Navico moves ahead in 2008

President and CEO of Navico, Jens-Thomas Pietralla, on the Gold Coast for SCIBS.
Jeni Bone
On the Gold Coast for SCIBS, President and CEO of Navico, Jens-Thomas Pietralla speaks about trends, the future of Navico brands and growth in Asia-Pacific, particularly Australia - its second largest market after the US.

Owned by Altor Equity Partners, a private equity firm focusing on investments in companies based in the Nordic region, Navico has a presence in 100 countries and has around 2800 employees, boasting a 'double digit million' spend on marketing worldwide.

This year, Navico has launched 67 new products, a feat Pietralla describes as 'part of our commitment to each brand'.

'We are talking about totally new technology, not just relaunches. We have not slowed down. The benefit of having one global network is that we can amalgamate our best talent in R&D. We have the ability to share our knowledge across brands, with centres of competence in each area.'

Navico is the parent company to seven marine electronics brands: B&G, Eagle, Lowrance and Simrad, with Navman, Mx Marine and Northstar added in March 2007 with the acquisition of Brunswick New Technologies Marine Electronics Division.

Navman marine products have now been rebranded as Northstar, with the consumer marketing push of the new logo and name at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show. (See article to follow).

According to Jens-Thomas Pietralla, the aim of Navico is to 'run each brand as a separate concern in the market, however, utilizing shared skills, experience and resources at the development and manufacturing level'.

'Each occupies a distinctive place in its own segment of the marine marketplace. It's our job to support them at the backend in terms of R&D, manufacturing and marketing.'

Pietralla was appointed President and CEO of Navico in January 2007. Born in Wolfsburg, Germany, he studied physics and mathematics at university, joined the Munich office of renowned management consultancy McKinsey & Company, working for clients in the high-tech and telecommunications sector, as well as the consumer goods industry, then transferred to the company’s New York Office for two years.

He returned to Germany in 2000, focusing on Siemens in his role as a partner at McKinsey.

In 2002 Pietralla joined Siemens AG to become Executive Board Member of Mobile Devices as Senior Vice-President for Strategy and Marketing. In this role, he helped grow the business to EUR 5 billion by 2004.

In 2004, Pietralla became Chief Marketing Officer of Siemens Mobile, responsible for all marketing activities and several sales initiatives related to the B2B and B2C divisions of Siemens’ largest business group.

His experience both in strategic and operational aspects of high tech and consumer businesses in Europe and North America are a great asset for Navico’s continuing growth, merger and acquisition activities.

Pietralla sees developing outstanding product innovations and fostering genuine customer orientation throughout Navico’s seven product brands, B&G, Eagle, Lowrance, Simrad and the recently acquired MX Marine, Northstar and Navman as his most important tasks, thus paving the way for continued profitable growth.

The irony of the state of this global conglomerate, according to Pietralla, is that from a consumer point of view 'Navico doesn’t exist'.

'The value of Navico is purely in-house, to the value chain – for research and development, ideas for new products, innovation, quality, manufacturing and sourcing. The strategic goal of the parent company is to strengthen each brand’s position in the major regional clusters around the globe.'

Holding its position as number one worldwide, the company hopes to increase the gap between its main rivals in each segment.

'In different parts of the world, different brands are strongest, depending on the region’s interests,' he explains, listing Simrad as the most popular in Europe, Lowrance in North America and Navman in Australia and New Zealand.

The key to supporting each and every brand in the group, he says, is 'taking a unique approach to each, rather than a one-size fits all attitude'.

'We have executives and managers from different industries who are able to contribute their perspectives to our business as well,' he adds.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Australia specifically, Pietralla observes that the climate and affluence make it the ideal place for commercial boating, game fishing and recreational boating in all its guises.

'There is a lot of water,' he says. 'So, there is a lot of boating experience here. In Australia, the recreational market is very strong, from tinnies to the luxury superyachts.'

In Asia, we have mostly seen commercial fishing and work boats, but that is evolving. With the rise of the wealthy middle class, it is generating a growing market and boating and yachting are booming.'

Asia, says Pietralla is 'a sleeping giant'. 'We do have a team focused on Asian business developments, and there is uptake in certain markets in China, Malaysia, Singapore and India, but it's mostly in the commercial and professional areas.'

While the Australian population is hardly a force in terms of numbers compared to the US or potential Asian markets, Pietralla reports that 'per capita, boat ownership is strong, making Australia a very significant market indeed'.

'For example, on the Gold Coast, one in 20 people owns a boat. In Germany, it is one in 100 and in Norway, one in eight. Country by country, Australia is the second most important market after the US.'

As far as trends in the industry, Pietralla says the key trend is improvements and innovation in electronics, design and usability, integration and the fundamental shift from analogue to digital.

'Consumers are used to cool looking objects in their homes and ease of use with TVs and stereos, so that’s what they demand in their boating electronics. Ease of use, enhancing functionality, with touch screens and entertainment systems built in, as well as sleek, contemporary design.

'Instruments must be compatible with interiors and emphasise the design elements.'

Unique to Australia, according to Pietralla is our growing appetite for big boats, our burgeoning export trade, clever solutions to local challenges and our environment, and a dedication to work-life balance.

'This is my second trip here. Australians are very easy going and welcoming. I will spend some more time here in the future.'

More at www.navico.com
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