Exclusive Interview with Jonas Brennwald

  • Publish date: Thursday، 26 May 2022 Last update: Wednesday، 08 June 2022
Exclusive Interview with Jonas Brennwald

UAE Moments had the opportunity to catch up with Jonas Brennwald, Leader, EMENA at LIXIL. 

Exclusive Interview with Jonas Brennwald

Q. Please tell us a bit about yourself

I am Jonas Brennwald. I am Swedish. And I have been with LIXIL now for 10 years - with the last three years being the leader for the EMENA region, which is one of the largest regions outside Japan. And it is the fifth position I occupy throughout those 10 years.

I have worked in different industries. I worked for Mars for many years in different roles moving over to the automotive industry and now I’m here. I have an extensive background in consumer journey both in B2B and B2C, and, I have gained new experiences as I go. I've been lucky to be in corporate organizations; it has given me the shape of a leader; an average one, but together with my team, we’re a driving force. I focus on the team and the people in the team and giving them space and giving them the possibility to grow. When I moved to Germany, with the German hierarchy, I introduced my approach that we are all equal, we are all the same, and we have different roles and responsibilities, but we are still equal. And that is with the Scandinavian leadership, which I bring in, and that gives a new perspective for people to feel empowered and take on the job they are responsible for.

Q. What is the history behind LIXIL’s growth?

In 2014 the GROHE brand, which I represent was bought by LIXIL from private equity owners. So, we moved from private equity to manufacturing. LIXIL is one of the biggest global housing technology companies in the world, and it saw that with the GROHE brand, can scale up its international position. At the same time, they bought GROHE and American Standard in the US and that means that you have one strong brand in each of the regions to scale up your business. LIXIL took this strategic decision around that. Since then, we belong to LIXIL, and I am the head of LIXIL’s business in EMENA. And GROHE is one of the LIXIL brands. If you compare that with the Asia Pacific or China, or greater China and America, they have a couple of other brands they also operate together with invest wages, but in our region, we are having the single brand. So, from private equity to a long-term manufacturing company has been a fantastic change for us.

Q. Could you elaborate on your commercial strategy? 

We have seen a huge development in the multi-channel market, many new channels are coming in and taking space and that is positive for competition as everybody is healthy. One point to note with regards to our product is that our product needs to have a certain installation qualification to be able to be installed for a consumer. So, what we did was we differentiated ourselves by adding three different brands. So, within the GROHE umbrella, we also introduced the three sub-brands.

If you look at our commercial strategy, we have designed products that the consumer can do by themselves which are sold in the consumer-driven channels. And then we have the more advanced products which are sold in the professional channel. So, we are having different assortment to reach the same end-user. But in the consumer channel, we go from manufacturing directly to the consumer, and in the professional, we go from the manufacturer to the professional to the consumer. So, you need to make sure that the consumers are feeling comfortable by having a professional who can install the product, whereas the products that are sold directly to consumers can be installed by the consumers themselves.

If we look at for instance at the GROHE QuickFix brand which is an end consumer brand, we have for the consumer very good guidance of how they will do the installation:  a video, separate tools - little bit like shown with IKEA furniture. And then on the more highly sophisticated products, you need to have trained professionals to do that job. In the past, when a professional product was sold in the consumer channel, consumers would call the plumber to install the product. However, regular plumbers wouldn’t know how to install the product as they were not certified or underwent any training.  The plumber would then go about it in their own way, which mostly resulted in unsatisfied customers.

Q. In the GCC region, how different is this region? And do you have any product differentiation, that you see for this part of the world versus other markets?

The spotlight on this region is increasing. I think that many companies in general, and us, see this region now with huge optimism and there are many reasons driving this perspective. Corporations seek low-risk countries that have political and financial stability, and this is what the UAE offers. This country managed to come out of the pandemic stronger and more resilient; its property sector is booming already.  On the same note, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are growing at a rapid pace. All these changes give us some sort of assurance and optimism and make out of this region an attractive environment for international investors.

Q. How do you know sustainability is the new currency in a way & what is your vision about it?

Sustainability is a part of our company’s DNA. We have shifted from thinking of sustainability as a business aesthetic to making it an integral part of our journey. It cannot be a parallel discussion or an afterthought. If you compromise, you lose. You need to stay the course. 

When we invest in a market, we look for a long-term investment as we think decades ahead and draw our vision accordingly. You cannot advocate sustainability and expect results in 1 or 2 years. Sustainability is here to stay, and it is key to business integration. We cannot say that sustainability is important to us and then drive diesel cars. You need to be consistent in your message.

There is a long way to go moving from old to new technology. You would read some German car manufacturers have a vision of going fully electrical by 2030. They are not there yet, but they have envisioned it as a long-term objective. Similarly, we may have some old manufacturing technology, but they have an agenda on how to transform it.

Q. Do you think this has an impact on competition? 

I think sustainability has been perceived as a trend more than a way of living. So, for many companies, it is mostly a box to tick in their marketing calendar rather than a business mandate. However, time will filter those companies and real sustainable corporations will thrive. 

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