As the new senior country manager at VitrA Bathrooms India, which is a subsidiary of Türkiye-based Eczacıbaşı Building Products Division, Tirthankar Sarkar has the daunting task of growing the business in the face of competition from well-entrenched and highly invested multinational and Indian brands. Undeterred, he says that VitrA’s in for the long haul in India.
Of the two decades that Sarkar has spent in the consumer durable industry, over 10 years have been with the bathroom fittings sector in leadership positions, designing strategies to breach new markets and consolidate existing ones. As an industry observer he has seen VitrA, a complete bathroom solutions provider, gaining a foothold since it parted ways with its Indian distributor and operating independently since 2014.
“It is with great pleasure that I take up this new position. I joined VitrA because I could see the company’s potential. I appreciated the value of the skills and expertise needed to deliver challenging, important projects and operations, and develop innovative products. In my brief time with the company, I have been impressed by the tenacity of our culture, and the quality of our client relationships, all of which serve as solid foundations for future growth,” he says.
In this conversation, Sarkar spoke to me about VitrA’s vision for India and how the company is establishing a strong presence in this diverse and challenging market.
What are the mega trends in India that VitrA is identifying with? How are these trends likely to impact the home improvement and bathroom sectors?
We are identifying with several key megatrends in India. One of the most prominent trends is rapid urbanisation, which is leading to a growing middle class. The pace of urbanisation in India is expected to continue at a rapid rate, with estimates suggesting that over 40 per cent of the population will reside in urban areas by 2030. This ongoing urbanisation will drive demand for improved housing and bathroom products. This demographic shift presents a significant opportunity for us to provide premium bathroom products tailored to the needs and preferences of urban consumers.
The rising emphasis on sustainability is another crucial factor that we are aligning with. We recognise that Indian consumers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly and water-saving solutions in their homes. By offering innovative and sustainable bathroom solutions, we aim to cater to this demand and establish a strong presence in the Indian market, where environmental consciousness is on the rise.
We have also observed that India’s bathroom market is substantial, with both mass and premium segments experiencing growth. The mass segment represents a larger share due to its affordability, but the premium segment is also expanding as urban consumers seek higher-end, sustainable bathroom solutions.
How are VitrA’s strategies aligned with these trends, in order to build growth momentum for the next 5–10 years?
We are strategically aligning ourselves with India’s megatrends to fuel growth over the next 5–10 years. Our foremost strategy is centred on continuous product innovation. We are investing significantly in research and development to create bathroom solutions that resonate with the changing needs of Indian consumers, particularly focusing on eco-friendly and water-saving products. We recognise the importance of customisation and localisation in a diverse market like India, and we are tailoring our offerings to suit regional and demographic preferences. By emphasising sustainability and delivering personalised solutions, we aim to establish a robust and enduring presence in the Indian market, positioning us for long-term growth in the years to come.
Examples of customisation and localisation include adapting product designs to suit Indian architectural styles, incorporating colours, and offering products in various sizes and shapes to accommodate different bathroom layouts. We have also developed products with features such as water temperature control and hygiene functions, which are highly valued by Indian consumers.
What infra is being planned in India to reap the benefits of the megatrends?
We are planning to invest in expanding our manufacturing and distribution network across the country. This includes improving logistics and supply chain capabilities and enhancing our after-sales service to ensure a seamless customer experience. We are exploring partnerships with local suppliers to strengthen our commitment to localisation.
We will consider establishing an advanced research and development centre, to create cutting-edge bathroom solutions that are customised to meet the demands of local consumers. This facility would be similar to what we have in Türkiye.
We also acknowledge that domestic manufacturing can enhance competitiveness in terms of pricing, reliability, and faster product availability. To address this, VitrA plans to invest in the future in local production facilities to meet regional demand efficiently, reduce lead times, and offer competitive pricing while maintaining global quality standards.
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What are the segments and categories in which you plan to grow and diversify in the coming 3–5 years?
In the next 3–5 years, our strategic focus for growth and diversification revolves around expanding our presence in the fittings and ceramicware industries. We recognise the immense potential for growth in these categories and intend to explore various segments, encompassing residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. This ambitious undertaking involves offering a comprehensive array of innovative and top-tier products designed to meet the diverse requirements of our customers.
By expanding our presence in these markets, we aim to not only solidify our position but also tap into new customer bases, thus strengthening our overall business growth and long-term viability. This strategic move aligns with our commitment to delivering quality and innovation, enhancing our reputation as a reliable provider in the fittings and ceramicware space.
As we embark on this journey, we remain dedicated to customer satisfaction, sustainability, and excellence in product development, ensuring that our expansion efforts not only benefit our organisation but also contribute positively to the industry as a whole.
How do you see your business being split in India within the segments of residential, commercial and industrial, over the next 3-5 years?
Over the next 3-5 years, we anticipate a balanced business split across the residential, commercial, and industrial segments. While residential remains a core market, we expect significant growth in the commercial and industrial sectors, driven by tailored product offerings and market-specific strategies.
How do you plan to achieve higher revenues and market share in a competitive market, where several international and Indian premium brands are already invested in manufacturing and R&D?
To achieve higher revenues and market share in the competitive Indian market, our strategy at VitrA Bathrooms centres on differentiation through innovation, market segmentation, and strategic partnerships. We will differentiate ourselves by consistently innovating and offering unique, sustainable bathroom solutions. We plan to identify specific market segments and tailor our products to meet their distinct needs, whether they are luxury, mid-range, or eco-conscious consumers. Furthermore, forging strategic partnerships with local distributors, builders, and designers will enhance our market reach and brand visibility. By executing these strategies effectively, we aim to carve out a significant share of the competitive market and achieve sustained revenue growth.
You have identified luxury, mid-range and eco-conscious as the key segments where VitrA would operate. What are the offerings for each of these segments, and how are they differentiated?
In the luxury segment, for instance, VitrA offers premium bathroom fixtures and collections characterised by high-quality materials, elegant designs, and advanced features, including the VitrA Liquid collection, V Care WC and the Hiera showerhead. In the mid-range segment, we provide products that strike a balance between affordability and quality, appealing to a wider consumer base, such as the VitrA ArchiPlan and Metropole collections. Our offerings for the eco-conscious segment emphasise water-saving and sustainable designs, aligning with environmentally responsible consumer preferences.
VitrA faucets and toilets are specially designed with eco-friendliness in mind. Faucets deliver a controlled and efficient flow of water, reducing overall water usage while maintaining high-performance standards. VitrA toilets often come equipped with dual flush mechanisms, allowing users to select a smaller flush for liquid waste and a larger flush for solid waste, effectively conserving water by using only what is necessary for each flush.
Which are the regions where VitrA has a strong foothold in India, by virtue of its partnership with distributors?
VitrA has established strong footholds in key regions of India through partnerships with distributors, including in Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh, and Kochi. These collaborations enable us to effectively penetrate and serve customers in metropolitan and high-potential areas, and contribute to our market presence and growth. We have a strong distribution channel with more than 130 dealers across the country, covering all major cities.
The Indian market has several price segments, each with its own dynamics. What role can product innovation play in addressing this marketing challenge? How do you plan to address these varied segments?
Product innovation can play a crucial role in addressing the evolving aspects of different circumstances in several ways. It can set a company apart from its competitors, enabling them to charge premium prices and withstand pricing pressure from rivals. Furthermore, innovations don’t just enhance production processes or reduce material costs; they also contribute to sustaining profitability, even in price-sensitive markets. We at VitrA believe that innovations that elevate product features, quality, or performance can rationalise higher prices, making customers more inclined to pay for added value. It aligns with evolving market needs and trends and empowers a company to navigate the price dynamics of the market effectively. They provide the necessary tools for competitive survival, maintaining profitability, and adapting to shifting conditions in the market.
Customer experience is an important contributor to the success of premium and luxury brands. How is VitrA enhancing the customer experience in an omnichannel market?
VitrA places paramount importance on elevating the customer experience within the dynamic omnichannel market. To achieve this, we have crafted a seamless and unified brand presence across all touchpoints. Our commitment to consistency means that customers can effortlessly engage with our brand, whether through physical showrooms, online platforms, or social media, creating a harmonious and accessible customer journey.
We have also implemented personalised digital experiences, offering tailored product recommendations and virtual consultations to help customers visualise their dream bathrooms. Personalised digital experiences encompass online design consultations with expert guidance, virtual showroom tours for product exploration, and interactive product configurators that enable customers to customise their bathroom solutions to their preferences. These initiatives empower customers to make informed decisions, visualise their ideal bathroom spaces, and receive tailored recommendations, bridging the gap between the online and in-store shopping experiences and enhancing overall customer engagement.
Moreover, our customer service is geared towards providing prompt and helpful assistance, ensuring that every interaction with VitrA is a positive and memorable one. Through these efforts, we aim to set new benchmarks in customer experience, reinforcing our position as a premium and luxury brand in the omnichannel landscape.
Have you set up any experience centres in India, which seems to be the trend in this industry?
We have recently established a showroom in Mumbai. The 5,500-sqft space is far more than a bathroom experience centre, located in the heart of the western suburb. It is a creative hub and an ideal space for architects, designers and thinkers, with dedicated areas for product specifications and events. The showroom features designer bathroom collections, including award-winning collaborations with world-renowned designers such as Ross Lovegrove, Terri Pecora, Claudio Bellini, and Arik Levy. The Mumbai store has a designated specification area with an array of exhibits, including standard bathroom necessities as well as functional demonstrations of faucets, bathroom furniture, shower systems, basins, toilets, and shower toilets. It is a one-stop destination for the most beautiful and varied bathroom interior design services.
How can channel partners incorporate technology to enhance the customer experience at their outlets? What support does VitrA provide channel partners to align them with your vision of customer experience?
Channel partners can enhance customer experience by incorporating technology such as interactive displays and online catalogues. VitrA supports partners by providing training, access to digital assets, and technical support to implement these technologies effectively.
We collaborate with channel partners to ensure a seamless online and offline customer experience. We provide them with digital marketing tools, e-commerce platforms, and personalised product recommendations. Our approach focuses on blending physical showrooms with online channels to create a holistic and convenient shopping experience.