‘India has vast talent, market potential’

The new Managing Director of Hettich India, Andre Eckholt, took charge in August 2022. In his career at the leading furniture fittings supplier, he has helmed projects, established factories, and played key roles in project management, production and profit centre operations. As Managing Director, he has had successful stints in Germany (Hettich Management Services) and the Czech Republic. He also heads the HePo Hub business of the company, comprising of 65 countries, including India, West Asia and Africa. Excerpts from a recent interview with Dhananjay Sardeshpande:

You have had an inspiring innings with Hettich, in engineering as well as in commercial and business leadership roles. What separates the company from its competitors/ peers across various markets?

In its 134 year history the Hettich Group has always been committed to add value to the economy, its people and the entire furniture industry. Hettich has evolved to be a one-stop destination for everything around furniture fittings, always with the target to be a solution factory for every space and in doing so becoming a success driver for our business partners.

Today, the Hettich brand stands not only for quality, innovation, reliability and closeness to customers, but for almost 8,000 people who are living the brand every day. Today we are seen as a lifestyle brand enabling consumers to enjoy day in and day out our magical interior solutions.

Our people-centric approach and the stamp of German engineering quality is what sets us apart. Our commitment to sustainability and putting it into action throughout our value chain also differentiates us from our peers.

How does Hettich rate India as a market? In what sectors do you see good potential over the next 5 years?

The importance of this market can be gauged from the fact that Hettich is committed to investing as much as Rs 700 crore in setting up our own factories in the country over the next 5 years.

The India market is still pretty much trade-driven. In parallel the modular kitchen segment and built in appliances is gaining more and more traction. It is also biased in favour of customisation and functionality in the products it chooses. However, the growth of the furniture industry in India holds huge promise.

But it is the kitchen sector that seems to be shining, with an expected high double digit year-on-year growth. Our new, sophisticated sliding door and drawer fittings are also among products that we will be focussing on in coming times. 

What are the advantages and challenges in India, in terms of ease of doing business and its commercial prospects?

The furniture manufacturing and interiors sectors in India is partially still led by unorganised carpenters and contractors. So it becomes a challenge to reach out to them for awareness, education and skilling.

On the plus side, India is a big market that is hungry for more – more opportunities, more challenges, more ventures! India stands on the cusp of becoming an economic powerhouse whose clout will spread far and wide.

However, we anticipate a few initiatives from the government in the upcoming years for the growth and support of the furniture industry. These include formalising the guidelines for the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturers of furniture and its parts; notification of the incentives on the export of furniture fittings as introduced in Finance Act 2022; subsidies to units set up in furniture parks or areas as notified by the government; and tax benefits or tax holidays to new furniture units, or those undertaking expansion.

These steps would facilitate the coherent growth of the industry and bring foreign technology to India along with huge employment opportunities. We believe that these would be pivotal steps to promote ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ missions, initiatives that have been visualised by the Prime Minister for making in India for the world.

You have successfully managed highly technical projects, such as setting up the Vadodara manufacturing plant in India in 2014. What are your key takeaways from that experience?

The Vadodara factory was a green-field project for Hettich. Apart from the construction of the physical infrastructure, we had to train engineers and plant operators in core technologies – wire and mesh cutting, bending, welding, electroplating, etc. We also had to establish the Hettich ethos and implement quality standards that apply to all our products worldwide.

That said, I must say that India has a vast reservoir of talented, trained and highly qualified engineers – including in the information technology sector. They are very motivated and hungry for new challenges and progress!

What are the professional and personal takeaways from your stints in vastly different socio-cultural milieus: Germany, the Czech Republic, West Asia, Africa and India?

I have worked in markets with GDPs as varied as US$ 1,200 to US$ 116,000. There are changes in people’s lifestyles and our product offerings focus on these variations in these markets. There is, of course, a multiplicity of cuisines, cultures and people in all my assignments; but I have enjoyed being a part of them!

In the light of the recent disruptions on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, how has sourcing and supply chain management changed?

As for any commercial venture, the disruptions exposed the chinks in extended supply chains. At Hettich we now focus on value addition and making the supply chain more resilient.

If you had one piece of advice for the stakeholders in the furniture and interiors sectors, what would it be?

Hettich is in the India market because of the huge potential for growth, not only in our business, but also in the ‘Make in India’ mission. With our factories in Vadodara (Gujarat) and Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Hettich is already doing that. We are also exporting to many other markets worldwide. We wish to partner with India in this direction, towards self-sufficiency and becoming a manufacturing and export hub, without compromising on the global Hettich quality and compliance standards.

What are your hobbies? What is your relaxation mantra?

I am basically a team player who loves the challenge and who loves to connect with people from any cultural background. I like to explore unknown territory and learn from my new environment to become better day by day. Sports and travelling helps me interact, compete and relax in several ways.



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