Ignacio Martínez, Sivantos CEO: our aim is be world no.1 again


Sivantos Group recently appointed anew CEO in Spaniard, Ignacio Martínez.Backed by his long career over threedecades as a frontline director for threeinternational firms, he talked to AudioInfos of his clear-cut, ambitious target:world leadership.

Ignacio Martínez, Sivantos CEO: our aim is be world no.1 again

Right now, their salesgrowth is “double” the average in theworld marketplace, while importantallies such as Amplifon and GAESare set to help keep them on course,as Martínez points out in his analysis.Further strategies? Keep plumping forrechargeable hearing aids − 75% ofthe outfit’s turnover in the premiumrange − 46% invested in R&D, the ‘overthe-counter’ law in the USA, and TeleCareor remote assistance.

How did 2016 go for Sivantos and whatexpectations do you have for the current year?

The past financial year was one ofthe most successful in our entire history. We oversawgrowth in revenue from 835m to 933m euros in 2016.Our target is to keep growing at double the market rate.

What sales percentage will you reach withrechargeables, one of your group’s main stakes?

We have been offering rechargeable hearing aids fora long time (since 2006). It is one of our major strengths.We use two different technologies: galvanic and wirelesstransmission/inductive (that does not need contact andincreases system reliability). We currently offer the firstlithium-ion wireless rechargeable hearing aid in theworld, Cellion, another milestone in rechargeability. Wealready generate around 75% of our sales in the premiumsegment through rechargeable hearing aids (40% of allour premium products are rechargeable).

Do you foresee any fusions in the sector, whetheror not they involve Sivantos? Or the purchase of athird party by yourselves?

It is not a fundamental part of our growth strategybut, like the rest of the world, we keep an eye out foropportunities to assess their interest to us.

Do you have any plans to open your own hearingcentres as other rival firms have done?

No, our strategy is to be the biggest producer offeringthe most innovative products and services. It is on thisthat we are focusing. And that is what our customersmost appreciate.

What aims do you have for Europe in marketshare, sales…? What growth figure is the target inthis new phase?

After leaving Siemens in 2015, we are still a companyin transition, and we are still reinventing and outlining theway to move towards our future. Our long-term objectiveis to become (again) number one worldwide: in respect ofEurope, we do now lead in several countries, among themFrance and Spain. To be leader worldwide, our aim is togrow every year more than our competitors. Up to now,everything has gone to plan. How? Enormous investmentin R&D (46% up since we left Siemens), technological innovations, great flexibility, great adaptability. We havemade great progress in the past two years and we willcontinue to do so.

And in Spain? It is one of the markets with thelowest rate in fittings in proportion to the population,47 million inhabitants.

At Sivantos we are proud of our long, successfulrelationship with GAES. Precisely last year, we gavethem our Sivantos Business Award of Excellence inthe “Distributor of the Year” category for being the firstfamily firm to sell hearing aids in Spain. They are thedominant leader today in their market, possessing strongleadership principles and great bravery in investment,with over 600 practices, and a strong sense of socialresponsibility. So, the Spanish market is a key one forus to support, and we value our alliance partnershipwith GAES highly.

What was the specific focus of Signia atAudiologyNOW!? We refer to Signia because thatwas the brand present at the trade exhibition.

Signia is our premium product brand that will,sooner or later, completely replace the Siemens brand.Its market reception has been much better than wethought at the outset, and now it is a key to our success.At AudiologyNOW! we showed off our first product withBluetooth, which is the first and only one to combine thistechnology with an inductive connection allowing for onehearing aid to link up with another. We have the bestproduct on the market, one that in addition combinesthe Telecare remote care system that we launched atthe last German congress.

What is Sivantos’ position on the US “over-the-counter”bill (a law covering sales of devices innon-specialist outlets)?

According to the latest news, if the bill is passed itwill still take two years to be implemented, so it is notall that imminent.

Sivantos has been offering this kind of solution for yearsin markets such as China and India and we have seenthat they are good vehicles for familiarising the publicwith hearing aids. Nevertheless, an over-the-counterproduct is not the type of hearing aid that is known inmore-developed markets and that requires preciselya high level of service for a correct fitting, and whichobviously has a completely different level of efficacy.

What is the current penetration of the audibenehearing aid distribution website in the German andFrench markets?

With over 800,000 worldwide enquiries per yearabout hearing aids, audibene has become the biggestpoint of contact for all questions related to hearing lossand listening devices. Furthermore, audibene gets thisoffer across in more than ten countries. In Germany, itworks with more than 700 of the top hearing specialists.In customer satisfaction it received the TÜV SÜD-award,and this was the first time in Germany that professionalsfrom the hearing sector were given this. It was launchedin France in the summer of 2016 and has grown steadilysince then. The French team comprises 16 agents nowfor sales to hearing care professionals working with 150audiologist associates nationwide. We are expectingstronger growth in this partnership network in line withincreased demand over the coming months.

Sivantos Group—with its brand Signia—is also aleader in the Italian market. How many people doesit employ in that country and how is its distributionnetwork organised? What are its expectations andaims in terms of developing Italy, and what awaitsus in the future?

In Italy, we founded a subsidiary of Sivantos in 2009.The market is divided into two. The retail side is headedup by Amplifon with around 39% of the market share, andby small chains. Their presence is at 54% of the market.The rest is made up by independents, and that for usis the real “world to conquer”, since the developmentof Sivantos Italia historically has been more linked toAmplifon than to the independents.

We focused on the independents some three yearsago through Audio Service, since we had an exclusivecontract with Amplifon in Siemens.

We have a clear road map with clear priorities: we arebuilding an organisational structure capable of offeringa high standard of service for the independents while,at the same time, preserving and assuring cooperationwith Amplifon, a leader in the sector. Along this route,we of course have more brands besides Signia, and inItaly we also sell Rexton through another long-termbusiness partner, Eurosonit.

José Luis Fernández, Audio Infos Spain