When has the subsidiary been founded?
Our Asian subsidiary was officially established in October 2020 and we moved into our present office in December 2020. So, it has been a little bit more than a year since its inception and time has flown very fast.
Was it a challenge to create a sub in the Asia Pacific region?
Creating the subsidiary for the regional activity of IMA DAIRY & FOOD was a challenge but the real challenge was to do that during the pandemic. All countries in the region have virtually closed their borders and we ended up starting a business, getting in contact with existing customers, distributors, agents and partners without being able to physically meet them for more than a year.
In the past IMA DAIRY & FOOD worked only with agents in this region. How is the collaboration with the agents?
We are working with agents in several countries where the distance and the conditions of access to market are difficult. Most of our agents have been working with us for a very long time and we have over the years developed a culture of great respect and collaboration. The set-up of the regional office has facilitated the communication and reduced tremendously the time to answer, being on more or less the same time zone.
What do you particularly like about your work?
The entrepreneurial dimension. Starting from scratch with a business model that has to be reinvented every quarter has been very stressful but also very interesting from a personal point of view. Luckily, we have a very committed and dynamic team who is also eager to take challenges and to take no situation for granted.
The Asia Pacific region is a multilingual area with many different exciting cultures and characteristics, does this have an impact on teamwork and how many languages are spoken?
We selected Malaysia as a base because this country is a melting pot where every individual is at least bilingual. Our staff masters English, French, Mandarin, Malay, Indonesian, Japanese, .. surprisingly the language that is not spoken here is.. German ! Although there is little doubt that this will change in the future. But beyond the language issue is the ability to interact with many different cultures and business habits. Our staff must display a unique blend of agility and empathy to accommodate a mix of cultures that stretches from India to New Zealand. The natural kindness and open-mindedness of the Malaysians does wonders and facilitates the dialogue with all our stakeholders, wherever they come from.
Which target markets are you focusing on?
In terms of market segments, we primarily focus on the dairy sector which is in expansion for many countries in the region and where we enjoy a very strong brand image. In the non-dairy sector, we are very much looking at ready to drink beverages in cups and the sauces segment which is absolutely huge in Asia. Now, in terms of countries, we have a large installed base and significant business with Japan, Korea and Vietnam but we are very attentive to Indonesia and India, two countries with a very large potential for development of the industrial dairy market.
Are there employees in your team who specialise in individual countries or regions?
At this stage, when we are still a small setup, so we are very flexible and cover everything. Our growth plan will nevertheless organize the business with 4 key areas (North Asia, South East Asia, Southern Asia and Oceania) and the sales staff will be focusing on a specific region as the company develops and expands.
What advantages do German packaging machines enjoy in the Asia-Pacific region?
It seems very cliché, but the matter and the fact is that German industry maintains a very strong image of quality, reliability and sturdiness. Our German made equipment surely benefits – with very good reasons – of this positive image. Sometimes German made is also associated with high capital investment or operating cost which is not the case for us but we still have to combat this image.
Are there different standards (in terms of safety, sustainability, etc.) that the machines have to fulfil, especially in the Asian countries?
No, not really. If most countries have their own standards, they are usually inspired from or in line with the European standards, so it is not a barrier to entry. On the contrary, the fact that we comply to European norms of safety, standards of manufacturing or protocols of validation is perceived as a guarantee of quality and performance. In that regard, being a European manufacturer is certainly an advantage because our sanitary, electrical, safety norms are never questioned and are accepted fully.
Is there anything you would like to see in the future of your industry?
Our industry is at the forefront of the environmental revolution with an incredible number of talents and innovation working to combine the best that technology can provide in terms of convenience, hygienic and safety performances whilst reducing massively the environment impact. When it comes to environmental issues, to have a global acknowledgement that the industry is actually much more a solution provider than a culprit, would be a great achievement in the future.