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Reynolds — the pen brand that evokes nostalgia — has been focussing on innovating products suited to customers across different age-groups. The company’s Chennai’s R&D center, set up four years ago, has not only been innovating productions for India but also supports other brands in the US-based Newell Group, which owns the Reynolds brand. Rajat Vohra, Country Head – India & South Asia, Reynolds India, spoke to BusinnessLine about the Chennai R&D centre and its contribution. Excerpts:
How critical is the Chennai R&D for Reynolds globally?
The R&D center has been contributing to developing and delivering innovative products for not just India, but for global markets as well. India has always been a key part of our global R&D strategy and efforts, with our long-established manufacturing unit in Chennai. Our R&D teams have been able to collaborate and design products with carefully sourced raw materials leading to cost efficiency and speedy delivery, which is a differentiator for India and the key reason behind making this an innovation hub for Reynolds.
Apart from Chennai, where are the other R&D units for the company?
We have a centralised design center in Michigan, US which takes care of the industrial design and an R&D center in France. This goes to show how important the Chennai centre is in the global scheme of things, for not just Reynolds but Newell Brands.
Could you give examples of the innovation done in Chennai?
Once we develop products that see success in India, we take them to other markets. Indian consumers prefer long writing pens with smoother inks that don’t bleed. We have launched seven products in the first quarter of 2021 to cater to these needs of Indian consumers. Our R&D teams are committed to innovating, even in the fields of colour expansion and ink development, to continue offering exciting products to our customers. Along with Reynolds, the centre also develops and manufactures for other global Newell brands and businesses such as Rotring, Parker, Waterman, Sharpie and more.
How has the center grown?
We started with a small team of engineers in 2017 and have grown to a team of 60. Our focus has been to create a skilled talent pool that can support us to create innovative and customised products. For instance, we have a Predictive Modelling team that uses computer-based simulation tools to predict the structure stressors and fluid flow for the pens. They also test the moulding tools for the pens. While pens may seem simple, a lot of hard work and science goes behind developing a product.
What’s the difference between consumers in India and the US?
Indian consumers prefer blue ink, finer lines and smaller diameter pens for a comfortable grip in addition to long pens, while the American counterparts prefer black ink, bolder lines and wider pens for writing. Additionally, the concept of refillable pens is also unique to India, when compared to the US.
What are Reynolds’ plans for the India business?
We are also expanding in India and South Asia with other brands like Sharpie, Elmers, Rotring and Dymo. We have already expanded our distribution network by 30 per cent and retail network by 40 per cent along with entering into newer categories like markers, mechanical pencils, correction pens, and gluesticks.