True strength comes from unity. As Aesop illustrates in one of his many fables, an individual stick can be broken, but a bundle of sticks is extremely hard to break. Working together, what we create is often stronger than the sum of our parts, benefitting from the best of everyone involved and supporting each other where that support is needed. This concept is clearly true for Reitz India, an Indo-German venture that seems to bring together the best of both teams and countries as they unite to create industrial-grade fans. We spoke with Anurag Tej Kotagiri, Reitz India’s Business Development & Operations Manager, to learn more about this partnership, as well as how Reitz India supports its clients.
Reitz India is an Indo-German joint venture collaboration. Its German counterpart, Konrad Reitz Ventilatoren GmbH (KRV), was founded in 1948, whilst Reitz India was founded in 1998, meaning it is now closing in on its 25th year of operation. Overall, the Reitz Group is one of the world’s leading suppliers of top-quality industrial fans, with manufacturing facilities in Switzerland as well as its German and Indian locations. The German company is one of the biggest centrifugal fan manufactures in Europe, and Reitz India is also prolific in its own right. In its own words, “Since its inception, Reitz India has remained as a progressive organization offering tailor-made solutions to its customers, thus earning its name as a leading fan company in India and abroad.” As Anurag further told us, “We have supplied over 36,000 fans in over 60 countries so far.”
As a Group, Reitz puts an emphasis on the importance of tailor-made solutions to suit each client’s specific needs, whether that is the commissioning of a new fan or a retrofit of an existing system. There is also an emphasis on building long-term relationships with their customers, in order to keep them up to date with their fan needs. This approach requires two aspects from Reitz: strong technical expertise, and the ability to build lasting bonds. Reitz India has both.
Firstly, its technology. As Anurag told us; “We believe, and I think we’ve proved over time, that quality is paramount to our organisation. That quality comes, in part, because we have been able to define certain parameters in the way our manufacturing process is designed. We invest in machinery such as laser welding, laser cutting technology, and even a spinning machine that no other fan manufacturer in South Asia has. We also have an exchange technical knowledge [with KRV].”
“We pay attention to detail in every part of the process, and we’d like to thank our partners and colleagues in Germany in relation to this. We have been able to work with them in tandem and implement their processes, and that success shows in our product.” With more years behind them and a strong tradition of precise German engineering in their company culture, it is no wonder that KRV has information to share with Reitz India. This exchange goes both ways, however, with both companies able to learn from each other, and in closely following the advice from its German counterpart, it is the dedicated team in Reitz India that puts this knowledge into practice. “We’re always refining – it’s a continuous development. We work with KRV every week – we have weekly meetings about how we could make our productivity better or how we could have a leaner manufacturing process.”
This relationship is fruitful in terms of its exchange of ideas, but that isn’t all: as we said, the two aspects Reitz requires is technical know-how and also the ability to make and sustain bonds, and in its joint venture with KRV, we can see both. “It’s been 24 years now, so we’ve come a long way in terms of how we communicate. Our collaboration with Germany has gone even beyond the professional front. Some of them are family friends now – I know their kids and we interact. I myself am 30 years old, so, you could say I’m a second generation in this company, and they’re the third generation in KRV. So, we have a culture and family ties.”
One of the ways in which this Indo-German collaboration has benefited Reitz India is through thinking up ways to make the company’s production methods cleaner and more sustainable. For example, as Anurag told us; “We have a very specific waste management system, which is oftentimes missing in industrial manufacturing companies in India, though that is starting to change. For us as an organisation, it is not just the products that matter: we like to show that we’re an organisation that takes responsibility by adapting these sustainable approaches, not just towards manufacturing, but towards the environment as well.”
Speaking of the environment, Reitz India has gone above and beyond to protect its environment in an unusual and, depending on your view on certain creatures, arguably adorable way. Anurag told us all about it:
“India has a lot of snakes. Where we are in the South of India, in the suburbs, you could literally call it an urban forest. Snakes are everywhere, and they usually curl up wherever they find piles of iron.” For Reitz, who work with iron to make sometimes giant industrial fans, that means everywhere. Which, when these snakes are sharing their homes with a busy team of workers, can be a problem. “We have a factory of about 400 people here, and people, in general, are scared of snakes. So, in the past, they would get scared and kill them. Snakes are very defensive animals, and we are in their territory too – it isn’t just our territory. We’ve got to learn to coexist.”
“I am fortunate to have a friend from an organisation called Friends of Snakes. What they do is spread awareness about each and every snake that is present in this eco system. So, we had a workshop, and we conducted it twice over the past two years. Now, my blue-collar workers – they encounter these snakes quite a bit – proactively come up to me and say, ‘Sir, I spotted a snake. I knew it was a non-poisonous one because I could tell from the scales, so we let it go’, or sometimes they even see the poisonous one but just let the snakes pass by, because they’re very defensive creatures and they’re good for the ecosystem. And it doesn’t end at the workplace – they go back home, they talk to their kids, they educate their families. So, it’s nurturing minds. We take our CSR seriously.”
This wider impact will benefit not only the snakes and the local ecosystem, but it is also a form of educational outreach. This outreach has also been offered by Reitz India in other ways, such as a Safety Week that uses a range of events to educate young people about safety. In more bricks-and-mortar CSR, the company has also built the sanitation for a local government school, but it really is the snakes that stood out to us as a unique way to improve both workplace safety and the wider environment and community.
When it comes to outreach and aid, sometimes events take us by surprise, and a need arises that grabs the world’s attention. As we spoke with Anurag, the conversation couldn’t help but turn to what is happening in Ukraine. Whilst far away from both of our offices (Anurag in India, we in the UK), the situation never seems far from the mind. For Reitz India, the situation was seeming particularly relevant because the company has several important customers out there, with real human relationships attached.
As will came as no surprise, the company has some high-value goods that it has constructed for Ukrainian clients who, of course, cannot currently take possession of or pay for it. For Reitz, the response to this is a no-brainer: “Of course, we are human beings first, so we said alright, we’ll let it be, we’ll let time pass.” What silenced our phone-call with Anurag, however, was hearing about an email they received from another major client – a steel company – that had reached out to its suppliers to ask for humanitarian aid to be sent to the company. Letting business in the country pause, Reitz – and we are sure many others – responded back to share their gladness to send over what non-perishable goods, such as first aid kits, that they could. As of our conversation, the back and forth about the logistics was still ongoing. Moments like this are reminders of how unpredictable our world is, and, as Anurag said, we may work in various industries, but we are all humans first. Whatever role we are playing in our market, that is an important fact to remember – especially when our world is so small these days, and aid and communications are more possible than ever to send.
Turning back to its business ventures, however, Reitz is very much on the move. Whilst the company encountered some challenges during Covid, such as needing to grapple with the shipping issues and delays that struck business the world over, it continued on and business did well. A move to digitisation was a boon that the company was able to implement and take away from the pandemic, with clients who were previously reluctant to have remote readings taken finally able to see the benefit. As many businesses have seen, from necessity came innovation.
With business itself going well, Reitz has its eyes on new frontiers: currently selling products to 60 countries, there are still some areas of the world where the company doesn’t yet have a presence, but it intends to change all this. In particular, its eyes are currently looking to North America:
“The North American market is our focus in the coming two or three years. We’ve done very little business there in the past 10 years, compared to what we’ve done in India and the rest of the world. One reason was that we didn’t have someone on the ground to market, whereas now we have one, and we’re going to add another. One advantage we have is that we work with LafargeHolcim, one of the leading cement manufacturers in the world. They’ve absolutely been one of our top customers. North America really is where we want to be doing business in cement in the coming years.”
One edge that Reitz India offers is a low manufacturing cost compared to its European and American rivals, though at the moment, transportation costs are so high that this absorbs much of this. As mentioned before, the company continually seeks to further streamline its operations and up their efficiency, and saving expenditure in this way goes a way towards countering this effect. One such way in which Reitz India saved itself funds was a simple move inspired by the pandemic, rather than by its German cousins: “We have a plasma cutting machine and we have a laser cutting machine, but the cost of running the plasma is ten times the cost of the laser. We got the laser cutting machine during the first pandemic: it’s a one-time investment that was quite high, but then it’s far cheaper. We were spending an average of about £2,500 a month for the plasma, just for maintenance and the consumables. The laser cost me hardly £200. It’s like an electric car: you buy it first, I know it hurts, but you save in the long run.”
Another edge that Reitz offers is its talent at retrofitting existing fans – coming in and making these already installed fans more efficient, which can save a company on energy costs as well as improve how green its emissions are. “The USA is big in energy savings and we are really good in improving the efficiency of an existing fan. So, our strategy is to add value and give energy savings to our customers in the USA. The USA has promised a lot at the COP summit. They promised to cut down their emissions, and if you want to cut down your emissions you need efficient machines, and we are there to help them do that.”
A global move towards this desire for energy efficiency, and even for renewable energy, has proven fantastic for the industrial fan trade. Not only do companies need efficient fans in order to cut down on their own emissions, but industries such as cement and steel rely on this technology, and whilst neither of those sound particularly green, they’re both needed towards the effort. In fact, the effort can’t exist without them: “You cannot build a wind farm without cement and steel. A lot of investment is going into renewable energy, and so, into renewable steel and cement. To ramp up the sustainable approach, to ramp up renewable energy, you would need the cement and the steel companies to ramp up their production, and that’s where we come in.”
It is always gratifying to hear that a push towards renewables really is happening, and equally, it is good to be reminded of the heavy industries that must, by necessity, support the move. You cannot have one without the other, but in companies like Reitz India, there are the means to reduce the impact of such operations, in their case through efficient fans. As for Reitz itself, it is also encouraging and rewarding to hear of its interest in its local community, the positive impact it is making for both people and animals in its area, and even, we can hope, those further afield. It is fitting that a company strengthened by a JV passes the benefits of collaboration and cooperation forwards by helping others, and we look forward to watching this company achieve more success in the near future.