Kamlesh Malkani, the Vice President of Steelcase (office furniture solutions provider) for Asia Pacific, was in Nepal for an official visit as part of his 29-day visit of South Asian countries. In an interview with Tamish Giri of New Business Age, Maklani discussed the company's plans for Nepal. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
What brought you to Nepal?
Nepal is an important part of our efforts to grow our business in the SAARC region. I have been touring the South Asia region this month. Kathmandu is my last stop. It has been a very interesting trip and I have had the opportunity to visit many parts of India and discover the potential for busi-ness in the country and the SAARC region as a whole. Although I am Indian, I was born and raised in Hong Kong, so this trip has allowed me to uncover and discover parts of India that I was previously unaware of. This experience has excited and motivated me to spend more time in the region to fully understand and tap into the true potential that India and the SAARC region has to offer.
Steelcase entered Nepal a year ago. How has the journey so far been?
Our journey over the past year has been very fast-paced. This new space was only set up a month ago, and as we get it up and running, we will continue to learn and gather feedback from users. A year ago, we entered the market on the back of our corporate customers. We now have a partner in Nepal. We want to go beyond just transactions and add value. As we continue to operate and gather feedback, we hope to better understand how we can do so.
What encouraged Steelcase to come to Nepal?
Steelcase was already present in Nepal before my arrival. My initiative is focused on growing our dealer distribution through the SAARC region. In addition to our partners in India, we also have partners in Bangladesh, Maldives, and Pakistan. We also have partners in Nepal. Our goal is to ex-pand and strengthen our network of dealers in these countries in order to better serve our custom-ers and meet their needs.
What made you choose the Golchha Group rather than another partner in Nepal?
We were searching for partnerships that aligned with our values, and we determined that the Golchha Group would be the best organisation to help us build and extend our brand in the Nepali mar-ket. We believe that this is the right opportunity for both parties to work together and raise the bar on many different initiatives that will benefit the work, the worker, and the workplace in Nepal. We are committed to collaborating with the Golchha Group to achieve our shared goals and make a positive impact in the market.
What category of your product is currently available in Nepal?
We want to allow the Nepali market to take advantage of our manufacturing facility in Pune, India. Every product that you see here is made in Pune. This will allow us to offer a wider range of prod-ucts in the future. As part of our global initiative called ‘Incredible India’, we are working on localis-ing more and more of our product portfolio out of India. One of our initiatives is subsiding and ac-celerating the performance product line which we will be starting right now to get localised. Next we have another product line, and third, we have already signed and are moving forward along.
How important is the Nepali market for Steelcase?
Nepal is a part of the SAARC region and is just as important as any other SAARC nation. We be-lieve in the economy and future potential of Nepal and are excited to engage with the market and furnish our research, knowledge, and best practices to support the development and growth of the modern workplace here. As we continue to localise more products, we are excited to offer our spe-cial initiatives and flavour to the market, helping architects, designers, engineers, and project man-agers to design spaces that reflect the local culture.
What are the USPs of your product?
Our USP is all around the performance of our products - the economics of our products, and the sustainability initiative of our products. For example, we recently upgraded our Personality Chair, which is manufactured in Pune, to the Personality Plus model. In the process, we were able to lo-calise more of the components used in the chair, making it more sustainable, locally sourced, and environmentally friendly. These are just a few of the many ways in which we strive to improve our products and make them more sustainable and beneficial to our customers.
What challenges do you see in Nepal?
Challenges are always opportunities in disguise. There are certainly challenges that we face, such as being unfamiliar with the government and legal system here. However, we have faith that through cooperation within the SAARC region, we can overcome these challenges. We have a lot of experience entering new markets, as we have been operating in India for 20 years. When we first entered the Indian market, it was very different from what it is today. Our evolution and growth in India give us confidence that the next phase of evolution and growth will be in the SAARC region and Nepal will support that.
Do you have any suggestions for costumes looking to buy a new product?
I would suggest customers to try our chairs for themselves. Everything about our chairs is based on the perception of performance. When you try our products, you will see how they support the way you work and how they can help you feel less tired while working. This may justify the premi-um that our chairs demand, but you will also see that the cost of ownership is quite low over time. For example, all of our products come with a 12-year warranty. So the cost of ownership is very affordable.
Where can Nepalis get your products here in Nepal?
Currently, our base is located at the Fusion Showroom in Maitighar. It is a standalone Steelcase work-life showroom in Nepal operated by our partner. We invite the market to come and engage. It is not meant to be a museum, but rather a place for people to come and try out our products. If you make an appointment, our partner will be happy to allow you to use the space for meetings and offsite events so that you can experience the products and reach your own conclusions about which ones you would like to use.