EB: What is the current business trend in electromechanical switches in India? What are the key application areas?
In India, about 70 per cent of the electromechanical market is captured by consumer, computer and appliances markets and 30 per cent by the professional market. This professional market, which is our main focus, has a growth rate of 6-8 per cent, and is driven by a broad variety of segments such as industrial, medical, military, transportation, automotive, infrastructures, railways, mining and telecom.
EB: How important is this sector for the electronics industry?
Traditionally, switches market is classified under passive components market, which consolidates products as different as resistors, connectors, diodes or switches.
The switches market can be split between the consumer/high volume applications usually addressed by commodity products and the professional/lower volume applications addressed by more robust or sophisticated products.
The professional segment is a niche market of strategic importance as a man machine interface (MMI) product. Our end customers are often the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The perception of their equipment by their own customers is highly linked to the design, the ergonomy of its MMI. This is why APEM offers such a wide range of products. Our vertical industrial integration makes it possible to modify or design a product according to the OEMs’ requirements.
EB: What is the potential of this sector (electromechanical) in India?
In India, our restrictive estimation of the professional switch market is $25 million.
EB: What kind of opportunities are there for you in the Indian market?
We promote two different brands in India—APEM and MEC. While APEM is the main brand covering the majority of our products, MEC is a specialised product line of very high quality, dust and water proof tact switches with aesthetic designs.
APEM and MEC were already selling in India in low volume without any active presence. As part of our expansion strategy, we are searching for new markets and for the last six months, we are present in India through our distributor Unified Electro Tech Ltd.
India is certainly a target market due to its wide consumer base and also because it is gaining ground as a powerful economic power. We are confident to do good business in India. The Indian market has changed with wide adoption of world class IT networks across verticals. The market continues to increase with need for more sophisticated, reliable and better quality products. We are recognised as a strong player in the global market for bringing out a host of high performance products. We are confident to make our footprint slowly but surely with good quality products and a sound channel strategy.
EB: What is your strategy for the Indian market?
Our brands APEM and MEC have excellent quality, superior design and performance. We want to have leverage on these advantages in the long run.
Having presence in 11 countries, we recognise the importance of local specifications and we have decided to appoint a local distributor, having wide network and excellent technical skills to focus on our core market segments. Our first step is to train our partner so that he understands the benefits of using APEM or MEC products and pass on the information to customers. This training will happen in India and in our manufacturing plants in Europe.
Meanwhile, Unified is pushing our brands in the market and identifying key target customers as well as leveraging our previous sales locally.
EB: How would you position APEM in a competitive Indian market?
APEM and MEC offer exceptional quality and value added products and services at competitive prices. We have the widest product range in our field, complying with many international norms and standards.
In the market segments that we address, customers expect excellent quality and reliable products, coupled with first class service. For specialised applications, the OEMs are willing to get supplies from leading manufacturers with a proven track record on quality.
MMI is a significant part in the assessment of the full equipment by the user and our customers do not wish to jeopardize the perception of their full equipment by compromising on the quality of MMI.
EB: How was the initial response for the APEM products in India?
When you start in a country, it usually takes a bit of time to know the country, the markets and the customers. So we did not keep any target this year. The initial response, however, is very enthusiastic and much quicker than we expected. We are very confident about our position in India as well as the ability of our distributor to seize market opportunities.
EB: What do you consider while selecting a distributor to sell your products?
Our products need specialised partners who can add value to offer a differentiating factor. In our distributor, we look for detailed technical expertise, excellent customer base, indepth market knowledge and long term commitment. Organisation is also important to us—it has to be professionally competent to quickly adapt to our business modalities. We also give importance to the technical staff, the reach they have and the strategies they apply. We give the responsibility to our distributor to promote our brand through the Web, magazines, exhibitions, etc.
EB: What are the key segments you are targeting?
We are targeting sectors like medical, industrial, security, military, communication, transportation and telecom.
EB: Do you have any plan to set up a manufacturing unit in India?
We are pragmatic and are growing every year. We don’t have manufacturing plans right now, but things may change and we may decide to manufacture in India in future because the country is fast becoming a manufacturing hub.
EB: What market share are you targeting to capture in the next five years?
It is too early to define an accurate target. We have a long term strategy based on close cooperation with our customers and creation of brand awareness. Our efforts are towards ‘designing’ the products by convincing the design engineers of the exceptional benefits of our products. Therefore, it will take two to three years before our afforts may bear fruits.