interview:
'We deal in a niche segment and that niche is very wide, and pretty much covers almost all the equipment'
07 Dec 2014

“Every hotel requires a kitchen, but they may or may not require an in-house laundry. But should anyone want both, food and laundry solution, all under one roof, Electrolux can provide it,” TV Narasimhan, Interim Country Manager, Electrolux Professional India, says with a glint of pride.

Right from a vegetable peeler to modular cooking equipment to something as high-end as a Molteni, Electrolux Professional seeks to become one –stop solution for the industry for its kitchen and laundry solution.

“The question is when you have everything available under one roof, why go elsewhere?” TV asks rhetorically. Of course, being a part of the industry for over two decades now, he knows its ways and whims very well.

In an exclusive interview to India Hospitality Review, TV Narshiman, popularly known as TV among his industry peers, talks extensively about Electrolux Professional’s India operation, the road ahead, and challenges that the industry faces.

Here is an excerpt of the interview:

Q: How significant is Electrolux Professional in the over-all business of Electrolux in India?

TV: We are working as a team with major home appliances, but hospitality industry is our bread and butter.

Q: How do you pitch yourself when you reach out to your customers?

TV: I am going to sell what you want, and not what I want to sell. We are equipped to provide equipment relevant to the operator’s need.

We are a one stop solution for everything and across segment, from the five-star properties to the ones in Tier II and Tier III cities. We can give you options for all your needs at Electrolux itself.

Q. Why should a Kitchen Equipment Contractor choose Electrolux Professional?

TV: Unlike the US or China, Indian market is an emerging one. Many properties are coming up, and a number of them are international brands promising to give world-class services. In fact, operators are building properties to suit the demands in Tier-II and Tier-III cities. If there are 50,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline, the investment on food services is also going to be huge.

Here at Electrolux Professional, we invest a lot of time and effort in training our team who further trains our channel partners.

Not too many operators know how to properly operate the equipment they deal in.

Service is the key word in our industry. But, unfortunately, we have a lot of fly-by-night operators attracted by the opportunities here.

When operators abuse a machine which has involved such huge investment, service training is very important. If I can’t do it myself, I ensure that my channel partners can do it. My team imparts expert knowledge to our channel partners. Additionally, we also stock spare parts of our equipment so that we are prepared when you need us.

We have live kitchens to give our clients a demo before they make their purchases. Our chefs do R&D, share information and keep coming up with new recipes for our clients.  

Q: Electrolux Professional claims to be a one-stop solution for all kitchen and laundry requirements, but hotels still seem to believe in having multiple-players. Does it have to do with pricing?

TV: If the Food Service contractor sources all the equipment from one place, it makes pricing effective, saves on time and also makes after-sale service hassle-free.

But hotels are not doing it and that pricing or budget is an issue, is not true. In fact you will be saving so much by cutting down the cost incurred on transport freight, documentation and other such things.

In our industry, it is a matter of mindset. For ages now, in the food service industry, there is a set understanding that a particular equipment has to come from a particular manufacturer. While some hotel owners are ready to listen, others are reluctant to break away from the tradition.

Q: But, say for example, Quick Service Restaurants, who offer easy to dispatch standardized products, multiply stores very quickly. How do you meet the demand?

TV: QSR is a totally different ball game. We say, whittle it down to one stop solution. We don’t claim that we can do all the equipment, but we can do the most.

If my equipment meets the expectation of hotel owner, operator, consultant, then why shouldn’t they prefer it.

We deal in a niche segment and that niche is very wide, and pretty much covers almost all the equipment.

Q: What is your strategy for Indian market?

TV: Either you take a major share of the cake or you expand your workforce to co-relate with the business that’s coming in.

Big projects take years to be developed, that is our long term project. So we cater to small projects or projects in Tier-II and Tier-III cities, which are good to go in a year. Their motto is build it fast and make it operational. They are the ones who give us our running business.

 Then we have QSR, they have their own plans. The layout is standard, the equipment will be standardized. That’s what we are targeting.

We are trying a build a stronghold in the area of institutional catering where a Food service consultant is hired to design and make the kitchen operational. We are also looking at hospitals. Hospitals don’t swear by great food, rather they are committed to maintaining acceptable level of hygiene. Our laundry solution can take care of it.

We ask them to go for a judicious mix of imported and custom fabric equipment. While high end projects come to us, where efficiency and safety is important, and for other things owners can go for local manufacturers.

Q: Give us an insight into your expansion plans.

TV: Our strategy is pretty simple. We are geared up to meet whether it’s top end segment, or Tier II and III segment. Now having said that our hospitality industry is not only hotels, there are QSRs, cafes and other such things. In addition, we have institutional catering and we are geared to serve them and also banqueting.

The idea is to make sure to spread the word that we can take care of any demand in any segment. The idea is to pinpoint, target and decide and go after it.

Q: The number of branded hotels will increase manifolds in the next few years. How does the future look for Electrolux?

TV: I would like to see India become a region in itself. When we are growing so well, we have infrastructure in place, there are good branded hotels coming in, then why not the same standard reinforced in our market. I would like to see India rise to the level of becoming an independent territory by itself.

We would like to see Electrolux become synonymous to Food service solution. I have a good young team and the idea is to develop them.

The idea is to make sure that you give the first knock at my door whenever you require anything in food service.

Q: Things are moving towards smart technology. What is the food solution industry striving for?

TV: Of course balancing energy-efficiency and safety requirements is one thing. Going green is very important for us.

Electrolux is known for its clean and green technology. Quality is when you use less energy to give better output.

In terms of technology, irrespective of the kind of appliances you provide, human interference is always required.  The idea is to make sure that our equipment is user-friendly. So when we develop best of technology we make sure that it is easy to use also.

We have our patented Flower-flame technology which adapts with the pot. You don’t have to chase the flame anymore.

Then, we have Eco-flame. When you place the top on it, it automatically switches on, when you remove the pot, it switches off automatically. This innovative idea enables 60-65% efficiency on gas.

We also have an equipment which can perform three different functions. These are the kind of things we are trying to do at Electrolux.

You can direct the machine from your smart-phone and also feed the equipment and save a cooking technique. The equipment can do multi-phase cooking on its own according to the instruction fed by you.

We have evolved from electro-mechanical control to pre-set panel, and the chefs have adapted to these innovations. It is not difficult for operators to graduate from one technology to another. Either you follow set rules or you can be innovative and try your own recipe. You may fail once or twice, but when you have got it right, save it.

But what I would like to know is whether our culinary schools have the latest culinary equipment to teach.

Q: What are the problems that you face while manufacturing an equipment for Indian kitchen?

TV: The problems that we, as manufacturers, are dealing with are issues like voltage fluctuations, water hardness etc.

With frequent power cuts and subsequent fluctuations, the circuit board gets fried. The equipment will conk off if you don’t take care of it. So we have to make sure that we have in-built provisions.

For water-hardness we have equipment with in-built water-softness technology.

Safety, longevity and comfort of the chef is our prime concern. So we design our equipment in such a way that it can take care of itself.

We make sure that we provide state-of-art equipment to you. For example, when it comes to refrigeration, we go a step further. The refrigeration equipment for India, which is manufactured in our Thailand manufacturing plant is more advanced than their European counterparts. This was done taking the harsh conditions in India into consideration. It can sustain in the hot and humid climate of places like Kochi, Chennai, Kolkata.

Q: What are the challenges you face in India?

TV: Electrolux has got no problem in marketing itself, it’s a well-known brand. We are known for our services, when people need something, they come to us. The challenges are totally external and dependent on factors outside us. It affects us in a roundabout manner.

Projects get inordinately delayed, sometimes even shelved. It is an uphill task to have a smooth operation and there are barriers.

Between design and execution, the charm should not be lost. From inception to conception, something is lost because budget was not properly planned or what is exactly required wasn't properly evaluated which leads to compromises. This shouldn’t be so.

We do all our plannings and then we wait for external factors to fall in place and work in our favor.

A major challenge that the industry faces is in trying to educate the industry about having the right product at right price, and knowing not to compromise on equipment which should to be imported and what can be local.

We have invested in India, we have offices, in-stock spare parts, we have live kitchens to train chefs, fine tune your menu, have service guys so that you can serve your customers better.

Q: Is Electrolux India planning to have a manufacturing unit in India?

TV: Having a manufacturing unit in India is a long term plan. It will resolve some of the issues. We might look at it in the future. But there has been no discussion on this yet.

For now, we want to ensure that our presence in the market is much more reinforced and availability to everybody, irrespective of the location, for all segments and ensuring that service training is imparted to the clients through our channel partners.