Nov 24, 2017 General Comments Off on Taiwan mobility device company powers to success in India
When Taiwan mobility device firm Karma Medical Products Co. began exploring the India market 10 years ago, it took pains to build strong relationships with employees and customers. Among various efforts, the company chose to base operations in the hometown of its India country manager, and dispatched representatives hundreds of kilometers to meet with clients in remote areas of the rapidly developing South Asian nation.
The Indian people place considerable emphasis on personal relationships, so we worked to establish connections and impress them with our brand before building a manufacturing base in the country, said Chen Ying-chun, Karma's general manager.
According to Chen, Karma has found success in India, the most challenging market it has launched operations in to date, though a well-conceived brand awareness campaign. Despite an initial lack of distribution channels, the company's revenues in the country have soared by 30 to 40 percent annually in recent years. A rare success story in India among Taiwan medical device companies, Karma is now planning to commence manufacturing in the country in 2018.
Founded in 1987, the wheelchair-maker has successfully explored markets around the world. As far back as 20 years ago, it made inroads into the EU with its own-brand products before expanding to mainland China and Thailand.
A decade ago, amid slow growth in Europe, its main overseas market, the company decided to examine new frontiers. It looked to India, a populous country with a large emerging economy. Despite considerable experience entering new markets, Chen encountered significant difficulties when commencing operations in the country. For instance, it took two years to find a local manager.
After a lengthy search, Chen found the right person among the company's Indian suppliers. Trust was central to the decision. Chen had interacted with the company's new India manager for some time and had grown to respect his integrity. Only one issue stood in the way of the hire. The manager was a resident of Calcutta and was unwilling to move to another city to take up the new role. Cherishing talent, Chen relented and decided to locate Karma's Indian headquarters in the manager's hometown.
Language and Localization
According to Chen, while English is the common business language in India, speaking in a potential customer's first tongue is crucial for building trust. As a result, Karma's India team of some 100 workers comprises salespersons capable of communicating in every dialect used in the vast nation.
With the right people in place, Chen turned his attention to developing products for the Indian market. This had been a subject of considerable debate within Karma. The firm is primarily a manufacturer of high-end mobility assistive devices, and some employees believed the products could not be priced competitively in India. They suggested the company put off entering the market, arguing that it would be forced to sell products of lesser quality or lower its price points.
Chen, however, believed that it was crucial to establish a foothold in India in the near term. He decided to first develop an understanding of the market before seeking to launch local manufacturing operations.
The products Karma initially sold in India were small-volume runs produced in mainland China. Taiwan staff members were dispatched to the mainland Chinese plants to ensure quality control. In this way, the company could supply reasonably priced products to Indian customers without committing its manufacturing resources to the effort. After spending some time understanding the Indian market and building distribution channels, Karma would then take the next step and set up factories on Indian soil to mass produce products.
Product localization also played a key role in its efforts, with the company developing several specialized devices for Indian consumers. A new model of electric wheelchair, devised by a sales manager with a keen understanding of the Indian market, has been particularly well received. Whenever given the opportunity to demonstrate the product, which can elevate users to a near-standing position, the company has typically won big orders.
Fostering Brand Awareness
The issue of pitching products and boosting brand visibility was initially a significant challenge for Karma. Retail stores for medical products are extremely rare in India, with wheelchairs and similar devices usually sold at hardware shops. Even hospitals and nursing homes in India tend to purchase wheelchairs through such outlets.
To foster brand awareness, Karma began educating hardware stores about its products and outlining how to pitch the goods to customers. It started to set up specialized sales counters in the shops as well as provide clerks with branded uniforms and training sessions. Chen's goal was to convince stores and customers of the company's commitment to the Indian market. The firm has also won recognition through organizing regular product demonstrations in rural communities.
With more than a decade of experience operating in India, Karma has established a lead over many of its competitors and set the stage for its long-term success in this major emerging economy.
Source: Taiwan Today
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