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Smit & zoon has big plans for the Indian market

The CEO of leather chemicals manufacturer Smit & zoon, Hans van Haarst, has said his company’s decision to open a new sales office in Chennai, India in 2017 is part of a wider adjustment in its strategy.

Speaking exclusively to World Leather at the India International Leather Fair (IILF) in Chennai (January 1-3), Mr van Haarst said the company is in the process of moving away from having all of its business operations concentrated in its home country, the Netherlands, while relying on agents in its important customer markets. 

“We came to realise that you need to be close to customers,” he explained, adding that the changing dynamics of the leather industry mean that more speed is now required and that there is a greater need for direct feedback from its customers. This feeds into Smit & zoon’s research and development operations.

The company is now adjusting its structure accordingly, which will mean having more of its own staff “on the ground” near to its customer bases, allowing it to “work shoulder to shoulder” with its agents and distributors. 

Mr van Haarst said the region which includes India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is “very important” for Smit & zoon. It set up its new base in Chennai to serve this market, establishing a legal entity, sales office and customer service team there in the past 12 months. 

At the end of January 2018, it opened a formulation plant in Chennai, which will allow it to manufacture products locally. It also plans to upgrade its leather application laboratory in nearby Ranipet to a customer centre of excellence, notably adding finishing capabilities. This is expected to take place during 2018. Similar centres are planned for the cities of Kanpur of Calcutta in the near future, Mr van Haarst revealed.

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