Business Head Of Projects & Business Development Rakesh Awasthi Speaks To GB About Company’s Long-Term Goals, Challenges
Market development, in addition to that of products and projects, is a major area of focus for Ozone Overseas’ Business Head of Projects & Business Development Mr Rakesh Awasthi as aiding consumers with end-to-end solutions is a responsibility which evolves constantly.
Tracking consumer trends and updating its portfolio and inventory systems accordingly, Ozone is now expanding its industrial clusters in Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, Mr Awasthi told GB during the interview. Excerpts from the conversation:
Q. Tell us about yourself and your journey in Ozone.
Over the last 11 years, I’ve been taking care of Projects & Business Development for Ozone Overseas across India. I currently serve as the Business Head. When my journey started in 2012, we were doing a mix of everything and I was responsible for heading projects.
At that time, Ozone broadly focused on the distribution market and the builder segment. That was when we decided to venture into hospitality, healthcare, corporate interiors, government projects, infrastructure and OEM. That is how the segmentation commenced.
Gradually from these, we moved into new product development lines such as acoustic movable partitioning systems, revolving doors, hotel locks, panic breakout automatic doors and others. We kept adding products to our portfolio and now Ozone products are presently available across the country.
Over these last 11 years, I’ve seen the industry go from product buying to becoming a solution-centric provider. People are not only looking for products today but holistic solutions and this is what we strive to accomplish here at Ozone Overseas.
Every day, month, and year is challenging and we strive to achieve more. Either we are working on new lines, testing new products, or looking at ways in which we can better our products and solutions for the customer.
To stay motivated, I believe one needs to be a self-starter and look out for and learn from challenging situations. Simplifying life for the customer is challenging but a step in the right direction and one that excites or motivates us as a team.
Striving to be more cost-effective and efficient and using technology to help develop quality products is what keeps us challenged, motivated and going.
Q. What are the major responsibilities handled by you at Ozone Overseas?
Projects and product development, along with market development. For me, market development is especially a major responsibility. How we penetrate, connect or build bridges with customers is important.
To simplify it, we have categorized it into multiple segments such as corporate interiors, hospitality, healthcare, infrastructure projects, and developers. This has strategically been done to address the needs of each segment better.
Now greater emphasis is laid on studying markets, customers, and their requirements. What is required by one segment may not be required by another. So in certain areas, the grade of the hardware has become very critical while in some others, the product lifespan should be guaranteed for 5 or 10 years. That has become a very crucial aspect.
So we need to understand each segment. I feel you need different teams to address different types of customers. This is important. How we create more value and aid the customer with end-to-end solutions is a major responsibility and one that’s constantly evolving.
With a portfolio of more than 5,000 SKUs, we need to be on top of trends. How is the market moving, what colours are customers looking for today — these are points we consistently check up on. That’s why we constantly track the movement of consumer trends, plan up inventory, and move in that direction. Over the last 10 years, we’ve been changing our portfolio and updating inventory systems accordingly.
That is one part of it. The second part is getting close to our customers.
This has been taken care of fairly acutely by developing a strategic layout of warehouses across India. We have warehouses in Gurugram, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. Due to this, the lead time for reaching any market in India is now less than two days.
Hence we are also expanding our Ozone Industrial Cluster 1 in Himachal Pradesh and working on Industrial Cluster 2 in the Ghiloth Industrial Area of Rajasthan. This helps in better managing fast-moving items. Being close to our customers assists in monitoring consumption easily.
We also ensure the local market requirements are placed near the warehouse. For instance, the Chennai warehouse broadly caters to all the southern markets. We try to cater to the western market from the Mumbai warehouse and the eastern market from the Kolkata warehouse.
We monitor these numbers, ensure guidelines are in place and try to optimize inventory.
Q. Tell us about the architecture hardware market overview and its growth prospects in India.
The architectural hardware market is evolving into an organized sector and this is a positive step forward. As the market is growing, consumers are looking for holistic solutions. Today, those wishing to do up their kitchen and wardrobe prefer a brand that offers end-to-end solutions. I’m happy to say we are the undisputed leader in the architectural hardware space.
We have segregated the market into several categories and are trying to maintain leadership. In certain areas we are at the top, certain categories we are working towards making our position stronger.
Q. Now Ozone products are available overseas. Tell us about your international market.
We have been eyeing the international markets since our inception. With our Industrial Cluster 2, where we are planning to invest close to Rs 200 crore, you will find it is fully automatic. Human involvement is very limited. This is to ensure product consistency for the international market.
As of now, we export to more than 45 countries and have an established distribution network with well-trained tech teams and state-of-the-art warehouses across the world.
Being a well-recognized brand making products in India and exporting to international markets, we have built trust in certain categories.
Today, our products are extremely popular in the Middle East and European markets, such as Germany, Italy, and the UK among others, as well as Canada and the USA. This is also true for nearby countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal.
As part of our long-term goals, we want to be the category leaders wherever we are and create a gap of 1:10 between us and our competitors.
We have a lot of trust in the India growth story and have invested in technology, people, etc. As of now, we are also consistently investing in manufacturing bases, and launching new verticals, so we are ahead of the competition and have the prime advantage.
Q. What are the most sacred aspects of the way you run the business?
How you reinvent daily and build trust between customers, dealers and the community matters. Nothing should be half-hearted. It is mandatory to stay relevant – keep an eye out for trends, understand technology, and upgrade.
Q. Tell us about your marketing campaigns.
As a brand, we try to build depth. We participate in exhibitions not just across India, but all over the globe. Even our packaging needs to convey the feeling of trust and build assurance with the customers. Post-COVID, we invested in TV campaigns that highlighted the role of Ozone’s products in simplifying life. We’ve collaborated with IPL, Disney+ Hotstar, and other OTT platforms as well, ensuring we create content that is suitable for every geographical terrain.
With our digital locks and kitchen and wardrobe campaigns, we’ve gone to a great deal of extent to cover this point. Connecting to different audiences is vital. So right from the dialect, to the look and feel, everything plays a part in ensuring our customers feel understood and connected.
Q. Recently, you received an investment worth Rs 250 crore. How will this impact your business?
As of now, we have plans to bolster our existing growth chart by expanding our manufacturing capacity, reinforcing brand presence, and exploring potential synergistic acquisitions. Our experience centres are crucial to our expansion plans as they help users experience an array of products. That’s why we’ve carefully curated these centres to allow consumers to see, touch and envision how Ozone products make a difference.
We are also currently focusing on building company-owned and company-built pan-India experience centres, so that architects and consumers can engage, build and even use these spaces to hold conferences. Creating a community for architects, designers, and other key community members is vital to us. We hope to have 8-10 large format centres across cities such as Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.
Q. What are the strategic partnerships you have with other companies?
Since we’ve been around for more than two decades, we have associations with vendors in China, Taiwan, Germany, the USA, and other countries across the globe. Based on trust, product quality, and delivery, our associations over the years have strengthened and grown.
Our recent partnership with Kubik has allowed us to penetrate deeper into the demountable partitioning systems segment. With ventures such as these, we aim to be the market leader across various categories and provide inclusive solutions for not just the Indian market but also the world.