Architectural hardware supplier Kolf International is expanding its dealer network. “This year we are looking at tier II and tier III cities. We will offer 50-60 dealerships this year, with a focus on the southern and western markets,” shares Sanjay Gupta, director of the company. The dealerships will be for the company’s Safex brand.
At present the company has 180-200 active dealers and 8-9 distributors across India. “As the government has plans for establishing 100 smart cities, we want to address the demand that is going to emerge from around these planned cities, as well as surrounding regions that are known for their tourism potential,” adds managing director Rishi Gupta.
Explaining how the company would go about selecting potential channel partners, Rishi says, “The parameters for appointing dealers include goodwill and trust, and ground reality.” He adds that generally the company waits for three to four months to let the new dealer start picking up business. “We have to give our business partners that much of time; we handhold and guide them during this phase.” Adds Sanjay, “We believe in relationship based marketing; we try to ease complexity and focus more on comfort levels,” pointing that this approach has helped the company expand its network steadily.
“We try to use the existing channel to expand our dealer base, in many cases the existing dealers become our distributor. In fact, out of the 8-9 distributors that we have, five have upgraded themselves from dealerships,” adds Rishi. While expanding the company’s network in tier II and tier III cities, the company will be ensuring exclusivity for the business partner.
To help them get acquainted with the products and services, Kolf International will also provide quality training to the owners and their key salespersons. This includes product-based training for new dealers, soft skill and installation training, knowledge enhancement, and organisation of carpenter meets. “We also have manuals and installation videos that help in learning the installation processes,” Rishi informs. “We keep on educating our dealers on product technicalities and durability. It is they who are the face of our brand, and hence must be well versed in the product details.”
The Guptas acknowledge that entering new markets is no small challenge. “Even for experienced players like us, when we enter newer markets brand acceptability is a challenge,” says Rishi. However, this is countered by the healthy trade margins – 20-25% – that Kolf offers to channel partners. “It’s only when our partners are happy and earn that our business will grow,” he says, adding that most leading brands offer 5-10% margins. While dealers need to invest Rs 7-9 lakh in inventory, the company offers special benefits on display and signage.
The father-son duo states that while most Safex products are being sourced from China, going forward they will increase the ‘made in India’ component. “We are gradually increasing our sourcing from Indian OEMs and reducing dependence on Chinese manufacturers. Besides, we maintain a strict audit for quality in all processes which is based on checklists and a flowchart.”
According to Rishi, while the company has not been pitching for project business, any business inquiry that’s received will be passed to the most relevant business partner. “However, we will continuously invest in building our brands through marketing and promotional activities. We are investing in print, dealer-based activity, carpenter meets, digital marketing, the entire gamut.”