Many refer to him as Mr. Würth, and he was the first to introduce a direct sales model in the Automotive Aftermarket industry which is now followed by many. He is Rohan Amirthiah, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Würth Lanka.
In 1998, Rohan was head hunted to set up and build Würth in Sri Lanka, and as the first employee wearing many hats as the first Salesman, Accountant, Warehouse Picker, and delivering the first orders to the surprise of the then customers, the Würth seed was firmly planted. Today, Würth is a solid and well-known brand in Sri Lanka, with a well-established trading house, with over 120 staff. Growing at double digit, Wurth’s vision for 2025 is to be double in size. Würth Lanka is a 100% owned subsidiary of Würth Group International and one out of the 420 companies under the Würth Group. Moreover, Würth Lanka is in the top 15 companies of the Würth world as an excellent rated company, within the Würth Group.
Describing his enthralling career journey, Rohan stated, “After graduating in the field of IT, I began my career as a Consultant and Lecturer in IT, in India. Shortly after returning to Sri Lanka in 1992, I continued in the same industry while doing freelance development work, and then joined IBM world trade corporation to manage systems and administration. I diverted my career to a more sales and marketing field when I decided to join 3M, and there on I realised the potential in Sales, Marketing and Management.
“I completed my Masters in Business Administration during this time, and when the opportunity came to set up a company from scratch, I took the chance and joined the Würth Group in 1998. Being the first employee, literally every aspect of a company had to be done by me, and the valuable experience I have gained helped me to build a company from a blank sheet. Looking back, my decisions to leave fortune 500 companies such as IBM and 3M, has paved the way, not to get stuck like a brick on a wall, but to build a career and a brand in Sri Lanka, which was unknown 22 years ago. I’m thankful to Professor Reinhold Wurth for the culture of freedom, trust and encouraging entrepreneurial spirit that allowed me to build Wurth Sri Lanka from scratch.”
Expressing his views on the Sri Lankan Automobile industry, Rohan mentioned that Sri Lankans are quite keen in vehicle maintenance when compared with that of the region, and hence they accept quality products, which is not seen in the regional markets. However, as claimed by him, the Sri Lankan Automobile industry is the smallest in the region as the number of vehicles registered annually in Sri Lanka is ranked last in the region. “Therefore, this is not a massive market to grow in Automotive for Würth. However, this gives us the opportunity to be the number one and a niche player.”
Speaking further on the industry constraints and the viable remedies, the industry expert stated, “Würth operates in three major industries, namely Automotive Aftermarkets, Construction and Industrial. A common constraint to all industries is the ‘collection days’ or ‘accounts receivables’ issue. Due to the lack of strong legal regulations, most businesses suffer on the collection front. This is one of the biggest constraints to grow. Another is the lack of regulation on quality standards. In all three industries, Sri Lanka is far behind in setting specifications and standards when it matters most in the use of a standard screw or a bolt to critical items in the industry. For example, the use of standard specified PPE products for safety. This opens up to spend valuable foreign exchange on low quality imports of “junk” that the consumers would purchase due to the cheap prices, but on the long run, the nation and the consumers lose.”
Another major concern which was highlighted by Rohan was the depreciation of the currency, as about 95% of the Würth products are imported from Europe. A stronger euro affects the profitability and the cost should be borne by the end customer.
“We have been absorbing as much as possible with the hope that the exchange rates will stabilise and the rupee will become stronger against the euro, but unfortunately a euro is now Rs. 220. During the early stages of the business, a euro was at Rs. 90,” he added.
Rohan strongly believes that quality beats price in the Automotive Aftermarket industry, which is Würth’s competitive advantage. “Würth means quality and quality means long term benefits and profits. The Würth brand is built on quality and this is not merely the product quality, but the service and processes behind the quality promise. Customers can always come back to Würth with any quality issue, and since we are the brand owners, we look after the brand – which means customers will get their monies worth.”
According to the CEO, Würth is unique not only because of the quality of its products, but also because of its unique way of selling and the product range. “Würth sells products through its own sales force and via this we control the quality from end-to-end. Würth products are not usually available in every corner as we go after the quality conscious professional end users only. We do not compete with the low quality mass product market. In order to sell quality products, we need to have a direct one-to-one relationship with customers – touch and feel, demonstrations, and customer engagement is possible only with a direct sales approach. This is the most expensive way of selling, yet this is our mantra.”
To conclude with, Rohan stated, “As a true multinational that operates as a local company, Würth will be a household name in the next 5-10 years. Würth will increase localisation in partnership with German technology and invest in local industries to produce and export PPE range of products and other products that have a clear advantage to produce, and this will help the local economy. Würth will diversify in the Retail and Channel business for all segments from DIY to technical consumables, and even household technical products that will be needed on a daily basis. Würth has become a 16Bn euro company in the world, with a staff of over 75,000 employees and over 420 companies in 85 countries. Last but not least, our employees are Würth Lanka’s strength as they are highly motivated and possess good attitudes.”