Five months into the job as our Managing Director, South Africa, we talk to Murray Crow about water heaters, everything solar powered and the growth potential for Electrolux.
Pictured above: Marco Costalonga (Head of Sales & PL Appliances South Africa); Nicolene De Villiers( HRBP South Africa); Mark Moyce (Marketing & Sales Director Kwikot); Murray Crow (Managing Director), Hennie Potgieter (CFO); Hendrik Malan (Head of Manufacturing Operations); Tinus Haywood (Head of Logistics & Site operations); Michelle Mcgowan ( Head of Marketing)
Murray, you have worked in the white goods industry in Africa for 25 years. What has impressed you most about Electrolux?
Murray: First of all, the strength of our water heater business in South Africa. It’s a business that has been around for a long time with fantastic after-sales service. However, it is a new product area for me and I’m really enjoying learning more about it.
Secondly, the scale of Electrolux. It is a massive global company and we, in South Africa, are just a pinprick in the entity.
And what has been the biggest surprise?
Murray: I like the Electrolux purpose ‘Shape living for the better’ which drives everything we do, so having a company-wide approach is very inspiring.
South Africa grew net sales by double digits in Q1 2021. What has been the key to commercial success?
Murray: It’s not my success (laughs) as I only joined in February.
Electrolux has a strong backbone and I think the company has adapted to the current market challenges very well. Like most markets, we see the cocooning effect of Covid with people investing in their homes and spending more time with family and close friends.
Let’s talk water heaters which is a major part of our South African business. How does this strategy compare to household appliances?
Murray: The customer base for water heaters is mainly plumbers. Consumers don’t care so much about their water heater brand as it is hidden in the ceiling while consumers interact with their appliances every day.
So, the strategies for water heaters and kitchen appliances are very different.
You recently refitted your home with solar panels. How are you bringing your love of everything solar-powered into the office?
Murray: Yes, I am a huge fan of solar power. Two years ago I put solar panels in my home and I installed a solar geyser two months ago.
Then, during my first week at Electrolux I was handed an investment to install 1,600 solar panels on the roof of our warehouse which we’ve just started.
90% of energy in South Africa is coal-driven and our national energy operator has an ageing infrastructure and has not kept up with market demand so power cuts are the norm. Having our own solar energy supply is a win-win – it’s a move towards greener energy sources plus it is essential for our production efficiency.
What do South African consumers value most in a company and brand?
Murray: Brand names are important in South Africa – local consumers want a brand that is recognized by their family and friends – but affordability and reliability are even more important.
In addition to the well-known Electrolux floor care brand, AEG will be reestablished in its rightful place in the market for major appliances reinforcing its very strong heritage and positioning the brand as premium once again.
We will relaunch the AEG brand in Q4 this year and carry on into 2022. We will have hero products across all categories of major appliances, including premium freestanding ovens (mountain range), gas on glass, ceramic/induction hobs and air fryer ovens. Pro steam washing machines and Comfort lift dishwashers are amongst many exciting new product introductions.
South Africa is a rainbow nation with 11 official languages and our factory in Johannesburg is no exception. How do you communicate to such a diverse work group?
Murray: It’s really exciting to work with such a diverse team. To help communicate, we’ve started doing townhall meetings with all staff. We conduct them in English and use interpreters for two of the main languages, Xhosa and Zulu.
Let’s fast-forward to 2030. Where do you see our South African operations?
Murray: I think we will have diversified our portfolio leveraging solar energy and grown in sub-Saharan Africa in this category. I also think AEG will be one of the top three aspirational brands in South Africa.
If you could tell readers one thing about our business in South Africa, what would that be?
Murray: The origins of our water heater business go back to 1903. Incidentally, that’s the same year that the Wright brothers took to the air for the first time and the same year Harley Davidson (a brand I’m passionate about) was founded.
Nationality: South African
Background: Before joining Electrolux in 2021, he was MD for Whirlpool South Africa. Has worked with big brands such as Whirlpool and Cadbury’s in South Africa and as MD of ‘Home of Living Brands’.
Something you don’t know about me: “I’m passionate about the outdoors, whether it be sports, fishing or riding the Harley.”
ELECTROLUX IN SOUTH AFRICA
No of employees: 803
Best-selling categories: Water heaters, cooking and cooling, floorcare
Brands: Kwikot, AEG and Electrolux
History: First Electrolux sales office opened 1926 in Johannesburg (the company left in 1977 and returned in 1994).