FM Supplier spotlight: Sreekumar Panicker, Kärcher
Sreekumar Panicker, head of UAE sales for Kärcher, talks to fmME about the cleaning equipment specialist’s presence in the middle east’s FM market and its plans for 2017
What is your operational presence in the GCC? How is your regional supply chain organised?
Kärcher is active in all Gulf countries promoting both, its Professional and Home and Garden product lines. We operate throughout the GCC and Levant countries directly or through trusted partners and distributors.
Some of our dealers are industry-specific, such as hospitality, building service contractors or automotive specialists. We are pursuing a plan to have 20 Kärcher centres in the region by 2020. Regionally, we operate through our supply chain department based in Jebel Ali and work through our dealer network.
What is your FM client base like?
Kärcher works with all FM companies across the region, the largest and the smallest alike. Our extensive product portfolio allows us to offer the right cleaning solutions for any job, regardless of its size.
How is demand from FM companies in the Middle East evolving?
Demand is becoming more localised; clients are taking into consideration the environmental conditions and factors in their [work] area, such as fine dust particles and industry-specific requirements – like quick turnaround of public spaces in the hospitality industry or tough oil and grime stains in the oil and gas, and construction industries.
These, in addition to government regulations and initiatives towards sustainability, are shaping client needs. Overall, there is demand for highly effective and resource-efficient systems to reduce cleaning costs and time.
What are FM companies looking for when they approach your company?
Often, the requirement is for effective cleaning machines and solutions capable of getting the job done quickly and efficiently. Machines should be robust and easy to operate and maintain.
We’re also seeing a rise in annual maintenance contracts (AMC). Another one of our popular technologies is steam, for which we receive substantial demand from the hospitality, education, healthcare, and HORECA [hotel-restaurant-café] sectors, where cross-contamination is a daily challenge.
What are the challenges currently faced by the FM market in the GCC?
The contract length for FM operators, when assigned a property to manage, can translate into a challenge when acquiring the right cleaning equipment.
For instance, a one-year contract involving extensive outdoor sweeping areas requires a large investment in a robust machine; to meet this [need] is a challenge sometimes, so we are studying various ways to support this trend in the future.
Other challenges revolve around the environmental conditions of the region, and getting the job done to the best standard and at the best cost.
Essentially, cleaning solutions need to be specific, resource-efficient, and cost-effective.
Which contemporary tech trends in the FM market are you looking out for?
We have around 1,000 employees in our R&D department that continue to drive innovation in cleaning solutions. We have been at the forefront of developing new technologies by combining market research, client feedback, and industry trends regionally and globally.
A major trend on the rise at present is connectivity. Being able to remotely monitor the performance of machines and the path taken for cleaning, and analysing these to redefine the best or most efficient path is a big support for any operator.
It also helps in implementing a preventive maintenance plan that is completely based on accurate and actual equipment usage.
How was 2016 for your company, and what are your plans for 2017?
It was another good year for the company globally and regionally, with headway made in developing innovative solutions and outreach programmes to potential clients in the region.
This year, in the Middle East, we will focus on strengthening our presence through establishing partnerships, and opening more dedicated Kärcher centres to better reach and service our existing and potential clients.
Where do you see the Middle East’s FM market in the next five years?
We believe the FM market in the region will become more stratified in the next five years with some FM companies dedicating services to specific industries only, or concentrating on the niche areas of these industries.
In general, we also see a continued trend towards resource-efficient and green systems, and increasing openness to connected systems.
Where manual labour for cleaning will be required, we see demand for ergonomic, light, and compact systems to assist in manoeuvrability and storage of these machines.