For us to be
has to be
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
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
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
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 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
What does that mean exactly? What
do you understand to be a tailored
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.