Within a short span of one year, Casa Milano has become one of the most prominent luxury sanitary ware retailers in the UAE market. In an exclusive interview with Washrooms and Beyond, Azhar Sajan, Director of Casa Milano outlines the company’s journey so far and elaborates on the strategies adopted for the road ahead, to Mrinmoy Dey
Casa Milano is your debut venture which you have started around a year back. What prompted you to get into the retailing of luxury sanitary ware?
My father wanted me to start something of my own. I had the vision to open something in the field of luxury during the summer of 2018. My inspiration was to provide unique products through Casa Milano in the UAE market, luxury wares that are not available anywhere else in the country and also provide good service. The journey so far has had its fair share of ups and downs, and it has been a year of many firsts for us and I am sure we will keep on learning with every obstacle we face.
Casa Milano claims to offer a curated collection of luxury sanitary ware that fills the market gap. What are the product categories you are dealing in and what are the brands that you have tied up with?
Our showroom boasts a touch and feel concept and this attribute is intensified by the state-of-the-art, exquisite products such as 24-carat gold tiles, diamond bathtubs, hands-on experience of live showers, bathtubs, and Corian, which are rarely found. We have a diverse mix of uniquely designed washbasins, showers, mixers, tiles/slabs and solid surfaces manufactured by over 40 of the world’s top-notch brands including Tonino Lamborghini, Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Villeroy & Boch, Maison Valentina, Grespania, Corian®, Quartz and Corà. We have recently launched our own brand of sanitary ware called the Casa Milano series which has products like vanities, mixers, bathroom accessories, water closets and showers.
Last year you have also opened a showroom in Dubai. What sort of ambience did you want to create in your showroom and why?
Our showroom on Sheikh Zayed road occupies an area of around 30,000 sq. ft. Casa Milano is a concept, which caters to the 360-degree luxury bathroom requirements. Our priority is to understand our customer’s needs and showcase some of the world’s top brands. Each touch point in the showroom has been designed to inspire with various display setups such as hotel rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms to showcase its offerings. When customers walk into the showroom, I want to provide them with an experience of luxury and that is why we have invested in an elaborate showroom space.
It is even possible for one to take a virtual tour of the showroom. We have mock-ups where we have live shower areas, Whirlpool bathtub. Our key attraction is the Newton series by Maison Valentina. The Newton series combines black and gold lacquered spheres and creates a sculptural and artistic piece.
In the luxury segment, it’s all about marrying the design with the technology to offer best in class products to consumers. How are you accomplishing that goal?
I agree. The bathrooms are now becoming a place of personal time and we ensure that we work from start with the customers to ensure that we blend technology with design in such a way that the outcome is contemporary. A new innovative product in our range is the massage bathtub by Novellini,
which gives a true wellness experience that can be touched and seen. The new Novellini technology releases 0.2 mm micro bubbles into the water that produces a white foam effect which soothes and rejuvenates the body. Another innovative product is our own range of over-head showers that come with chromotherapy lights and has 4 functions – mist, waterfall, rain shower and rotating nozzles.
While gold, bronze and nickel finishes in the bath products exist from quite a long time, a new trend that was highlighted in the ISH Frankfurt last year was the colourful sanitary ware and bath-fittings ranges. What do you think about this trend?
With the bathrooms becoming a personal spa now, people are keen on giving an aesthetic feel to the bathrooms and play with new colours in terms of the sanitary fittings to give a contemporary look. We have colourful mixers from various brands like Maier, Fir Italia, Cristal et Bronze, Webert and our very own series – The Casa Milano series. The different colours we showcase are Matt Black, Matt Grey, Matt Gold, Rose Gold, Ravishing Gold, and Stainless Steel. We also have counter bolts in green, white, black and stainless steel with different finishes.
“With the bathrooms becoming a personal spa now, people are keen on giving an aesthetic feel to the bathrooms and play with new colours in terms of the sanitary fittings to give a contemporary look.”
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your business? What are the strategies you have adopted to thrive in the new normal?
Covid-19 definitely impacted a lot of businesses in the world, but what separated us from other businesses was that we had kept certain levels of stock for each item. We had more of those products that were fast moving and urgently required in the market, which were disinfectant products such as touchless dispensers and sensor mixers. Moreover, we were aware that in this situation of quarantining, many people wanted to build their homes and create fresh designs. So, we ensured that we prepared well in advance, and have proper stock. Our outdoor sales team reached out to all the construction sites and ensured that our products were specified by the consultants and approved by the client. Also, we reached out to niche areas like Emirates hills, Dubai hills, Downtown Dubai where individual owners were refurbishing their houses.
There is increased focus on hygiene and touch-free solutions now. How are you addressing that demand?
Due to the pandemic a lot of people are now looking at touch-free solutions to curb the spread of the virus. We have introduced a whole range of touchless mixers as well as soap dispensers.
Increasing digital presence and improving the consumer buying process through virtualisation is a key trend. What are the initiatives that Casa Milano has taken?
With the onset of the pandemic, we realised that we need to be more digitally sound, regardless of the kind of business we are in, to showcase to the world our offerings. Yes, the sales were down but we were determined to pull through.
We took it as first of the many challenges that we have to surpass. We recently explored a new platform through TikTok, and to our surprise, customers are reaching out to us after seeing our products there. TikTok and Instagram were earlier known as platforms used by youngsters to showcase their talent but now people are also looking up these platforms for business. We are only a year old now, but having an ecommerce platform of our own is definitely on cards.
“We recently explored a new platform through TikTok, and to our surprise, customers are reaching out to us after seeing our products there. TikTok and Instagram were earlier known as platforms used by youngsters to showcase their talent but now people are also looking up these platforms for business.”
Please elaborate on the brand building and the marketing strategies you have adopted for Casa Milano.
My first target was to create brand awareness of Casa Milano’s showroom to the right audience as we were targeting a very niche category of people. Marketing is the key for any business to grow, especially luxury. The more you hammer a product, the more it registers in people’s mind. The first step I took was to reach out to our potential customers through different digital mediums like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, print media and hoardings at the right places.
What are your future plans for Casa Milano? Any plans for expansion in the medium term?
I would definitely like to look at partnering with more valuable brands as we progress in the journey. We would like to expand with our showrooms in Abu Dhabi and then GCC in the near future as we see our potential clients do come from these regions.