Hans Salzinger, ARRI’s director of sales for camera systems, tells Vinita Bhatia that discounts do not necessarily help customers. Moreover, if they opt for pricing over quality, it is likely to prove counterproductive in the long run
Hans Salzinger is a self-made person. Coming from a poor German family, he worked as a locksmith as a youth. After his father’s demise, he decided to complete his university education to get a better shot at life. Since he could pick up academic concepts faster than his peers, the German government partially funded his education and he later worked with various companies. One of them included an organisation that manufactured water-pumping solutions while another offered high-end satellite systems. For the past 10 years, he has been associated with ARRI, where he is currently Director of Sales for Camera Systems. He tells Vinita Bhatia that he can adroitly manage different industry domains because he always looks at what the customer needs and how his company’s products can fulfill it. The rest of the matrix then automatically falls in place.
You have worked in various industries during your career, each with very distinct technical characteristics. How did you manage to manage the learning curve for them, including ARRI cameras?
More than the technicalities of the product, I think business is about the relationship you build with customers and understanding their need and how you can meet it. For instance, in the satellite business, I won a contract with a Middle East client where I was competing against Boeing. And I did it by explaining to the customer how many Porsche Cayennes they could buy from the money they would save by taking our solution. Our Middle East clients understood this logic far better than Microsoft Powerpoint presentations and we won the deal.
It also helped that I was good at physics and so understanding technology and its nuances came easier to me. Therefore, moving from industry to industry was not a challenge. However, I would not be successful in selling products that I was not convinced about myself. Coming to ARRI, I liked the company was backed by a lineage of strong technology. They also had a product portfolio that complemented camera systems, including lights, lenses, and media and archiving solutions.
I also liked the fact that the founders had the foresight to start a rental company because this would division would give quick and honest feedback about the products and solutions ARRI had developed rather than your channel partners.
In India, customers can be very particular about pricing and discounts, as much as technology. How do you deal with these issues?
Yes, in India, partners and customers are very vocal about pricing. They will shake your hand and might not even ask your name but will ask for a discount! I remember at a masterclass that we had organised, we had a renowned Hollywood DOP who was giving details about the technical details of an ARRI camera. I, however, told the assembled partners and users that besides understanding what was great about the product, they needed to learn how to make a movie within their budget using it and to look beyond its pricing. Because you pay a lot more when you pay less. No one wants to spend more than needed. But if you are going to compromise on quality because you want to save some money, then it makes no sense and it is counterproductive.
We know some of our competitors give up to 70 percent discount. The other way to look at it is that they are overcharging their products and keeping a huge margin anyway.
Also, one has to realise that in the movie-making business, 0.6 percent is kept aside for camera. Now, if you have the right kind of cameras then it can make all the difference, especially for outdoor shoots in all extreme climatic conditions. A sturdy camera can reduce the chances of reshooting and the producers appreciate that because one day of reshooting can have escalating cost on every division of the shooting process. Hence, that is why I say that DOPs and customers need to look beyond pricing while investing in cameras.
What is your service network in India
When you have a lot of products, then there can be lot of malfunctions. So the service and the education is another part of the system. So, if we take the responsibility for selling products in your country, then we should also ensure that the service should be provided in India and not in Germany or the US since the duty prices for importing are so high.
We had this bad experience with our first partner. Around five years ago, we signed up with Cineom Broadcasting as our distributor and service provider. In India we currently have a service centre in Mumbai, which is adequate because our cameras are so stable that they usually do not fail. Statically, 90 percent of the problem with the camera sensors is that someone will shoot against the laser, destroying it. So, we undertake workshops to educate users on how to handle the cameras appropriately to minimise damage to the equipment.
Does it not make sense to get the companies to double up as your service centres?
Yes want as many rental companies to service our products as is possible. The downtime at shooting is something that any producer would want to avoid as compared to paying rental for an additional camera. A couple of years ago, we founded the ARRI Academy in Munich where industry professionals teach users on how to use ARRI camera systems, lenses, lights, and accessories. These are paid courses cover specific products or are custom designed to meet the particular needs of users. At the end of the session, the attendees get a certificate for their competence. These courses focus on practical teaching, covering everything from on-set techniques to post-production workflows and are limited to a few people in each batch to ensure that each person gets enough hands-on time with the equipment and for asking questions.
We also have these sessions on after-sales services and companies that enroll for these modules can get spare parts for a special price. These sessions are also held locally in countries such as China, the Middle East, and Spain, where the citizens are comfortable communicating in their native language such as Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish.
How are you working with Cineom Broadcasting to improve your business in India?
We continue to organise lot of channel engagement programmes with Cineom, because we want to educate our partners and also get their feedback. I believe the latter is crucial because criticism gives you a lot of insight on how you can improve your products and processes than when everyone compliments you on your progress.
Also, we are not in the pixel race, unlike our competitors. While everyone is talking about 4K and 8K, they fail to notice that resolution is a functionality of distance. When you are very close to cinema screen, you can see the difference between 2K and 4K in the first 10 meters, after that it is not as evident. Similarly, you can see the difference between 4K and 8K in the difference of 20 meters and not make out as much difference beyond. That is the linear relationship. But what you can see is the dynamic range.
What business verticals contribute the highest to your revenue?
The majority is definitely from our camera sales and lenses and a small percentage comes from accessories.