Dynamism unseen in Europe drives Asian growth

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Andrew Powell, managing director, Robert Bosch Inc. (Philippines). PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

Andrew Powell, managing director, Robert Bosch Inc. (Philippines). PHOTO BY RUY MARTINEZ

It was an exceptionally hot and humid day in May, when the interview was arranged, yet Andrew Powell didn’t seem to mind. He admitted that the weather in Manila is so unlike what he was used to in England his home country, or even in Germany, where he was based for a number of years.

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Powell is the new managing director of Robert Bosch Philippines, and he just celebrated his first 100 days in his new post last May.

A brief stint in Singapore prepared him for the work culture in Asia (not to mention the tropical heat). He was in Manila beforehand for short trips and liked what he saw.

“For many years I’ve been involved with the segmented divisions within Bosch, and general management functions was always my dream,” Powell said, adding that, “my second dream was to set foot in Asia and stay in Asia.”

He explained that his company is very much oriented towards Asia. “We see it as a growth area, and I want to be part of that growth,” he said.

Powell noted that a strong energy drives growth in Asia, a dynamism that cannot be seen in Europe at this time. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 25 per cent of the company business, and in particular the Asean nations have registered the fastest growth.

However, he admitted that compared with others in the Asean the Philippines is not yet in the top-tier countries. But he said this is part of the goals and challenges of his job, to see to it that the company is responding to the needs of the Philippines as it hastens its growth and development.

Bosch Philippines is part of the huge German conglomerate Robert Bosch GmbH, or Bosch. It is a German multinational engineering and electronics company whose headquarters is in Gerlingen, near Stuttgart, Germany.

The company is currently the world’s largest supplier of automotive components. Its core products are automotive components, including brakes, controls, electrical drives, fuel systems, and the like. They are heavily into industrial products such as drives and controls, packaging technology and consumer goods, and even building products which include household appliances, power tools, security systems, and “thermo-technology.”

Like most multinational companies, Powell said their business dynamics have changed to factor in the latest developments in Asia, in particular the upcoming Asean integration in 2015.

“We look at this as a positive step. For us, competition is healthy, and we look at our customers and try to continuously give products that fascinate them,” he said.

Powell said his strategy is to maintain the lead of their divisions that are extremely popular in the Philippines, such as the power tools division, and automotive parts such as the spark plugs and the wiper blades.

However, he said he also wants to widen their footprint and push for their other divisions. “Our objective is to provide our services and our products for all Filipinos in all the islands.” This means, he said, looking for more partners where they can put up their automotive workstations, such as gas stations. Bosch has actually begun its initial partnership with Chevron, and the results so far are positive.

The challenge now, according to Powell is “having the right people connected and how to engage them.” But he is happy that Bosch Philippines already has a perfect team in place, and is surprised at how much potential they have.

What he wants to do is to encourage the different divisions within the Bosch group to get a foothold in the Philippines, to have country sales organizations here that will engage the customers. “At the moment, I don’t see an engagement, whether it’s coming from China, Singapore, Germany, or from somewhere else,” he noted, a situation that he said he wants to change.

Powell said this would not be difficult to achieve given the quality of people in the company and their customers. “I was very impressed with the friendliness and how easily I had been able to fit in here. I feel very much at home.”

On the personal front, Powell said he and his wife are happily settled in Manila, enjoying their hobbies such as tennis and walking whenever their schedule (or the weather) permits. He said they also enjoy trying out the various Filipino food dishes.

A surprising interest of the Bosch Philippines chief is aboriginal music from Australia. He revealed to us a newly arrived package from Australia containing an aboriginal instrument, which he noted makes a strange sound. Powell said he hopes to learn how to play the instrument well, and we are sure given his dedication to the tasks at hand, he can easily achieve this skill.

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