Insights
For us to be successful, the customer has to be successful first

Krishna Kumar reflects on the benefits of optimum over maximum solutions, competence as the heart of a healthy customer relationship, and how one can successfully establish such relationships in India over many years.

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Insights
For us to be successful, the customer has to be successful first

At Voith, competence is understood to mean offering the customer the optimum solution to meet its needs.

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At Voith, competence is understood to mean offering the customer the optimum solution to meet its needs.

For us to be successful, the customer has to be successful first

Let’s talk about a good customer relationship, what do you think constitutes a good one?
Krishna Kumar: When we are in constant dialog with our customers and not just because we want to sell something. Customers want to hear our opinion about what products they need, how they can optimize their processes and what trends are important for them. We have to understand for us to be successful, the customer has to be successful first.

But how do you do this day-to-day?
It is important to invest in customer relationships – and that applies to everyone, from technologists to sales staff. These contacts are important. I also try to make contact with as many different people at the customer as possible in as many different fields as possible, and not just with my direct contacts in management.

What is important at an informal level in India?
The most important informal and formal factor is being accessible. Whoever asks me or one of my staff a question gets a response. On a private level, birthdays, weddings and other festive occasions are extremely important in India. This is also reflected in the fact that we often congratulate the family members of our customers.

What are the differences in attitude between Indians and Germans?
The directness of Germans, which I really appreciate, can be quite problematic in India. For us, age, social status and hierarchies are extremely important. Even the very best expert cannot simply go up to the boss here and tell him how to do things, regardless of whether he’s objectively right or not. We respect the opinions of the people we talk to, agree with them politely and then make suggestions. The customer is always the one to make the decision. The more we try to convince them of our opinion, the more likely they are to insist on their own.

So how do you manage to win over a customer to your point of view?
The customer knows that we understand our business better than virtually anybody else. We need to live up to this reputation every day. Likewise, being a global player, it helps us to have a local face in India. We employ local employees at all levels who can pursue their careers with us, receive training and become important contacts for our customers locally. For me it is an important sign of respect, not only to have foreign experts available but to also make clear that we trust the competence of the locals.

This year, TNPL, one of India’s largest paper manufacturers, ordered its fourth paper machine from Voith. Could you explain the background to this decision?
This latest order is a great illustration of our philosophy. Tamilnadu told us what they wanted to do. We helped them find the right machine and size for this project. We then proposed a solution that was optimally tailored to their needs.

What does that mean exactly? What do you understand to be a tailored solution?
India is a very special market that is not as developed in many respects as the countries in Europe. For this reason it is critical that we listen very carefully to all of our customers to find the right solution out of our wide range of products for the respective needs of each individual paper manufacturer. In a market like India, our customers primarily demand mid-sized machines that are extremely reliable and comprise components that have stood the test of time. Our customers know that we can also produce machines that go to the very limit of what is technically feasible, but the question is, does this help our customer?

And, does it?
We have been the sole market player to offer a less sophisticated mid-sized paper machine that is exactly the right choice for our customer to meet the demand for board on their market. We invited the customer to inspect similar machines operated by other customers of ours in India and in Europe. Moreover, the customer also performed their own printing trials. After the customer weighed up all the offers made within the course of the rigorous global tender process, they chose us. With this new line, the annual production capacity of our customer is scheduled to grow by 50 percent.

R. Krishna Kumar heads the business of Voith Paper in India and is convinced that a constant dialog with customers is a crucial factor for a successful relationship.

Tamilnadu Newsprint and Papers (TNPL)

Tamilnadu Newsprint and Papers (TNPL) is one of India’s leading fiber and paper manufacturers. The company operates three paper machines from Voith Paper, the last of which was the PM 3 plant for producing printing paper and writing paper. The contract for a fourth machine for the production of coated board is currently being processed by Voith Paper.

Test run at the customer

37 % energy savings due to hydrodynamic improvement

Steinbeis Papier GmbH realized energy savings of 37% in a test run of its recycling paper operation after refitting with LEF technology. This long-standing customer of Voith confirms the effectiveness of Voith’s hydrodynamic improvement in the flotation subsystem for cleaning recycled paper. The test run of the LowEnergyFlotation system in 2012 saved time and enhanced the reputation of the product. “Such instances of cooperation necessitate the trust of the customer. They must feel confident that they are going to receive an attractive product from us,” says product manager Reinhard Bluhm. LEF technology is nowadays an integral component of plant refurbishments and new machines as it can lead to energy savings of up to 50%.