Thursday, June 20, 2024

Gaining edge with the right supplier partnerships

By N Jayalakshmi | May 22, 2023

Signage and retail solutions company Brandshell leverages its partnerships with the right material suppliers to address market challenges and emerge stronger. Here’s a look. 

The retail signage and solutions industry, like other industries in the eco-system, is driven by strong partnerships as one of its growth enablers. For major players in the retail solutions space, these partnerships with suppliers play a big role in sustaining the relationship with their own clients on the other end -  retailers/brands. Right partnerships also help them face market challenges and tide through the tough times. 

For retail solutions major Brandshell, positioned as a trusted one-stop partner for retail branding solutions, partnership with its suppliers is a big part of its growth journey. As Hitesh Mahajan, Director at Brandshell, says, “Partners are the back support of our eco-system.” 

The win-win factors

Indeed at a time when retailers are under tremendous pressure in terms of roll outs and time lines, suppliers who can be counted on in terms of quality and delivery is crucial for solution providers. As Hitesh points out, while speaking about their process of  identifying the right suppliers, “We always look for direct distributors or manufacturers so as to be able to pass on competitive pricing to our own clients. The other factors are material availability and credits.  If suppliers don’t provide competitive pricing, quality material, timely delivery and good credits, then it will be very difficult for us pass on the same benefits to our clients.” 

One of the key suppliers of Brandshell is Maruti Flex, which supplies print media to Brandshell. The partnership that has been built over the last four years, is one that aims to be a win-win one. As Hitesh points out, “Maruti Flex is a big, well established company, they have branches in every state in India. This ensures we can get materials wherever and whenever there is a requirement and this kind of access is very important.”

Speaking further about how partnerships with its suppliers work on a mutually beneficial basis, Hitesh adds, “We refer each other whenever one of us meets a client.” Obviously this lends greater assurance to clients. 

Speaking about yet another supplier, Shubh Plastics, which supplies Acrylic sheets to Brandshell, Hitesh says, “Since we are majorly a signage company, Acrylic is obviously very important for us and Shubh Plastics is one of the biggest importers in Mumbai. In their case too, pricing, material availability and credit are very important factors that sustain the four year old partnership.” And as he points out, Brandshell prefers a long-term relationship with these supplier partners. 

Suppliers’ choice 

The suppliers on their part too look for long-term partnerships with their clients, ones that focus on quality processes and mutual growth. As Shubham Agarwal,  Branch Head, Maruti Flex, says, speaking about working with Brandshell, “We began by supplying modules to them (Brandshell) for their corporate clients and we know they have always been quality conscious. Through regular supply we developed a relationship with them and today they get most of their media from us.”

Timely payments is one of the most important factors that keeps a partnerships going and speaking about this, Shubham, says, Payments are on time with Brandshell; there is no stress on account of that, which is very rare. Also, they follow an organized process. Whenever we get a quality material, there is a process of testing and approval.” 

Indeed for this 13 year old material supplier, working with clients who insist on quality materials is important. “Brandshell had some special requirements which we met and that’s how we started working together. Today it’s more than just a business partnership,” says Shubham.    

Facing challenges, raising the bar 

Pratik Bhandari, Business Head - Acrylic Sheet Division, Shubh Plastics, an established supplier of Acrylic sheets, Flex, Vinyl and other signage media, says, while talking about Brandshell, “They have systems and processes in place and their payments are on time.” Well, timely payments and quality processes mean a lot at a time when these are exactly the challenges that suppliers and others in the industry face. As Pratik says, “Credit line is a big concern as there are many defaulters. This is a big concern since this industry runs on credit. Moreover, we need to get organised - both the suppliers and our clients. There are still many small players involved wherein there is no planning and everything happens at the eleventh hour. This puts a lot of pressure on us the suppliers, especially since much of what we supply is import based.” 

Shubham agrees. He says, while talking about the challenges that suppliers face, Margins are squeezed and credit terms are very high.” Hitesh too agrees here, “Post Covid, the challenges for suppliers have grown as costs have increased and margins have been squeezed. Clients are also seeking more discounts and competitive pricing, so vendors are working on less profits. Also in the signage industry, very few are organised. Unless the industry gets organised, it will be very difficult for each and everyone to be a part of the eco-system.”

Given these challenges, robust partnership between solution providers and suppliers becomes all the more important. As Pratik says, “Mutual compatibility between the supplier and solution provider in terms of quality focus and delivery is very important, given the challenges we face." Equally important, he says, are team training on process implementation and product knowledge, which can help in smooth delegation. 

Strong partnerships also raise the bar for the industry as a whole. As Shubham says, while talking about their learnings from the partnership with Brandshell, “What I learnt from Brandshell is their management approach, especially they way they manage their people.” He elaborates further, while addressing the question of how good partnerships help the industry grow, “This is an innovation based industry with new developments happening constantly because of constant changes in branding and advertisements. It is an evolving process, which requires collective contribution to quality and innovation.” 



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