By Raghavendran Madhavarao on Jun 10, 2018
Raghevendran Madhavarao is a Shell Lubricants Sector Marketing Manager based in Gurgaon, India. He is one of Shell’s longest-standing sales and marketing experts with twenty years’ experience with Shell. During that time he has worked on a number of key customer accounts across both the EMEA and APAC regions. Today, his role is to help customers understand how their lubricants strategy can have a positive influence on their equipment total cost of ownership.
“The general view of our lubricants customers is that it’s an industrial consumable. It is only a small part of their overall maintenance budget, constituting only 2% to 3%. As far as lubricants go, their mindshare is not very high. How the right lubricant can help reducing the other 97% of their maintenance budget is something customers aren’t generally aware of,” he says.
From price to focusing on TCO
Raghavendran’s role is to show that with the right lubricants strategies in place, customers can make real improvements maintenance costs. It’s not without its challenges.
“It is very natural for customers to come up with a price challenge at the start. First of all, it’s their job to challenge their supplier’s price positioning because they want to get the best deal. Secondly, the market has always operated with suppliers going to customers with an explanation of how their price compares to competitors’ so the customer is encouraged to think in those terms. The opportunity lies with brands like Shell Lubricants to take the conversation a bit deeper and move the conversation from price to value.”
Moving the conversation from lubricant cost to lubricant value is not an easy one but, Raghavendran insists, one that is vital for the continued operational – and financial – health of his customers.
Industry knowledge is very important if you’re going to have a conversation with customers about quality. Customers certainly know their own equipment best. If you’re going to have a conversation about TCO, understanding the customer’s operations becomes crucial.
Being able to minimise the customer’s total cost of ownership so effectively is down to the extensive training and preparation Shell’s Lubricant experts put into understanding their customers’ needs.
Depend on Shell heritage to stay at the cutting edge
Shell Lubricants Experts like Raghavendran typically do a great deal of preparation before approaching customers. They research the sector as a whole, then break it down into segments so they can understand the nuances of individual needs.
Shell’s long-standing heritage in industrial lubrication – more than 150 years - means the company and its experts have a wealth of case studies to draw on to demonstrate how their advice has played out in the past:
“The records we have that point to Shell’s contribution in reducing their TCO gives a lot of credibility to what we say and also opens up the customer to sharing their own particular challenges. From that point, Shell can offer them solutions that are most appropriate to their own needs,” Raghavendran reveals.
This process of information gathering and case study generation is never-ending, Raghavendran insists, because he believes neither he nor his colleagues can afford to stop making an effort: “There is no limit to adding references because increasing the volume is only going to give more confidence to the customer.” Global coverage is vital, he adds, to make sure every customer in every location finds a proof of concept they can relate to.
Customers should continue questioning
Customers have access to more information via digital sources than ever before which means they are able to question suppliers more deeply as to how lubricants contribute to TCO and perform a more in-depth cost analysis. Equipment manufacturers also play a role informing customers on their options. This is something Raghavendran welcomes, believing as he does that education is a powerful tool when it comes to efficiency.
“The customer is getting better and more aware of what’s going on in the industry. The level of understanding does still vary across sectors but overall, it’s up to us at Shell to educate about the role lubricants play in managing TCO effectively.”
Raghavendran’s advice to customers is to continue exploring, continue questioning to get the best from their lubricant and the best from their suppliers: “Challenge the status quo because there’s improvement happening in all fields, including lubricants. Be open and curious about what lubricants are doing in your machines. Engage with suppliers to find out more and understand what might be possible and finally, try it out. Even if it’s just in small areas, experimentation can open up a wealth of benefits.”