Japan’s building materials behemoth Lixil Group aims to gain a leadership position in the Indian fenestration market. Last year, it had signed a strategic partnership with AluK, a global design-engineering leader in European style aluminium windows and doors, and rolled out products under the Tostem + AluK brand for Indian markets. Lixil had articulated the partnership as an instrument to bring solutions for the discerning Indian customers by blending its innovative Japanese manufacturing with European design.
How is the company growing in the Indian market with it grand designs, in the face of economic and business disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic? Sandeep Mathur, general manager & director for Lixil Window Systems India, responds to some compelling questions raised in an exclusive interview with Sourcing Hardware.
Which demographics and geographies are you focusing on? How are you tapping into them?
We view India as one of the priority markets for Lixil in the Asia-Pacific region. Due to its strong economic, social and demographic parameters, the country presents a significant growth opportunity and a unique potential for re-shaping the housing technology industry. India, along with the US and China, is one of the top three growth markets for Lixil globally.
We plan to invest further in the Indian market, with a commitment to be the leader of the housing technology sector in the country. The growing disposable incomes, evolving real estate requirements, and adoption of innovative products in the housing segment are key demand drivers which continue to create opportunities for players like us. Enhanced local capacity with flexibility and agility in the supply chain will help us achieve market leadership in India.
We are committed to understanding local climates and various environments, and pursuing technological innovations to provide customers with solutions that suit every region. To reach out to our potential markets, we offer a differentiated approach to window design and pre-engineered solutions. One such example is of Tostem windows under our Lixil Housing Technology (LHT) offerings, which are completely manufactured in-house starting with product design to casting to extrusion to surface treatment to coating and fabrication. There has always been the demand for quality products in the housing sector, and we aim to bridge the gap through our 50-plus years of expertise in high-performance solutions that are designed to withstand the toughest weather conditions.
A lot has changed due to economic and social disruptions triggered by Covid-19 pandemic. How does the situation augur for you?
As the economy opens up, people return to work and transportation and other services resume, there is going to be an increasing focus on hygiene and health. Our range of ventilation windows and doors prevents air pollutants from affecting health, as well as helps in getting rid of unwanted smells that emanate from cooking or a closed-house during holidays.
We firmly believe that windows and doors do more than just connect us with the world outside. Today, the window is like a safety and weather barrier. It also provides real comfort to the customer against rain, water, dust and noise. As a structural element, it has to be safe against high wind pressure experienced in high-rise buildings, especially during the rainy season. Windows are also to be designed to protect inhabitants from air and water ingress.
It is our company’s foremost mission to transform the end-to-end home solutions experience and make it of true value to consumers. With this thought, we continue to deliver on our promise of personalising and transforming the entire experience.
The pandemic has triggered the adoption of newer ways to reach our customers. We have successfully launched architect connect programmes and virtual get-together sessions. We have also introduced showroom experiential tours online to enable customers to stay updated during the period of lockdown and limited mobility.
Supply chains have been impacted across the global due to the pandemic. How will it affect the Indian fenestration industry?
In recent times, housing and real estate have been amongst the worst-hit sectors due to Covid-19 and the lockdown. The pandemic has affected every industry in ways we could have never have imagined. The construction industry is suffering from shortages of workforce, material supplies and cash flow and an increase in prices in the aftermath of the pandemic. At the same time, buyers are being cautious, leading to a temporary pause in demand. Fortunately for Tostem, our Thailand plant is less affected, and production at the Manesar plant started right from the end of May after a brief break.
We are still in the middle of the crisis, and the overall construction industry has seen a slowdown in the short term. The fenestration industry, as a result, has also seen a slowdown with new project launches getting delayed and existent labour unable to fulfil the existing demand. Despite the current situation, the positive side is that the industry has realised the need for timely completion of on-going construction work. For the mid to long term, with gradual opening of the market and the government’s impetus on housing and infrastructure, we are optimistic about our growth in the India market.
How are you placed in the current situation? Do you feel that there is a case for you to re-configure your supply chain management?
All our products are developed, designed, manufactured and assembled under integrated production processes and stringent quality control. Extrusion dies, profiles, coating, pre-fabrication, and hardware assembly process are all done at Tostem manufacturing facilities. The objective was to reduce manpower while delivering the same quality window-system every time, everywhere. The fact that we will manufacture the finished window and not follow the fabricator route will ensure consistency and reliability of quality far ahead of existing industry standards.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a clarion call for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India). In this context, how are you envisioning manufacturing, sourcing and investments in India?
The Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is both opportune and essential. It has struck an emotional chord among consumers and suppliers alike. At Lixil, we are constantly scaling our capabilities, investing in R&D and design, enhancing value through quality, after-sales excellence, and supply reliability.
Our business in India is deeply aligned with government priorities and goals such as ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. We see India as a market that drives growth for us and of strategic importance. We have invested Rs 400 crore to set up Lixil India Sanitaryware Pvt Ltd, our largest ceramics manufacturing facility, in Andhra Pradesh. We have also invested Rs 130 crore to expand our manufacturing facility in Manesar. Our investments, to build stronger brand equity and increase our people strength in the country, are testaments to this commitment.
We aim for leadership in India, not just in numbers but also in being seen as a leader of industry trends. Our primary aim is to create a highly consumer-centric business. Currently, all our products are fully built and glazed at our modern 150,000-sft facility at Manesar and distributed through a strong network of channel partners. Going forward, we will launch breakthrough products, increase our retail presence, bring in new business models and constantly keep thinking ahead in terms of improvement.