Gaurav Bisaria

Gaurav Bisaria

Director-Central Africa, Ariston Thermo Group
Akinyinka Akinnola

Akinyinka Akinnola

Managing Director, Technoton
Ariston Thermo and Technoton use completely different strategies to dominate their respective markets. While the former counts on its international network and expertise, the latter leverages key partnerships with local and international companies.

What brought Ariston Thermal Group to Nigeria, and what added value do you bring to the market?
GAURAV BISARIA Ariston Thermo Group is headquartered in Fabriano, Italy. The company is more than 50 years old and has an annual turnover of EUR1.7 billion. We concentrate on thermal comfort, and as such, the full spectrum of heating services. We have a wide range of product offerings for residential, commercial, and industrial use. In the past, we sold in Nigeria through importers, but based on the market, we eventually decided to import and sell. In 2016, we decided to open an office in Nigeria. The key reasons were population growth and low market penetration. We offer tropicalized products for Nigeria that we specifically manufacture in Italy. We have 18 plants across the globe. In Nigeria, there is also stiff price competition from Chinese competitors; therefore, we also import from our factory in China to be price competitive. The Nigerian market is mainly water heaters, as the climate here does not require heating. On the commercial side, our clients are mainly hotels, schools, and real estate developers. In addition, we offer custom solutions for general clients. We look at what system we can design and how we can help with power and energy efficiency. We have a specific team in Italy just for this. We send the project designs to our team so that they can develop the best custom-built solutions.

Which local and international companies is Technoton partnering with?
AKINYINKA AKINNOLA We form two types of partnerships: products partnerships and technical partnerships. Under the first type, we are partners with an air movement and ventilation company in Dubai (BETAG) as well as a ventilation company in China (SEIHO). We have worked with companies all over the world. We are currently in talks with an AC equipment manufacturer. In terms of technical partnerships, we are enhancing our capacity in the medical and hospitality industry. There are many highly specialized international hospitals being built and we wish to provide them with specialized mechanical and electrical engineering support. We are working on a technical partnership with a Turkish company in this regard. We are also partnering with a UK-based company to serve the engineering needs of upcoming four-star and five-star hotels.

Which segment do you focus on and how do you stay ahead of the competition?
GB We are one of the largest providers of technical know-how in Nigeria. We manufacture EU-standard products, which bring an edge in the Nigerian market. This has helped us to secure market leadership. At present, the trend is shifting toward affordable products, but a large part of the problem is product awareness. The awareness of the water heater category is poor; therefore, our biggest task is to spread awareness. Our products last for more than 10 years, whereas our competitors don't offer the same guarantee, so, over time, their products turn out to be more expensive. The biggest challenges for us are awareness and price point. To address these, we are spreading awareness about the benefits of using hot water. We run many campaigns and contests. Our products are energy efficient and do not require a continuous power supply. These are the kinds of advantages we want to share with potential users.

Can you tell us about the projects you are currently working on? What are your goals for 2020?
AA We are working a large project for the Central Bank of Nigeria in Kebbi State. We are basically working on the central air conditioning and chilled water systems. We recently concluded an industrial air conditioning project for UAC Foods. At present, we are installing energy recovery ventilation to aid air quality in the factory. In Kaduna state, we are finalizing details for a shopping mall's electrical/power, plumbing, fire control, and air conditioning systems. 2020 is an important year for us. We want to reach the next level and compete with international companies. We are focusing on training to increase capability as a number of our projects now require skilled people from outside, mainly India. Moreover, we wish to further develop our support services business so that we can better penetrate the retail segment. Our aim is to provide round-the-clock maintenance services to thousands of customers across Nigeria. The challenge is how to coordinate and scale up with communication and infrastructural challenges. We want to do everything possible to be able to scale up our maintenance services and still be able to provide high-quality services to every client.