Neeraj Bahl, Managing Director and CEO of BOSCH Household Appliances India, was recently in Nepal for the launch of the popular German brand BOSCH’s first home appliances showroom in IT Plaza, Kathmandu. Laxmi Group has been appointed as the authorised distributor of BOSCH products in Nepal. Tamish Giri of New Business Age sat down with Bahl to talk about BOSCH’s plans for Nepal. Excerpts:
What brought you to Nepal?
We were very keen to launch BOSCH in Nepal because I always felt Nepali people deserve a world-class product. Following the success of BOSCH in India, we thought of expanding our network to the SAARC region. So that is what has brought me here.
How has been your trip?
My trip in Nepal has been fantastic, right from staying at your best hotel, Dwarika’s, to Pashupatinath darshan in the morning, and now opening this brand shop. It has been quite an eventful day.
What are your future plans here?
We have launched our grand shop in Kathmandu. We have tied up with one of the biggest groups in Nepal - Laxmi Group. Since they understand the premium products well, we have decided to go ahead with them and they are our official partner for Nepal. Though we opened the store only recently, we have already reached out to 30-35 dealers to distribute our products. In the future, we will have, maybe, more than 200 stores across Nepal and various brand stores.
How do you observe the Nepali Market? What importance does it hold to your company?
I have seen Nepal as a very young market with the aspiration to grow. That’s the perfect timing to launch BOSCH. After COVID, people wanted to explore, they wanted to travel and buy beautiful products. So, that’s what we observed in India during the COVID pandemic. So, I think Nepal was calling us.
Every country is very important to us. I take care of SAARC countries from India. So, I think Nepal will be one of my most-preferred countries among SAARC countries.
How is Nepali different from your other markets?
It is too early for me to say this, but I don't think Nepal is very different from other markets because India and Nepal are very similar. I find that Bangladesh is quite different because of their eating habits and food. I find Nepal very similar to India. Nepal might not have this kind of premium products and appliances because, so far, there were only Indian companies or maybe Korean, Chinese or a few Japanese companies. Nepal didn’t have a German product before. German products are robust, they are very high in quality and they are very different from others in sturdiness. So, I think that was lacking in Nepal. Now, Nepali people have the chance and privilege to buy this kind of unique product.
What new BOSCH household appliances are you introducing in Nepal? How are these products different from the appliances already available in Nepal?
Everything is new for Nepal. But the most talked about product close to my heart would be our newly-launched 3-door refrigerator. We are the only company offering three-door refrigerators and we have this patent. You may have seen convertible refrigerators, but BOSCH has a flexi convertible. How you intend to use the middle compartment is completely up to you. If you have a party at home and you want an extra freezer, you will get extra 45 litres of freezer space by pressing a button for three seconds. Or if you go for a Sunday shopping for vegetables and you want more vegetable space, you press that button for three seconds and it will convert the middle compartment into a refrigerator. So the freezer remains the freezer and refrigerator will remain as it is in the middle compartment. This product is a super hit in India already and I think Nepal will also like this concept.
At BOSCH, we only go by the customer-centric setting. We call it UAX in our language which means consumer-centric setting. I will give you an example of our mixer grinder. It’s a 1,000-watt mixer grinder. Very few companies have a 1,000-watt mixer grinder. About 70% of our total sales come from this mixer grinder only. It has a unique stone-pounding technology. This shows BOSCH does not launch a product without researching what our consumers want. When we conducted research in South India, women there told us they didn’t like mixers. They said all mixers are the same and they grind the spices so fine that it becomes powder. We asked them what they wanted, they replied they wanted grandmother-style chores based spices from the mixer. We told them it is a difficult ask. But our engineers based in R&D Centre and consumer-centric setting in Bangalore did their research on 5,000 ladies before coming up with a blunt blade technology. We are the only company that has this technology. We give it optional with all our mixer grinders of 1,000 watts. They can simply change the blade and use blunt blades to grind spices so that it does not become powder. This way, the species will not lose their taste, aroma and smell.
The other example is the launch of a new cooktop. Our researchers reached around 10,000 families who said cleaning underneath the cooktop is a big challenge. Because it is difficult for users to lift it alone and wipe underneath the cooktop. Our engineers came up with a simple solution. They used flexi legs under the cooktop so that it can be lifted, tilted and cleaned. These consumer-centric settings and innovations make each of our products different. But what I completely believe is that the super hit product here in Nepal will be the 8 kg front door washing machine.
What major challenges do you think you will face in Nepal?
I don’t think we will face any challenge. The only challenge we might face is the shortage of products because Nepali law does not allow re-export to India. So, because of these lockdowns and delayed shipments of electronics products in the world, we can see some shortages. There may be some challenges in the initial stage as we are developing the service network, training the people here, and ensuring availability of spare parts. India is very nearby so the support can come within 48 hours. Therefore, the challenge might be the shortage.
What strategies are you implementing to be the number one brand in Nepal?
It's very simple. We will keep bringing innovative consumer-centric products. We will not be cheap as we do not believe in cutting the prices and selling cheap. We want to give the best product to the consumer because they are ready to pay in any country if the product is worth that price. So, we will focus on that premiumness.
What is your target for Nepal?
We have not kept any target. It’s too soon. We are not a turnover-crazy company. We want to first come and establish ourselves and then in the long run obviously we have to earn money. But we are not in any hurry. I want to open at least 50 stores by the end of this year.
How can individuals access your products? Where are your products available in Nepal?
We will do some advertisements. We recently had our advertisements in three leading newspapers. We will keep on doing the right kind of advertisement so that the brand awareness is there as people don't know about BOSCH products yet. However, people, who know BOSCH, will now buy our products. We will do the right kind of advertising.
Our products are currently available at IT Plaza, Kathmandu which is our main brand store. We have already selected a few dealers across Nepal.
What is your suggestion to the people who are looking to buy new home appliances?
My suggestion will be go for BOSCH, and world-class quality. Don’t run for price and don’t compromise with the feature and the premiumness.