A salesman should work with a customer as a consultant, as a partner

Puneet Aggarwal, managing director, DGM Automation India shares his journey from being a salesman to being a director of a company in an exclusive conversation with Rahul Kumar

15 Mar 2021 | By PrintWeek Team

Aggarwal: “Don’t teach rules and regulations to a customer, especially when he is in trouble “

I belong to a small town, Modinagar  in Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh.I completed my schooling from the same town. I was an above average student, but there was no one in the town to guide me enough about my future direction.

After 12th, I joined the Pusa Institute of Technology, Delhi to do a diploma in engineering and opted for electronics and communication. I got selected on my merit. After first semester when result came and I found myself as a top ranker, I realised that I was not made for it. I should have gone for higher studies, but did not have much options at that time. Also,I did not want to leave the institute without completing the course. So, I completed the course in 1999.As it was a diploma course, I completed my graduation from Delhi University in a correspondence course the next year.

Starting work
In 1999, the service industry was going through a bad phase and there were no jobs in the market. By fortune, my first job was in the graphic arts industry and that too, in sales. I started my career by selling densitometers, spectrophotometers and colour profiling software. In the beginning – while selling spectrophotometers – I did not even know the difference between red and magenta. But I spent years in the field, learned and made my mark in the industry.

In 2003, I joined Indo-European Machinery and started selling Manroland printing presses and Kolbus binding equipment. After selling machines for two years, I returned to the colour segment and joined Mumbai-based Advanced Graphic System (AGS) in 2005.

My journey with the packaging industry started in January 2007 when I joined Bobst India. In my more than a decade long stint with Bobst, I rose from being a regional manager to national sales head and was responsible for operations in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well.

Into packaging
During my stint in Bobst, friends and well-wishers always suggested that I should start my own business. It took me some time to decide whether I should stay on with the packaging giant or start on my own.
Soon, I realised that for growth I will have to choose my own path; I will have to sit on the other side of the table. In any job, you are evaluated based on your performance but promotion is based on the budget authorised by the top management to local management. But in business you get to make your own decisions all the time.

I decided to enter into the corrugation equipment selling business around  September 2018. I started with corrugation because in mono carton, most of the global brands were already available in the Indian market either directly or with local agent.

During my month-long survey after leaving Bobst, I found that the corrugation industry is growing well, but the time to convert an enquiry into a deal is too long and expensive. I started wondering if I would be able to make a living with this business. After all, I was a new player in the corrugation industry. I did not have the same recognition and direct entry here as I had in the folding cartons segment.

I was in a dilemma. I did not want to waste two decades of experience in folding cartons where people trust and believe me. At the same time, I did not want to leave the corrugation industry either.

So, I thoughtI should settle for a product which could be sellable in both folding cartons and corrugation industry. Flatbed die-cutter and folder-gluers were the products needed in both the segments.

In search of a reliable and affordable partner, I visited China and spent 15 days in the country with visits to 10 manufacturers. I realised that most of the Chinese manufacturers wanted to export and cover the Indian market without any proper strategy.

Finding DGM
I visited multiple manufacturers, and found that DGM’s product was a benchmark in China, especially for die-cutter and folder-gluer. I visited the DGM headquarters in Huizhou City. During business discussions, DGM management refused to appoint me as their India agent. I was surprised. Who did they want if not a person with more than two decades of experience, especially with more than 12 years in packaging?

Management had immediately realised my reaction and told me that while the Indian market is growing, the company was not been able to get the desired market share from India and they accepted the fact that there was a need for a proper representation of DGM brand in India. DGM products were popular in other parts of the world with the installation of 7,000+ machines. So, the company finally decided to enter the Indian market directly with a local subsidiary and manufacturing unit. I liked the thought process; the management had a direction to go.

The management told me, “We know what we have to do but don’t know how to cover the Indian market, as it is a very different market. We are looking for a senior person who can guide and help us settle down. So, we would like to invite you to join us as our India head.”

But I wanted to start on my own and I communicated that to them.  The DGM management then offered me a business proposition of representing DGM in India, along with my own venture. We agreed on a techno-commercial agreement. Thus, DGM India started in October 2018.

Starting DGM
Haridwar-based Omega Print-O-Pack was the first customer for DGM India. In February 2019, during PrintPack India, the industry responded positively with a number of business deals. It motivated DGM China, and by the end of December 2019, the management started the process of setting up a factory in India.

The DGM management came to India and we worked on a complete plan to start the assembly of new machines by April 2020 in the Indian factory. But due to the pandemic, we had to hold the plans. We have now established a factory as well as a demo centre in India.

In our facility in Noida, we stock machines and provide demo of die-cutter and folder-gluer or test our machines with the customers jobs. A customer can, if he desires, opt for direct invoice in USD to avail benefits of deferred letter of credit (LC) or Export Promotion Capital Goods (EPCG).

Now, we are waiting for the international borders to open and start our manufacturing unit in India. The DGM’s factory in India will be one of the export hubs for the world.  Right now, we have five machines in our stock including folder-gluers and die-cutters in our demo centre.

In a short span of two years, DGM
India has installed 45 folder-gluers and 10 die-cutting machines in India. The total number of installed DGM equipment in India now stands at around 80; 25 of those were sold and installed before the formation of DGM India. The number was 19 to 20 machines in the last calendar year and DGM India had imported close to 50 containers.

Learning in sales
From my experience, I have learned that personally and professionally a salesman should work with a customer as a consultant, as a partner. One should not just concentrate on selling your product but concentrate on the pain-points of the customer. Help the customer overcome the problem, help the customer grow and be a part of that growth. When you become a part of a customer’s growth, you will automatically build your business.

Another big learning is, don’t teach rules and regulations to a customer, especially when he is in trouble. You should first help him recover, and then only share the process with him. Gyan doesn’t work in tough times.

When a customer buys a machine from you, he doesn’t invest only in the machine. He seeks commitments from you – for himself and the industry. That’s why we are registered as an Indian company under the make in India initiative; have set up an Indian factory and demo centre, stocked machine, and will soon start manufacturing. This is a clear message from us that the investment in DGM products is safe and secure and DGM is serious about Indian industry.

Most customers in India look for a new machine when they have jobs in their hands. In such a scenario, they need the machine as soon as possible. Usually, it takes around two months from finalisation to the delivery of the machine. So, when you have machines in stock and customers have jobs in hand, it is easy for them to choose you as a supplier. We can install a machine within ten days from finalisation of the deal.

In the meantime, DGM China invoiced close to 400 folder-gluers and more than 100 die-cutter/foil-stamping machines last year. This year will be close to 550 folder-gluers and more than 120 die-cutters/foil-stamping machines. Thus, we have grown more than 30% globally.

A seperate venture – PackSys India
As was the plan, I have also started my own venture, PackSys India, through which I operate in the corrugation and folding cartons industry solutions. I represent machines for the corrugated industry and mono carton industry, including five-ply automatic board line; flexo printer slotter from Keshenglong; flexo FFG from Shinko, Japan; corrugated flute rolls from Shangai Dasong (RMM); window-patching and v-notching machine; board-to-board laminator; and reel-to-sheet sheeter.

Future plans
DGM India is about to start assembling products and export them to the global market. We are also planning to establish the DGM India as global service centre for the DGM product range as Indian engineers have an edge over communication in English and documentation over our Chinese counterparts.  Our engineers and other staff, especially technical, will be trained by the Chinese engineers.

In future, DGM will introduce many products like DGM’s large-sized die-cutter and foil-stamping machine; high speed flute laminator and folder-gluer with many end-of-the-line packaging solution with many foreign JVs. We have technology that always amazes the market. We are working to launch two new models of die-cutter and folder gluers next year.

If we talk about packaging solution, DGM is working with the several European companies to offer end-of-the-line packaging solution, such as, how to pack and manage the cartons.
DGM India is operating with limited manpower as the factory has still not started manufacturing but has a team of 15 people, eight of whom are in after-sales service. The total covered area of the factory is 30,000 sqft and total land area is 3,000 sqmt.

Running a company
In my job as an employee, I was responsible for only a single segment but as an entrepreneur, I am handling all the departments. Today, being the director of an Indian team, I’m learning how to run a company, not how to run a department. Running a company means handling HR, admin, finance, accounts, service, quality – each and every department. This is a great learning curve and it will continue.