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BW Businessworld

Making Sense Of 'Clean India'

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David Kohler is the President & Global COO of the $6-billion enterprise, Kohler Co., a Wisconsin headquartered firm founded in 1873, one of the oldest family run businesses in America, known for its range of luxury bath and kitchen products. He was in India last month for Kohler’s all India distributors' conference as he believes a strong distributors network will solve challenges faced by the ‘layers of complexity within India’. Marking his company’s India presence of nine years, David is very positive about India’s growth story under the Modi led government and has strategies revolving around the ‘clean India’ movement that is big on his agenda.  
You seem to be excited about the Indian government’s ‘Clean India’ movement? What are your plans for rural, semi-urban areas?
India is one of the most strategic markets to work because it is slated to be the largest economy of the world. Initiatives like ‘Clean India’, will drive the economy and the standard of living, these factors play into the growth of our industry. We are developing a close loop toileting system that recycles the water to bring sanitation for the semi-urban and rural India, where we are looking to penetrate deep. We also have water purification project for access to clean drinking water in the mofussil areas. And this is not a part of our CSR exercise as we are making a firm business plan with commercial viability.
What about ‘Make In India’? With two manufacturing units, will India be a manufacturing hub for Kohler in the future? 
It is critical to have a cost position as well as a strong local supply base to be able to deliver across the country at a competitive price. So it is critical that we manufacture here. We have two advanced fastest manufacturing units and two engineering teams in India spread over a million square feet. At present, only a percent of the total manufactures are exported to the European market and we plan to increase the volume in the next 2 years. 
What are your investment plans in India?
We have invested upwards of $250 million so far. Over a $100 million invested in plants and the rest $150 million on brand building, making us the top three spenders in our industry. 
The online market is big and growing rapidly in India? What is Kohler's plans?
In US, China, e-commerce is the fastest growing channels of distribution. In India, we are in talks with all the big e-commerce players on the products that are easier to install, but it will take some years to get the traction in this space for our products like other developed markets.

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