Silvan Kueng - Hochschule Luzern
Executive Global takes an exclusive look at some of the most successful and competent executives in numerous industries around the world. From banking and finance, private aviation, energy, technology, lifestyle, corporate services, and wealth management, to legal advocacy, education and academia, we take a look at thought leaders and senior level decision makers in their respective industres, in addition to their tips for success in business.
Co-Founder & General Manager, Relish Brothers AG
An interview with Silvan Kueng, Innovative Marketer, General Manager & Co-Founder, Relish Brothers AG
Our dedicated interview on the Swiss Premium Standard with SILVAN KUNG, Co-Founder and General Manager of Relish Brothers AG, highlights the innovation of one of the pre-eminent firms delivering high quality products that combine expert carpentry with state-of-the art industrial design for precision made instruments. Executive Global gain an exclusive insight into how to rock the manufacturing world with this award-winning company in Switzerland.
Silvan Kueng CV
2015 - Presided over successful sales volume of 300% annually in several international markets
2014 - Secured $4 million investment from private group of investors for overseas expansion
2013 - CEO and Founder of Relish Brothers AG
2013 - M Charity social work at the SSBL
2012 - Head of Sales and Marketing
at EventBooster AG
2011 - Director of Strategic Marketing consulting global brands at Reflection Marketing AG
2010 - Head of Marketing at Trisa Electronics AG
Relish Brothers AG produces and sells electric guitars. The company's products include jane, mary aluminum, and mary wood.
The company's guitars are made of dark strand woven bamboo and the bodies of the guitars are made using the swiss floating sandwich construction.
The company was founded in 2013 and is based in Sempach, Switzerland.
Swiss Quality Standard
EG: Why is Swiss manufacturing so renowned and how does
Relish raise the bar of in terms of quality?
Silvan Kueng: Accurate and precise swiss production has and the prestige of Swiss manufacturing can be traced back to the watch making industry and its groundbreaking innovation through many international companies including Roche, Novartis, and ABB. The very first electric amplified guitar can actually trace its origins to Basel, Switzerland – Adolf Rickenbacker moved to the U.S. to revolutionise a new industry back in 1932, which ultimately raised up to $1.2 billion exporting sales of the electric guitar worldwide. Today, no one has ever asked for a Swiss manufactured guitar, as Switzerland has never actually been known to specialise in this field since then. We would have never been successful if we would have simply focused on creating replicas of already existing brands like the custom Gibson, or Fender guitar for instance. The only way to succeed, is to have a well-planed market entrance strategy and to build guitars like no other brand does. We developed a completely new method of body construction for better sound quality with longer sustain and width of the tone spectrum. Additionally, along the road of our first 5 years in business, we constantly expanded upon our knowledge and expertise in new and efficient fabrication processes (e.g. lean production) and also developed stronger USPs for our products. Generally speaking, a rebellious mindset is required to question things which have been done the same way over 60 years. Combining the most innovative guitar technology with passionate craftsmanship, is what makes us proud to see how guitarists are inspired.
EG: Describe three fundamental differences in craftsmanship that you have implemented which differs from most other guitar manufacturers?
SK: We are the only company that allows customers to change the pickup set within a mere 2 seconds instead of 45 minutes. So you basically have one guitar that is instantly modified for each genre of music performance such as rock, blues, jazz, or pop, for instance. For our guitar we have also implemented an innovative touch control technology which enables you to play one guitar with over 60 different possibilities of sound. This feature itself is also a new benchmark.
EG: What global brands do you admire which also demonstrate excellence in manufacturing and why?
SK: We admire FERRARI when looking into the motor window of a V8 engine in their 458 Italia. We admire Rolex for producing over one million watches a year with absolutely no compromise in quality. We also admire Apple for their outstanding design and foresight.
EG: Are your instruments suited to a particular style of performance, or more broadly for all musical idioms?
SK: Our modular guitar construction allows customers to exchange pickup sets within 2 seconds instead of 40 minutes, which tends to be the case on every other guitar. So basically you needed a guitar for each style. With a Relish guitar- you play one song for the hard rock genre, plug in a bare knuckle pickup, and for the next song you can play blues by plugging in a Vintage 59 Pickup. Our guitars cover all possible music genres. With our patented pickup swapping solution we not only provide Relish in-house produced pickup sets, but also any other wild labeled pickup sets.
Modular Design, Innovation
EG: Explain in more detail how the unique concept of ‘modular guitars’ works and how you innovate in this area where other manufacturers do not?
SK: With our models we have a 3-layer sandwich construction where the back side of the instrument can be opened by hand and held on together by magnets. After doing this, within a second you can then grab your pickup set and pull it out through our patented magnetic pickup swapping system which enables instant connection to the guitar signal without soldering – all this happens in a matter of seconds. We have also developed a 17-way touch control switch which fades the sound signal from the bridge to the neck pickup and allows over 60 sound possibilities! Our industry benchmark was for only 3 or 5 way switches. With this unique solution, you can find your perfect tone and sound within a ban combo that and will be able to identify your ‘perfect guitar sound’ far easier when compared with other instruments.Guitar necks typically break easily after falling to ground as the attached strings pull up to 40kg. For our guitars, our patented bent neck solution delivers a new way to bend the wood with a specific process before CNC work and this actually results in an unbreakable guitar neck. Our bamboo fretboard which is an eco-friendly resource and 20-60% harder than any of the other tropical wood materials which are normally fabricated into guitars worldwide. The bamboo grows so fast, that we have found a perfect sustainable and highly competitive material.
EG: As one of the foremost innovative guitar manufacturing and design firms in worldwide, what enabled you the foresight to capture the market share you currently hold?
SK: The global electric guitar market is about $1.2 billion in exports. We get to $1 million revenue in 2019 after being in business for 5 years since 2013. The premium end of the electric guitar market starts from $1,000 per guitar, as 90% of the guitars sold are below that price. Our current portfolio ranges from $3,500-$10,000 per guitar. Theoretically, from 120 million in the premium export sector, our market share today is about 1%, which is still a very niche market size. Nevertheless, annual growth of 300% since incorporation has been a big challenge, which requires the right employees and a constant passion to redefine the existing standard. In the future, we will definitely expand our portfolio to put more affordable premium guitars into the hands of performers. Our goal is to inspire a wider range of musicians and to define the guitar of the future.
EG: Tell us more about the latest bespoke ‘Takamy Jane’ model of guitar design?
SK: Our endorser Mr. Takamizawa in Japan completely fills stadiums and owns over 500 guitars – but since discovering our brand he only performs using Relish guitars. He approached me with the vision of an instrument containing symbols he relies on such as an Angel, a Christian Cross and Flowers, so the real challenge was to succeed in a design with which he would feel a strong emotional connection. ‘Takamy Jane’ makes me proud and grateful for the opportunity to produce such a beautiful individual guitar for an artist for which our co-operation has resulted in friendship.
EG: How has your experience as the director of a successful company deepened your insight into the importance of good management?
SK: It all starts with an idea and a vision that leads inevitably to persistent hard work and passion with a portion of luck- which does favour the bold. As a general manager, you need to be skilled in variety of fields and a lot of these areas you may not necessarily be an expert – although you do eventually become one. I always have taught myself autodidactically and to me, the mindset of a good manager is to think into problem solving fast, make balanced decisions, reflect and improve every day- while never losing sight of your vision. The music industry is especially complex, and is a challenging global market. To succeed across a variety of markets while satisfying the demands of several generations of guitarists is truly exciting and requires the full commitment of each employee, business partner and supplier.
EG: With wonderful reviews from established artists including Motorhead, Stevie Wonder, Tower Of Power and Toshihiko Takamizawa, what can new customers expect when buying their first product from Relish?
SK: OAfter having one of our guitars in hands, you will feel the smooth fast neck with its perfect setup and intonation. Once playing the first few chords you will hear the long sustain and warm width of sound throughout our body construction and after discovering our pickup-swapping concept, you will be inspired to play through a variety of musical genres using the same guitar. Once you touch the control pad you’ll certainly raise an eyebrow after discovering sounds you’ll have never explored before.
EG: What global cities do you see driving technological innovation in this sector within the next 10 years?
SK: Lucerne, our hometown in the heart of Switzerland. Relish will definitely maintain inspiring musicians and will hopefully become a key player in the industry. We are not known as a global city but are definitely driven by a global mindset.
EG: How may emerging technologies such as robotics, blockchain and Artificial Intelligence be implemented into your manufacturing processes, and could these benefit?
SK: Blockchain could benefit us in a way where we will distribute sound and music samples. AI perhaps for guitar lessons. Robotics could be used for some automated guitar making processes, but for its soul - a guitar always needs a human hand.
EG: What are your strategic plans for expansion and growth of the business for 2019 and beyond?
SK: We will not only be innovative through our products, but also through our method of distribution and how we will increase in branding visibility, portfolio and customisation. Our story is not yet finished- we are the precipice of brand new adventures and have only just began in our conquest to dominate new markets.
Give employees responsibility, and celebrate success emotionally.
Everyone says ‘its impossible’ until someone does it.
Streamline supply chain operations.
About Relish Brothers
Relish Brothers AG produces and sells electric guitars. The company's products include jane, mary aluminum, and mary wood. The company's guitars are made of dark strand woven bamboo and the bodies of the guitars are made using the swiss floating sandwich construction. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in Sempach, Switzerland.
Silvan Kueng is the Co-Founder and General Manager of Relish Brothers AG, an innovative manufacturer of bespoke guitars. The company’s guitars are made of dark strand woven bamboo and the bodies of the instrument use a customised 3 layer floating sandwich construction. For further information about Relish, please visit: www.relish.swiss