Indranil Sinha is the director of exports for Whirlpool home appliances at Whirlpool South Asia which is based in New Delhi, India. He was in town to launch two Whirlpool brand showrooms that will showcase the entire range of premium products from every part of the world. He spoke with Terence Lee of THT Perspectives about their plans for Nepal. Excerpts:
Whirlpool has gained significant market share in India and in that context how do you see your presence in the global and regional market?Whirlpool Corporation is based in Michigan in the US and we are globally USD 18 billion company. We are present in about 100 countries with 60 manufacturing and research centres around the world. India is the largest market for us, but of course Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are also areas that I am responsible for.
The scenario in the developed world has been very difficult and it has been like that since the last two years. So the focus has definitely shifted to Asia because Whirlpool has a strong brand presence in South Asia. This region has witnessed up to 40 to 50 per cent growth in the investment that our parent company made and that has gone back not only into marketing but also new product development, et cetera.
What are your plans for Nepal?Nepal is a market that is of interest to us and we are a relatively well-known brand here. However, we were previously known as a refrigerator company and that needs to change. With the change, we believe we can achieve accelerated growth. Actually, we have a huge range of products from three-door refrigerators going up to 500 litres and various washing machines, microwaves, air-conditioners, et cetera. If you visit our two newly launched showrooms, you will get to see the entire range of products that are now available.We want to give Nepali consumers the latest in our range of products. The cooking appliance and the chimneys and other products are all European designs and we have also introduced the latest air-conditioners. People from Nepal, who have been exposed to global lifestyles, can now have these products and hopefully we will expand our product range and our brand presence in Nepal. We will also commit more resources for advertising and with all this, we hope to do well in Nepal and the Nepali consumers should also benefit with access to the latest technology.
How do you evaluate the potential of the market in Nepal?Nepal has over 20 million people and so it’s not a small country by any standards. However, my guess in the absence of figures is that the penetration of household appliance is still very low and even if there is penetration, people may be just using a few appliances like refrigerators. The market here for refrigerators itself barely touches 100,000 units a year. But this can become 300,000 in the next few years. I think from the growth perspective, Nepal is probably as good as India and even better in some categories. Washing machines are not
that common here and so it’s an interesting market for us. Secondly, Nepalis who have worked, lived or been abroad would have had exposure to the Whirlpool brand.
So when they come back, with our brand visibility, I think they will go for our products.
We continue to be very bullish about the Nepali market and there are also products that we feel will do very well here. Take our fusion series of refrigerators that are designed for countries that have long duration power cuts. These refrigerators can preserve food for 15 to 16 hours even with no electricity and that we are going to highlight in Nepal. In terms of attractiveness of this market, the fact is that we are still to exploit this market’s full potential much more.
How do you view the competition? What core competencies could give you the edge over them?I want to emphasise one fact and that is we would like to be seen as specialist in home appliance. Our competitors are more of electronics brands that have televisions, mobiles and laptops. While on one hand their visibility may be more, I’m not sure about focus. You can be sure that our research and development team focuses 100 per cent on household appliance and regarding appliances, our focus is truly on how to make the consumer’s life easier. We do not have a lot of flashing lights and displays, but we modify systems to cater to real life needs and save electricity. We have a full fledged team here that is studying consumers, visiting homes and interviewing housewives about how they are cooking et cetera. They come back with ideas and solutions to make the job simpler. We spend a lot on R&D to make things simpler for the consumer.
How competitive are you in terms of prices?In terms of pricing, today the perception is that we are slightly more expensive than the market. Now this in a way is good if consumers are willing to pay a little more for the quality of our products. Our pricing depends on production cost, transportation and our business partner’s margins. From a product point of view, with three factories in India and transportation not a problem, we are coming to an understanding with our partners here that we will have volume targets and so margins will be transparently shared. We should be able to price things very competitively.
How do you plan to enhance your brand presence? What do you expect to achieve?We can’t just say we will make ourselves more visible by spend-ing more advertising money here without being relevant. One way is to have the right products, which we will be getting from all over the world and second, creating the right retail environment. Previously we were doing this through multi-brand dealers but now we will have two showrooms where consumers can experience the entire Whirlpool range. We plan to have live demos on how to cook with our products or use our washing machines as well. At least one showroom will be made an experience centre so that consumers understand our products. Also, we will not neglect our distribution channels, especially outside Kathmandu which have to be well networked with the right product at the right place
and so distribution has to be strengthened. From both the mass and the premium segment, we will move ahead.
What market share does Whirlpool enjoy in Nepal? What kind of target are you setting for yourself?We have enjoyed growth of between 20 to 30 per cent for the last few years in Nepal and now with the introduction of our high-end premium range of products at the bare minimum, we expect to keep growing at 20 to 30 per cent and within three years double our turnover in Nepal.