Having entered the Indian market through a distribution agreement with Kajaria Ceramics in 2011, Turkish sanitaryware and bath fittings brand VitrA – part of Eczacibasi Group – is fortifying its presence by establishing standalone distribution channels. The company is investing heavily for increasing visibility and brand building activities besides adding more dealers.
Commenting on the development, Mukund Patel, head of operations of the building products division of Eczacibasi Group in India, told Sourcing Hardware, “Around four years ago, we began modestly, spending time to understand the market, its dynamics, what products may have demand here, and so on. And in October 2014, we split our ways with Kajaria and have started putting together the entire network. We have established our own liaison office in Mumbai for marketing and brand promotion and have spent the entire last year setting up our networks.” He added that the company now has 10 distributors and about 90 dealers with a strong presence in west, Delhi NCR and Kerala.
On the renewed focus on the Indian market, he reiterated, “We have defined India as our 6th strategic market in addition to Turkey, Germany, France, Russia and UK. India being the second most populous country and having a construction market among the largest top 10, has influenced our decision.”
VitrA’s expansion strategy also involves improving the display quality at its existing dealerships, and identifying more markets for future growth. This February the company has opened three showrooms in the Delhi-NCR – Ashok Vihar, Mangolpuri and DLF Phase-1 Gurgaon. Earlier the company had launched two such stores in Mumbai last year, and now wants to open about 25-30 such stores across India by the end of this year, which will include exclusive showrooms as well as shop-in-shops.
Patel added, “In terms of opening showrooms, at the moment we are focusing on metros – tier-I cities. We would be opening showrooms in Chennai next and then Kerala. We will look at tier-II cities after that. Earlier, only in the metros were people willing to invest in expensive sanitaryware, but now demand has sprouted even in small towns. But we need to find the right dealers who are capable of displaying our wares the right way.” However, company-owned showrooms are not part of the company’s retail strategy at the moment.
Having made a full-fledged entry only recently, brand building is the top most priority for VitrA. And understandably so. Looking at the overall premium sanitaryware market, some of the global brands like Roca, Grohe, Duravit, Kohler, Villeroy & Boch, to name a few, have already established themselves here. And with every passing year more players are entering the fray, either by signing up an existing manufacturer as distributor or directly, Toto being the latest entrant. VitrA, ultimately, would be jostling for space with all these players.
Patel opined, “It’s too early to compare ourselves with the other established global brands in the Indian market. Our focus is on increasing visibility while strengthening our network. And, may be by 2018-19, we will be in a position to asses our performance vis-a-vis our competitors. However, overall, our aim is to be among the top three global brands of our sector in India.”
To make it a reality, VitraA is conducting various brand building activities. “We are going to make more investment towards branding through ATL, like hoardings, as well as BTL activities like showroom openings, architect meets,” shared Patel, further informing that the company is organising a mega architect meet in Indore from February 18-20. “More than 2,000 architects will be present at the event. We are regularly organising such events across India as a part of our B2B marketing push.” However, participating in trade shows in India is not on the priority list. “We are doing trade shows in the European market. We would be going to ISH Germany and would be inviting top people from India to visit us there.”
Globally, VitrA have 16 manufacturing sites in Turkey, Germany, France and Russia, and manufactures five million units of sanitaryware, 350,000 bathtubs, 370,000 units of bathroom furniture, three million faucets and 2.5 million bathroom accessories every year. However, for the Indian market, products are being sourced from Turkey only. “Some of the products are also imported from the plants in Germany but even that is routed through Turkey. The plants in the European markets are for catering to those markets only,” informed Patel.
On its plan of having a manufacturing facility in India, Patel stated, “We are currently doing a feasibility study and the plan of coming up with a manufacturing unit is being discussed in the HQ at Turkey. But for that we need to meet some figures in terms of sales. As a matter of fact, we don’t have a manufacturing plant in any of the Asian countries. So, once we explore the other markets like China for instance, a unit would be more needed.” He shared that setting up plants in India to cater to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China is part of a long term plan.
Besides sanitaryware and bath-fittings, the company also markets tiles under the same brand name in Turkey and Europe. In fact, VitrA acquired 51% stake in Villeroy & Boch’s tiles business in 2007. “We will be supplying tiles to the Indian market from mid this year. However, our priority is building up the sanitaryware and bath fittings business. The second priority would be bathroom furniture, and may be the third would be tiles.”
Patel is bullish on prospects of the company and the industry at large. He is particularly enthusiastic about prospects of project sales. “We will also be targeting the 5-star hotels. So there is a huge prospect, whether it is for renovation or a new hotel. And, we are going to work along with architects and interior designers for targeting the project segment.”