Interview with Andreas Lapp | Chairman of Lapp Holding AG & Honorary Consul of the Republic of India for the German federal states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate

First published in M+V’s India Insight in April 2015

M +V: Lapp Group has been an exhibitor at the HANNOVER MESSE trade fair for many years. This year, India is the official partner country and PM Narendra Modi will inaugurate world‘s biggest industrial fair. What does the Lapp Group expect from the Hannover fair this year?

Andreas Lapp (A.L.): Trade fairs are traditionally international meeting places for industry. For us, as a leading supplier of integrated solutions and branded products in the field of cable and connection technology, trade fairs are a great opportunity to present our innovations in the areas of engineering, plant construction, food products, energy, and mobility to an international audience. It is part of our Lapp company tradition to design and decorate our booth at the fair according to the respective partner country; hence, India will be our major focus this year. This has two main reasons: On  one hand, being the Honorary Consul of the Republic of India for the German federal states of Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, I feel especially connected and associated with India.

On the other hand, the Lapp Group has been actively doing business in India for many years now. We run production units in both Bangalore and Bhopal and are very successful in our business in India. At the trade fair, we certainly hope to establish new contacts and receive fresh opportunities to present our quality products to Indian visitor companies as well as representatives and decision-makers in the Modi government.

M+V: Modi has already been in office for almost a year now. Have you noticed during your regular business trips to India, (positive) changes in the country that can be attributed to the government?

A.L.: Narendra Modi still carries the hope of the Indian nation in his efforts to fight poverty, push for reforms, and tackle corruption and mismanagement. Personally, I can feel a certain euphoric atmosphere there, but I also think that people need to give him enough time for implementation. India is a huge country, with enormous challenges – like lacking improvements and developments in electricity and infrastructure, as well as social shortcomings. Modi’s slogan ‘build toilets first and temples later’ has really hit a nerve with the Indian population. And, with his ‘Make in India’ campaign he wants to give the economy a boost. The groundwork has been laid but whether or not Modi can truly facilitate an economic upswing remains to be seen.

M+V: Is there anything you would wish for from the Indian government to stimulate your success in India?

A.L.: In our manufacturing units in Bangalore and Bhopal, we mostly produce for the Indian market. I would like to see more support from the Indian authorities. It is also crucial to develop and expand the infrastructure in order to ensure faster deliveries to our Indian customers. With Modi’s Smart City initiative, for instance, we expect increasing demand for intelligent cable solutions in urban infrastructure. Growing urbanization offers great potential for our business. But, we also need to see improvement of the living conditions for the Indian population. It sounds rather mundane, but I believe that Modi’s announcement to create nationwide toilets in schools with separate girls’ facilities within the next year is an important step.

M+V: In your opinion, where do you see the Indian economy in five years? And what will be the crucial factors in that development?

A.L.: I am an optimist – and I always have been. Narendra Modi has provided a lot of fresh stimulus and he has identified the most pressing issues. Moreover, he successfully acquired important foreign direct investment (FDI) projects for India, for example, in the railway construction industry, and I truly hope that this is just the beginning. We, the Lapp Group, expect to generate further growth thanks to the new initiatives taken by the Modi government. However, this also depends on the domestic political development. Potential hurdles could arise from a shift towards Nationalist Hindu policies, and several of Modi’s government officials have been accused of committing severe crimes. Modi himself is considered to be a man of moral integrity and a strong leader, bringing growth and change, but nonetheless, he needs able government officials who live out his ideas and ideals.

M+V: India is an important market for your company. How can other companies trying to sell their products in India master the challenges of this market?

A.L.: Like in any other country, it is crucial to respect the local culture – and not to appear in an imperialistic fashion. What is very important as well: We do not only sell our products in India but we produce in India, and, thus, create hundreds of jobs. Apart from our production plants, we have also set up regional sales organizations in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Bangalore, as well as 23 smaller sales offices; supported by a strong dealer network all over India. We are close to our customers – which is, in fact, the universal approach of the Lapp Group all over the world.

M+V: A high staff turnover rate is a common problem for foreign companies in India. What can they do – or what are you doing – to prevent this?

A.L.: As mentioned before, you have to understand and respect the Indian culture. We offer employees a very attractive work place and continuously invest in technology, infrastructure – and we invest in people. We encourage our Indian colleagues to take part in our international training program. Once a year, we organize an international football and volleyball tournament – this year in the Netherlands – and there have always been teams from India among the participants. We are a family business, and this is what we want to communicate to our entire staff all over the world. They should feel they are a member of the Lapp family. We arranged for a Hindu temple to be built in our plant in Bangalore, and we actively get involved in education. We’ve established a Center of Excellence for cable technology at the PSG College in Coimbatore, where students are trained in modern connecter technology. We are considered a very attractive employer in India.

M+V: For many years India has been an “affair of the heart” for you, and as Honorary Consul of the Republic of India for Baden-Württemberg, you voluntarily take over functions for strengthening the relationship between Germany and India. You’ve probably experienced a lot during that time. Is there, perhaps, a special memory that you might want to share with us?

A.L.: I certainly could tell a lot of stories. However, what has always inspired me is the heartiness and cheerfulness of the Indian people – no matter if they’re rich or poor. It’s this sense of joy, which we Europeans, more often than not, seem to lack or seem to have lost. There is one experience I will probably never forget – I had the privilege to attend an Indian wedding with approximately a thousand guests. The groom arrived on a horse and was accompanied by friends and a wedding band. Bride and groom then circled a sacrificial fire and adorned each other with flowers. It truly was like a fairy tale.

Thank you Mr. Lapp for this interview!