Think Finland and the first association that comes to mind is Nokia. That is an easy one.

Now, try this: Name the 165-year-old Finnish company which has been in India since 2007? Clue: It is in textile services and family-owned.

If you still have not figured it out, the answer is Lindstrom. It supplies workwear to a host of companies in India from its service centres in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and so on. These are largely in the businesses of pharmaceuticals, hospitals, electrical, automotive and retail which involve corporate uniforms.

“Our aim is to grow our global business which now accounts for 40 per cent of turnover. India is a critical part of this vision,” Juha Laurio, President & CEO of Lindstrom, told Business Line in a telephonic interview from the corporate headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.

Vision 2016

Last year, the company recorded 50 per cent growth in Asia with Europe trailing at 15 per cent and Finland at seven per cent. It sees a similar script panning out during this calendar too. As part of its Vision 2016, the growth strategy will focus on Europe and Asia.

Lindstrom is now looking for new opportunities in India from smaller cities and towns. “We are already serving customers beyond the cities we operate in. The idea is to constantly strengthen relationships with our clientele and enhance business,” Laurio says.

Interestingly, when Lindstrom carried out a market survey here at the time of its entry in 2007, it assumed that multinationals would be its big customers. “I was happy to be proved wrong. Today, 70 per cent of our market comprises local Indian companies. I find the country is changing really fast,” he says.

Confidentiality clauses make it difficult for the CEO to name the user companies here. “All I can say is that we have a huge list and cater to all businesses which require employees to wear uniforms,” he adds.

Distinct business model

As part of its mandate, Lindstrom designs, supplies and delivers garments to its customers while ensuring that they are absolutely clean. The business model, which involves a rental fee for these uniforms, is identical across the 21 countries it operates in.

Garments vary with the user-industry be it manufacturing or services. The company does not face any direct competition in this arena simply because it follows a distinct business model.

“We have a 100 per cent controlled supply chain for our garments. There are service centres for repairing (mending), washing and maintenance. The customer uses one set while we maintain the other,” Laurio says.

Keeping it simple

Lindstrom does not focus on building huge facilities (in India or elsewhere) but adds modules to increase capacity. This way, it ensures a degree of cost-control and keeps investments in check. For the moment, its focus in India is on workwear.

Can India play a bigger global role for Lindstrom? Laurio is pleased with the levels of HR (human resource) skills which are being used across its global operations. “We are delighted with what we see in India. I see an interesting talent pool here which can be leveraged comfortably across the world,” he adds.

Each country has its own set of challenges but from Lindstrom’s point of view, it has “not experienced anything so big or serious” that it becomes a cause for concern. “We are 165 years old and keen to build the business for the next generation. It is not our style to take shortcuts to achieve our goals,” Laurio reiterates.