In Abhi International of Mumbai, we have found a highly suitable partner that embodies our approach. We are looking forward to developing our ties.

Q. What kind of models has Werner & Mertz established in other countries? How different are these models from what is being strategized for India?

A: To date, Werner & Mertz Professional has used two different models:

  1. We look after customers and provide service locally with our own personnel, but deliver our products to customers via our distribution partners
  2. Our partners provide our customers with products and services.

Given the long distances and the size of the country, we will implement a new model for the Indian market. Abhi International will be our main wholesaler who maintains a network with our other local distributors and supplies them with our products. We will train Abhi International accordingly, so that they can provide our service at the highest quality level to our customers and distribution partners.

Q. Given the present market dynamics, it is definitely a challenge for most organisations to sustain. What is the advantage of entering India at such a time?

A: Yes, the corona crisis is dominating the entire global market. In the current situation, the subjects of cleaning and hygiene are attracting more attention than ever before. Beyond that, scientific studies show that crises of this scope increase society’s awareness of the need for sustainability and responsible interaction with people and the environment. For all these reasons we believe that now more than ever the time has come to pave the way for a circular future with innovative and efficient products. We see the entry into the Indian market as our chance to promote the idea of the circular economy by tapping our years of experience and providing our innovative products.

Q. How do you want to achieve that and what is your approach to support a circular future in the market?

A: For decades, we have been dealing with the subjects of integral sustainability and the circular economy, both of which are firmly anchored in our corporate philosophy. We put our ideas into practice every day, going beyond the boundaries of our own industry and getting everyone along the entire supply chain involved. We want to make a sustainable lifestyle achievable for a majority and, in the process, contribute to solutions for urgent environmental problems like the pollution of our oceans. With our open innovation approach, we strive to make our environmental innovations accessible to businesses beyond our own industry and to other market participants.

For example, with our Recyclate Initiative, we promote the recycling of materials from post-consumer waste collections in both B2B and B2C with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. To that end, we actively promote recyclable packaging made of 100% recyclates, which we use for our products. In this area, we were and still are the indisputable pioneer, for very often, the subject is treated half-heartedly because the high-quality recycled plastic we use is considerably more expensive.

The development of our products and packaging is based on the Cradle-to-Cradle® principle, which encourages the use of closed material cycles for formulations and packaging. Numerous awards, such as the C2C certificate and the EU Ecolabel show that we are heading in the right direction with our products (most of all, the brand green care Professional). They are safe for people and the environment, completely biologically degradable and yet strong in cleaning performance.

Q. What have been your successes as an individual in the cleaning industry?

A: Since April 2020, I have been the head of the Professional Division at Werner & Mertz. That’s certainly my greatest personal career achievement in this market.

In 2012, I began my career in the cleaning industry as Head of Finance at a competing company. One year later, the company established a joint venture in India, so I was regularly there and had the chance to learn about the Indian market and all its challenges. I became the managing director in 2017 and a short time later, took on responsibility for international sales.

I believe that this is possible only if you listen to your customer requirements carefully and always remain open to communication with and at all levels.

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