German commercial bath fittings major Schell GmbH & Co Kg entered the domestic market in 2009 by setting up a representative office. Three years later it deepened its presence by establishing a fully owned Indian subsidiary. All this while it has been building up its projects business, and positioning itself as a technology leader in the plumbing domain. Now, Schell wants to diversify into retail for heightening awareness of its water-efficient tech products among end customers, and strengthening its builder base “to emerge as the preferred flushing system brand in India by 2020.” Four months ago, the company appointed industry veteran CV Dilipkumar (firstname.lastname@example.org) to head operations and has tasked him with the execution of its expansion plans.
Dilipkumar brings with him over two decades of experience in the plumbing, industrial valves and sanitaryware industry. During his stints at Chemtrols, George Fischer, Geberit, Duravit and Jaquar, he has been deeply involved in sales and marketing functions, besides retail development and brand management. Therefore his arrival at Schell, which is now poised for a retail foray, could result in some interesting outcomes.
Eyes top 10 cities for retail expansion in 2018
1 distributor, 30 – 40 retailers in each cities to be appointed
E-mailers, WhatsApp, print media for marketing
Retailers to get displays
Plans to set up a training centre in a metro city in 2019
“Schell is a product-focused company and is known for water conserving technological products. Its global strategy has been to not get into the entire range of bathroom products but be a specialist in certain fittings. The company has emerged as the largest producer of angle valves in the world, by producing two crore units a year. Our company is well known for excellent urinal sensors, washbasin taps, sensor taps, angle valves, and flush valves across the globe. We are also the largest OEM suppliers, and supply to bath majors such as Grohe, Hansgrohe and Geberit,” says Dilipkumar.
“We have been present in India for nine years now. So far our Indian operation has been focusing only on the project business. Going forward, we will be setting up a retail network in order to increase awareness of our cutting-edge technology products among the end customers,” he addeds.
According to Dilipkumar, Schell’s angle valves, among the other specialised products, are preferred by consultants and have been specified in many prestigious projects. “Among them are Shobha Developer’s Mysuru campus project for Infosys, as well as projects of Hiranandani Developers, Kalpataru Group and The Prestige Group,” he says, underscoring that signing up retailers also holds the key to strengthening the company’s base amongst the builder community.
Channel partners are set to play a critical role in Schell’s game-plan of breaking into the builder market. A lot of ground is to be covered in creating awareness about the importance of the ‘valve’ in any plumbing system. While consultants have traditionally played the role of gatekeepers, ensuring that the right technology gets used in high-value installations, channel partners are required to help builders cross the last mile during procurement. “We want to ensure that builders have no difficulty in getting their supplies once our product has been specified.”
Dilipkumar asserts that the retail foray is not directed only at builders, but would also encompass the end users. “It is our belief that plumbing has become a high involvement category in India. Buyers are increasingly seeking the best technology and are not limiting themselves to aesthetics. Since the life of pipes depends largely on the valves being used, and conservation of water is always on top of the mind, Schell has an important role to play in each user’s home.”
Schell will kick-start its retail expansion this year with the top 10 cities of the country, including Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kochi. It has laid the groundwork by appointing technicians for local installation support and sales teams to create the retail ecosystem. The company will appoint one distributor and 30 to 40 retailers in each of these cities, while other cities will be addressed in 2019.
Dilipkumar informs that the company will launch marketing activities to help its retail partners in reaching customers, plumbers, builders, architects and contractors. It will also use digital marketing tools such as e-mailers and WhatsApp besides print media. Additionally, retailers will also be provided displays.
The company has also structured a training programme to address the knowledge needs of all stakeholders. “Our company will train salespersons of retail partners. We will also train plumbers by making them aware of the ease of installation and maintenance of our products. We want to demonstrate that our technology products require fewer tools for installation. We will set up a training centre in one of the metro cities next year where we will invite plumbers and contractors for live demos. All these moves will be vital for Schell, as its goal is to emerge as the preferred flushing system brand in India by 2020.”