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‘There is a high level of acceptance for environment-friendly equipment from the industry’

Tuesday, March 26, 2019, 12:32 Hrs  [IST]

Nirmal Khandelwal, Chairman, FCML Distributors is in the lifestyle retail, hospitality supply, and projects business for nearly five decades, and therefore carries a broad eye-view and knowledge about the food and hospitality industry in India. Besides handling innumerable hospitality projects in the country, Khandelwal has also worked behind hotel projects as far as Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Dubai, and as close as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. A ubiquitous face in the socio-cultural, business and industry scene in Delhi, Khandelwal has been engaged by India Expo Centre and Mart as a consultant for their India International Hospitality Expo (IHE) Board. In an interaction with P Krishna Kumar, Khandelwal spoke on his own business as well as the need to have a genuine international exhibition for the hospitality industry in India…..

Q Could you give a brief about FCML’s journey so far?
The parent company, Fakir Chand Mohan Lal, was started in 1840 from Chandni Chowk, Delhi. I inherited the business. I am a sixth-generation entrepreneur, joined the business in 1971. I entered into the industry dealing in customised brass items. Slowly, I diversified into other products as well. In the early 1990s when the government opened up the economy, we entered into imports. As part of entering into imports, we abbreviated the company name, into FCML. We established agency tie-ups with reputed brands from the US, Europe, and Japan. Till today, we continue to deal with our manufacturers from only these three geographies. These are the best of products and 98% of them are manufactured in those countries.

Today, we deal in bathroom, tiles, wood floors, all in-room items, carpets, bed and mattress, cutlery, crockery, and glassware. We have showrooms in Delhi, Mumbai, Surat, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Bangalore, and are all set to open our seventh showroom in Pune this month.

Our business today is equally divided between retail and hospitality projects. We have done hotel projects in Mexico, Argentina, Dubai, Spain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, etc. We ship products directly from the factories and also from India for projects.

Q What are the new products and solutions you are adding to your portfolio?
We keep on adding new designs from time to time. With growing environment sensitiveness, we have started replacing the battery- operated equipment with other updated technologies. We have introduced weighing machines, safes, etc. which operate on kinetic energy. Similarly, in bathrooms, we have introduced types of equipment which consume 50% less water without compromising on the experience. In the tiles we import, we do a lot of enhancement here in India. Even crockeries, we do decorations, etc. here. The companies we deal with also engage themselves in a lot of CSR on the environment side. Therefore, hotels using those products also get rating certifications and credits.

Q How do you see the demand building up especially in the light of reports of an investment slow down in the hotel market due to oversupply of inventory?
I don’t agree with that observation. As we speak, more 600 new hotel projects of 80 rooms and above are underway. In key cities in the country, there are days in a week when hotels are fully sold out. The government’s focus on tourism in the last five years has really benefited. By 2025 the tourist numbers are expected to triple. The kind of infrastructure that has been built in the last few years has been just amazing. The road connectivity, air connectivity everything is improving leaps and bounds. The regional connectivity scheme is also expected to drive tourism to remote destinations. This will definitely necessitate new investments for accommodation and hospitality facilities beyond the key cities and towns in the country.

Q How did GST change the trade and business environment for vendors like you?
It has become really easy. Goods movement has become fast. It used to take a minimum of four days for goods to reach Mumbai from Delhi earlier. Now, it is reduced to two days. And you buy goods from anywhere; you get GST bill and eligible for credits anywhere in India. It has become a smooth affair. Those who are cribbing are those who used to do under-invoicing and under-hand business. Today people who invest cannot afford to sell without the bill, if they want input credits.

Q You are now a Consultant with IHE Board. How do you see that annual platform emerging and filling the vacuum of a truly international B2B exhibition?

I have been associated with AAHAR since 1982 onwards. However, I haven’t seen many GMs or CEOs of hotels attending the expo. At IHE last year 11 GMs and 3 CEOs came for the show. Last year, we had less than three months for planning and execution. Even then we did a lot of things around IHE last year - Fashion show, seminars, culinary workshops, etc. All the industry Associations are putting their weight around IHE and we expect it to evolve into a future international hospitality show of the country.

Although there are around 32 shows happen every year, most of them are either regional or city-specific shows. All of us go to food and hospitality shows in Dubai, Singapore, Chicago, China, etc. Nobody comes to participate in our shows. We have to change it, especially because the food and hospitality sector is growing at a rapid pace in India. With the government’s focus on Make in India, things are changing rapidly in our country. Companies have started investing in India. Items which were never made in India are being manufactured here. Therefore, it is important we have a good international show for the sector. Best of the shows are currently happening in India Expo Mart. It’s a world-class expo facility with no parking hassle, best of ambiance, best of hygiene, food stalls, etc.

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