Succeeding in India’s building market: three case studies
Entering a new market is not a one-step process – especially one as large as India. You need to assess, research, travel, network and educate the market – and it can take several years to get it right. To show the different ways to succeed in India, we take a look at three exhibitors at the WorldBuild India trade show in April 2017 – one company in their first year in the market, one with a bit more experience, and a third checking out the market as part of a national group.
1. One year in the market – Aurubis – Finland – Copper solutions
Image: Aurubis' copper solutions in the flesh at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Centre, Trondheim, Norway.
Aurubis is the largest copper company in Europe, and the world’s leading recycler of the metal, but India has been terra incognita for the brand – until last year.
Copper from Aurubis finds its way into a multitude of products, projects and materials, but a key focus for the Finnish company in India is its Architectural Solutions division – roofing, interior solutions, architectural facades and exterior materials, and any other way to use copper on and in a building project.
The Indian market is large and small at the same time – and both factors work in the brand’s favour.
On the country-wide scale, the construction story of India needs no retelling. Enormous housebuilding, commercial construction and industrial upgrades underway, both in the mass-market and premium sectors. But at the same time, copper is still a small sub-sector of the roofing market. The material is gradually gaining popularity among India’s building sector, and the number of high-end projects using the material in roofing is estimated at well under a hundred.
This meant Aurubis had something incredibly valuable – a niche in the market, with few competitors occupying it.
After extensive market research, Aurubis came to India in 2016 and found a trusted local partner, who they relied on to do much of the initial exploration or the market and network building. This groundwork uncovered strong interest in copper solutions for architecture, and the next step was the WorldBuild India exhibition in April 2017, where the brand met real estate developers, architects and other relevant professionals in the building sector – strengthening networks, promoting their work in India, and informing the market about the benefits copper can bring.
Working with a partner also gave Aurubis an easier introduction to the Indian specification chain, which can be considerably longer than in Europe – it can take up to 3 years to sell a project in the copper section.
What about the next step? The priority for the next couple of years is to build on the contacts made at WorldBuild India, as well as leveraging awareness from existing projects. Project timelines in India’s building sector can stretch over several years, so quick wins are not the main thing here. And, of course, education – both teaching India about why to use copper, and learning about how business works in the country.
Another vital part of Aurubis’ strategy is leveraging existing projects to gain new business. The brand is a regular participant in architecture and building competitions, as well as getting projects in to as much of the trade press as possible. With reputation so important in India, this goes a long way to establishing the brand as the copper partner of choice.
For the final word, here’s Samu Niska, Sales and Project Manager at Aurubis, who thinks the brand’s participation in India has been a key step on the path to building a strong business in India. “Taking part in WorldBuild India has been a worthwhile experience. As it is our first year exporting to India we have learnt a lot about the market and made some good contacts for future projects. The investment has been profitable for this exhibition.”
2. A few years on – Serge Ferrari – France – Roofing
Image: Serge Ferrari supplied roofing at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai, India.
India’s roofing market is also home to another European company, but this one has been around slightly longer. French brand Serge Ferrari creates high-performance building materials such as flexible composites, façade materials, solar protection, acoustic solutions and more, and they were at the WorldBuild India/Roof India exhibition to continue 8 years of activity in the Indian market.
Serge Ferrari are another brand that saw the potential to guide India’s market towards new roofing technologies. Specifiers and architects in the country have traditionally used tin roofs, but Serge Ferrari feel fabric roofs can beat the incumbent in every way – a longer lifespan, fully waterproof, aesthetically pleasing, and able to absorb direct sunlight to cut cooling bills for business owners. The rest of the brand’s product offering works well in India too, with fabrics for indoor walls, soundproofing materials and solar blinds also on offer for Indian buyers.
Getting established in India was a two-step process for Serge Ferrari. First, the brand established a network of distributors around the country to cover India’s enormous territory effectively. Then, once the brand was established and the project pipeline was flowing nicely, production moved to India itself, helping to cut lead times and strengthen the Serge Ferrari offering among India’s building and architectural community.
Now, eight years on, the brand is going from strength to strength with the Serge Ferrari brand a household name in the industry. The quality premium is a strong motivator for Serge Ferrari’s Indian customers, and the process of educating the market is progressing nicely. Geographically, Delhi and Mumbai are large markets for the company – but buyers from all over India were at the Serge Ferrari WorldBuild India/Roof India stand.
Over to Ruchir Ambaktar, Serge Ferrari’s West India Specification Manager: “We’ve had a good response from the industry at the exhibition. We’re seeing the head consultants, contractors, architects, fabricators from all over India. It’s been a successful exercise in brand awareness as well as generating leads.”
3. As part of a national group, fresh in the market – CzechTrade
Image: An example of products by CzechTrade client Magicrete Molds.
When entering a new market, a lot companies prefer the unity and strength of a national pavilion. The national export strategy is an effective weapon in a country’s trade arsenal, and the Czech Republic was one country using it to bring some of their brands to India’s lucrative market.
The Czech export promotion agency CzechTrade took part in WorldBuild India this year with three Czech brands, all looking to build a presence in India.
A pavilion offers a more simplified route to market; offering organisational support, local market expertise as well as cultural advice.
Quality – European and other international products have a strong reputation for quality and longevity in India’s building market, and companies that can base their promotion around this have a strong chance of success.
The companies at WorldBuild India with CzechTrade were there for two main reasons –finding distributors, and meeting good quality buyers. Distributors are again essential for international brands getting a foothold in the Indian market – the country is so big, the building sector so based on personal relationships, and the market so varied that doing it on your own is almost impossible.
The second part of the strategy is patience. The Czech companies at WorldBuild India know full well that participation is just the start – succeeding in the market takes several years of networking and business to keep the contracts coming.
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