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Navigating the print procurement business in India - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

11 June 2017

Some businesses are dependent on procurement companies to provide everything including print, to fulfil their inventory requirements. HH Global is one such procurement partner to businesses for the last 25 years, and in India since the last six years.

“When we first opened in India, I was told that the biggest challenge to us was the sheer geographic scale necessary to offer a sophisticated marketing execution platform to our clients,” says Andrew Price the CEO of Asia Pacific and India at HH Global. It managed, and grew. This year it expects the India business to reach around USD 50-million.

In this Sunday Column, Price talks about how the company put together network of suppliers, how it has adapted to market needs, and its expectation to grow beyond USD 100-million in the next few years.

untitled-1 Andrew Price the CEO of Asia Pacific and India at HH Global

PrintWeek India (PWI): The international print management firm HH Global, USD 200m group, says it will more than double its spend in the Australian print industry. What are the HH Global numbers for India?
Andrew Price (AP): The Indian market for us is the fastest growing market in APAC and we believe it will continue to be so. This is because we are growing our market share with many new clients coming on board and utilising our range of services. In addition, the Indian print market is growing organically at around 9.3% approximately and we are enjoying this growth in our print business.

By the end of this year, we expect our Indian business to reach around USD$50 million with growth expectations beyond USD$100 million in the next few years.

PWI: HH Global has a significant presence in India with over 150+ suppliers. What is your best practice methodology to manage such a vast network?
AP: We run the HHUB proprietary software that is a vital platform to manage such a vast network of suppliers. This is coupled with our industry experts running the client services and strategic sourcing partnerships. The evolution of our supply partners is ongoing as our clients' demands increase in scope.

Later this year, we plan to release our SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) system for suppliers in the Indian market to enhance and build upon their business relationship with us and our clients. This system will allow our suppliers to trade with us within a 'world's best practice' environment, ensuring the highest level of corporate governance across the supply chain.

PWI: In the past few years, HH Global has single points of contact, and vendors present in 15 Indian states which cater to 23 Indian telecommunications geographical circles. How has this template worked for the India market?
AP: Our largest pan India client requires face-to-face account service in each circle with the marketing stakeholders. This is combined with the central HHUB system which controls procurement activities enabling us to deliver local circle service supported by the central system. The template works well, albeit with the constant evolution of the model to adapt to the local and national requirements.

PWI: What sort of overseas client wins and contract extensions has the Indian market seen?
AP: We are bound by confidentiality and can’t really talk about our global clients. Having said this, few of our largest global contracts in India are with four FMCG clients, a banking client and three technology companies.

We see opportunities in the ‘life sciences’ sector where we believe our high level of corporate governance will be a differentiator.

PWI: You view on brand expenditure on print in the Indian market? Especially, the price wars?
AP: The Indian market is no different to any other market in the world. The marketing budgets are becoming tighter each year, the businesses require increased ROI on any budget and more accountability of spend.

The HH Global Model understands this very well which is why our underlying business model is to deliver exactly that – increased efficiency in the marketing procurement process, reduced costs, less wastage, proper brand control, faster time to market, consolidation of spend, innovation, and creativity, store compliance. And all of this without compromising on risk and quality.

PWI: What has been your learning curve in India?
AP: When we first opened in India, I was told that the biggest challenge to us was the sheer geographic scale necessary to offer a sophisticated marketing execution platform to our clients. It took a lot of time to put together our network of suppliers and it remains one of our key management tasks to ensure we have the best supplier base available to our clients.

PWI: Has reinventing the business model (for outsourced procurement and creative production solutions) meant a lot of trial and error - and mistakes?
AP: Of course. In any new business model there is always trial and error and with the diverse range of clients having different requirements, we have learned that there is never a single solution as there may have been years ago. We have learned to adapt to our client’s needs quickly, scalable solutions to be fluid and flexible as clients dictate. Each time we move into a different market segment, be it, FMCG, finance, tech, telco, our services must adapt to the market needs. We have made some wrong calls in the past but have learned quickly. We aim to be innovative with our services and sometimes this carries risk, but a risk we are prepared to make to be the forefront of our sector. At the end of the day, we are all about our clients and ensuring we meet their needs.

PWI: Significant client wins in India - and the type of work the Indian ops is handling for 2017-18?
AP: We can’t discuss new contract wins; however, we have a lot more wins coming this year.

PWI: What kind of cost savings have you been able to pass on to the large multi-nationals while managing the challenges of their complex supply chains for printed marketing materials, packaging, and creative production?
AP: Cost savings can be measured in two ways - hard and soft. Depending on how a client prefers to measure savings will depend on the resulting figure. In some markets and clients, the cost down approach is the only approach (hard savings). In others, cost saving is not the only consideration as they require reduction of risk, stronger compliance, environmental standards improved, high creativity, process efficiencies, reduction of headcount (soft savings). It all depends on the commercial and operating model under client direction.

PWI: You operate in Hong Kong and oversee operations for the entire APAC region over and above India. What are the print/packaging trends from these territories?
AP: The trends that we see across APAC are generally similar to the global trends that our industry is going through. However, in the case of Singapore and Hong Kong, the pace at which they are digitising is the fastest, anywhere in the world. This I believe is because they are small countries with excellent broadband and virtually ‘drop out free’ 4G. This enables companies to utilise digital services far more efficiently. Working in those countries gives you a glimpse into the future of our industry and a clear idea of where to invest. It is because we understand these trends that we are now growing our CPS business bringing disruptive consolidation to a previously cottage type industry.

PWI: Print management has moved on in the past ten years, it's not the same industry. How so?
AP: Print management is an old term and does not clearly define our services; in fact, print management makes up only for 25% of our overall scope. This is why we now refer to our business as “marketing execution solutions”. Our services consist of helping our clients across all sectors within the marketing landscape.

As the industry evolves we are evolving with it hence we have been able to grow at such a rapid rate.

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