Rudolf Walfort, BSH Home Appliances COO for Asia–Pacific, is firmly focused on growing the German appliance company’s regional presence, and notes the vast potential held by emerging Asian markets. Harnessing this potential, however, requires detailed local market knowledge, and Rudolf explains that product localisation is a major component of BSH’s strategy in the region.
To assist this strategy, Rudolf has been tasked with spearheading the growth and expansion of the BSH Technology Centre Asia Pacific, which was opened towards the end of last year in Bengaluru, India, and which is driving the company’s development of products for different markets throughout the region. In taking on the responsibility, he draws on the better part of two decades’ experience with BSH, having held a number of different roles across the various divisions during his time with the company.
For Rudolf Walfort, joining BSH was a no-brainer
Rudolf, who has a background in electronics engineering, recalls that he had been approached to join BSH – which develops a range of home appliance products under a portfolio of 14 brands, including the Bosch, Siemens and Gaggenau brands – stating that “the decision to join the company had been pretty clear” following his first interview.
“My future boss had explained the company with such passion and enthusiasm that it became crystal clear to me that I wanted to be a part of it,” he shares. “My first assignment was as the Global Development and Product Management head for built-in cooking appliances. After nine years, I subsequently became the head of Corporate Technology, and three years later was appointed head of the Dish Care product division.”
Rudolf is now into his second year as COO for Asia–Pacific, having relocated to Bengaluru with the remit of creating and developing new products for emerging markets in the region. The establishment of the BSH Technology Centre Asia Pacific is an indicator of both the company’s approach to continued research and development in the evolving appliance market, and the emphasis it places on the strategic importance of further building its presence in the region.
BSH Home Appliances caters to diverse markets
Upon inauguration of the 2,500-square-metre centre last year, BSH stated that it would assist in further developing localised technologies for the Indian market, and become the heart of product development for Asia–Pacific, along with emerging countries in South America and Africa. Certainly, the centre’s scope is broad, and Rudolf is very much conscious of the requirements of operating in different markets in the region.
“It is important to recognise that the markets in Asia–Pacific are very diverse,” he states. “For instance, Australia and New Zealand are mature markets, following more of the European product portfolio model, while India is an emerging market, with it having totally different product requirements.
“Our product portfolio in India needs to take into account factors such as humidity and climate, and the conditions in which the appliances will operate, which encompass considerations such as water and power supply, along with other factors such as maintenance.
“Daily life in an Indian household, across the appliance range from fridge and freezer storage of food to hand- and machine-washing of clothes, differs significantly from households in mature European markets.”
Understanding the consumer
New consumer behaviours need to be learned and understood, as BSH seeks to cater to their requirements. Rudolf explains that the technology centre has been developed to assist with this process.
In 10 to 15 years’ time, two thirds of the global population will live in Asia. As a global player, you cannot ignore this.
“We have to be in the markets where the consumers live,” he states. “We have to understand how they live day-to-day, along with their likes and dislikes, which fall under the banner of user experience, and our new technology centre is focused exactly on this task. Introduction of localised products will be the key.”
The technology centre – which has started out focusing on the development of technologies for the cooling and laundry categories, with the intention of gradually extending to other categories – houses around 100 research scientists, and BSH is eyeing an expansion to around 400 employees over the coming years. Rudolf states that BSH will also extend its factory in Chennai, further catering to local production requirements.
Ensuring BSH is well positioned in Asia–Pacific
Certainly, given the potential growth trajectory of many of the markets throughout Asia–Pacific in the coming years, BSH’s investment is underpinned by a solid financial rationale, and Rudolf notes that sheer population numbers alone point to the region’s importance.
“In 10 to 15 years’ time, two-thirds of the global population will live in Asia,” he observes. “As a global player, you cannot ignore this. India, with close to 1.4 billion people and with a GDP compound annual growth rate of around 7%, will develop into one of the biggest home appliance markets in the world.”
Assessing his achievements during his time at BSH, Rudolf states that developing an appliance product portfolio, designed to accommodate for the different living behaviours of consumers, ranks among the most notable. He also notes that shaping the market with products like the dishcare category will be important.
Among the new technology trends emerging in the industry, he points to the “digitisation and the integration of home appliances”, and also stresses that BSH is a “market leader in the field of energy efficiency.” Amid this evolution of the industry at a global level, Rudolf is intent on ensuring that BSH is well positioned in Asia–Pacific.
“I have a clear picture of what the development of the company in this region will look like,” he says. “To be part of a story like this makes me very proud.”