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How Orient Bell CMO Alok Agarwal is Digitalising the Tiles Titan

Ceramic and vitrified tiles titan Orient Bell Ltd is positioning itself as a ‘future-perfect’ company. CMO Alok Agarwal explains how Orient Bell is digitalising retail, branding, channel management and services to woo today’s digital customer.

How are you steering the company for the future?

We are very keen to differentiate ourselves and build a professional worldclass company that is the preferred choice of discerning customers. And this reach is continuously growing in width and depth. Width in terms of cities we are represented in, and depth in terms of the number of categories and products they carry.

So, this calls for strengthening of your bench strength. How are your human resources shaping up?

We believe that people are a source of strength. In the last two years with the influx of new leadership, we have been able to attract great talent from the best brands in India. Orient Bell has been recognised as one of the most professional employee-led companies in the industry. New talent further increases our capabilities as a company, bringing a breath of fresh air into the building and construction industry.

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What is your approach to differentiation?

Our company was established in 1977 and is one of the largest professional manufacturers of ceramic and vitrified tiles in the country. We have been listed on the stock exchange for over 20 years. We offer solutions to diverse tiling needs of the enterprise as well as retail customers. For enterprise customers, we effectively manage the total system cost of tiling.

This we do by helping them select tile solutions that are best suited to their purpose, be it retail, hospitality, healthcare, education, and the like. Further, we support our customers with timely deliveries from our strategically-located manufacturing locations.

We aim to minimise the inventory at their site, as that significantly reduces their costs in terms of breakage and pilferage. We train their masons in the art and science of tile laying. This approach, of looking at their needs holistically and creating effective solutions, makes us great partners to work with.

On the other hand, for our retail shoppers, we provide support in tile and laying pattern selection. Through our inventory software QuickLook and TruLook we provide quick and easy visualisation of spaces, thus making it easy for all the agencies to understand the final look of the space. This technology is so popular now that even B2B customers are using it.

More than 100 of our channel partners are already offering this experience, and new ones are adopting the technology every day.

A number of large automotive companies buy their tiles from us because of the role flooring plays in ensuring a consistent look and feel in their showrooms across India. Many retail brands that are keen on delivering a consistent brand image across their stores, also consider us their valued flooring solutions partner.

What specific strategies are you adopting to grow the tile market?

We have a production capacity of over 30 million sqm per annum. Nearly 70% of the production comes from our factories in Sikanderabad (UP), Dora (Gujarat) and Hoskote (Karnataka). This ensures greater control over the quality of the final product and allows us to strategically locate ourselves near our key markets.

Our focus is on gaining share by offering differentiated products and solutions that meet the customers’ needs. For instance, cool tiles decrease the indoor temperature by 4-6 degrees and offer a significant advantage in controlling the recurring cooling costs.

Forever tiles are scratch-resistant, and they cannot be scratched even with a screwdriver. Germ-free tiles resist microbial growth. I am really fond of the educational murals we designed for schools. Given that learning is the required outcome at schools, we designed murals with educational content.

Scribble-proof and low maintenance, they have content for every grade. So you have the map of India or biology diagrams available as a ready reference for the teacher.Such tiles have not only improved the productivity of teachers but have also reduced absenteeism and increased enrolment.

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What is your digital approach for connecting with TGs and inspiring them?

As individuals, each one of us has multiple touchpoints with the Internet. We read an SMS from a bank, search on Google, connect on Facebook, follow professional developments on LinkedIn, have a corridor conversation on Twitter, and entertain ourselves on Youtube. Wherever you are, we want Orientbell to connect with you and engage to deliver an impactful and relevant message.

A brand needs to be relevant to its consumers and we will continue to be a part of the conversations that people have. For example, our recent campaign on #HandsThatBuildIndia celebrating the masons for their contribution was loved by all our stakeholders. It was also our way of wishing our nation a Happy Republic Day.

We try to be innovative in every sphere. Realty+ recently awarded us for the best-integrated marketing campaign. The bathroom is the smallest room in any home or office. Our campaign ‘chhote bathroom ke bade solutions’ promised expertise in laying tiles and choosing colour combinations to make even the smallest of rooms look bigger.

The proposition was clutter-breaking in its promise and connected with customers driving huge enquiries. We leverage both traditional and digital media to reach out to our TG, as both play their unique role in consumers’ lives.

Digital or tradition communication, which is more effective in terms of awareness, conversion and advocacy?

In terms of awareness and conversion, both digital and traditional communications go hand in hand. The communication has to be relevant to the consumer and talk to his need state at that point in his purchase journey. For advocacy, digital, with the ease of capturing user-generated content, plays a higher role.

“Through our solutions approach we are addressing the needs of institutional clients more effectively”.

What is the nature of the Orient Bell retail channel in India?

We have two main formats. One is the company-owned boutique, of which we have nine. These are manned by our employees and the objective is to help the customer navigate through the choice of 3,000 SKUs and make the selection that best meets her needs.

Once the selection is made, the customer is directed to any of the 150 franchisee owned Orientbell Tile boutiques, or the wider network of 2,500 channel partners for completing the sale. As urban cities expand, we are constantly identifying and addressing opportunities in existing markets for adding new retail touchpoints.

Also Read: Partnerships, Collaborations are Keys to Unlocking Digitalisation Potential: The Growth Labs’ Alok Agrawal

What digital approaches do you have for supporting channel partners?

We support our channel partners through their ‘life stages’. So when a new channel partner comes into the fold, we leverage digital to drive visibility and footfalls for his store. We generate leads and pass it to the partner. We recommend best-sellers to him.

We also understand the typical buying patterns of retailers and recommend complementary SKUs to buy. When he places an order, we keep him updated on details like invoice value and dispatch.

How do you attract retailers to become channel partners?

Retailers are attracted by positive word-of-mouth, or by the culture of people they interact with, or a visit to our factory. Much like with an employee, we also look at a channel partner’s cultural fit.

We have recommendation and requests coming in through existing channel partners as well as the sales force. Through the digital medium, we get nearly 30 channel partner requests every month.

How have you made the digital retail experience interesting and easy for customers?

Today the consumers are used to the convenience of online apps. And they come to the tile category with the same expectations. We want to make tile buying a very convenient process
for them. So we speak in their language. For instance, we understand that customers prefer to select tiles on the basis of colour.

So, we have designed our website such that products can be searched according to colour, like blue or grey coloured tiles. They can even find unique preferences like ‘geometric’ designs.

Customers can leave their number on our website and expect to hear from us. We connect them to the nearest Orientbell channel partner who will understand their needs and create a personalised solution for them.

This article was published in the January-February 2020 edition of Sourcing Hardware magazine with the heading: ‘Brands need to be relevant to consumers and we will continue to be a part of their conversations’.


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