Abhishek Somany speaks on the company’s plans

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In an exclusive interaction with Washrooms and Beyond, Abhishek Somany, MD, Somany Ceramics speaks on the company’s plans for the sanitaryware and bathware category to Mrinmoy Dey – By: MRINMOY DEY

Having established as a leading player in the Indian tile industry, Somany entered the sanitaryware and the CP fittings space around 2012. How has been the journey so far?

Within a short span of 5 years, Somany can boast of being the 5th largest Sanitaryware brand in India. We are a renowned brand in the bathware category and known for Quality, Technology, Design and Service.

Available across the country in over 350 franchisee stores & 1000 outlets, Somany has full range of products across sanitaryware & bathware. Our sanitaryware is among the whitest available in the industry and white colour helps in creating an illusion of space, serenity and luxury.

We recently launched the French Collection in Bath Fittings which has smart toilets at an unmatched price bracket of under INR 1 Lac. The addition of the new collection will strengthen our product portfolio and will continue to help us expand our consumer base.

Backed by cutting edge technology and Avant-garde designs, our French Collection pays tribute to fine traditions of magnificent artisanship and precision through a wide range of products which beautifully complements and completes the existing sanitaryware range.

You have recently launched the French Collection – a curated designer collection, in the premium segment. What’s the advantage/disadvantage of having a curated collection vis-à-vis partnering with reputed international brands having tie-ups with multiple designers?

The French Collection is luxurious and its smart product line is inspired by the unique elements of French heritage while taking design aesthetics into cognizance making it a truly world class product line. Having a curated collection has a big advantage of offering a unique value proposition to the consumer, which is thus easily differentiable from the competitor’s offerings. We are open to such associations in future which bring a unique and distinct value proposition to the brand.

“Villeroy & Bochs premium collection Finion features an individual lighting concept that permeates the entire series, from furniture to mirrors and ceramic, for a harmoniously consistent effect. All furniture models are available with the continuously dimmable emotion lighting

You said that Somany now has products for entry level to premium segment. How are you differentiating among your product offerings as per target segment? Do you use different sub-brand?

The differentiation among various product offerings is done primarily on the basis of the product characteristics for e.g. in our sanitaryware range we have an exposed glass cistern named “Bastille”, which is aesthetically designed by keeping the desires of our consumers in mind, this is made from tempered glass with a protective film and has ultra slim cistern for wall hung toilets. In the premium segment we also have a range of products which are Red-dot and IF awarded in Bath fittings (Odette and Jazz).

We have certain sub categories of products which differentiate our product offerings in bathware and sanitaryware. While Somany Bathware caters to the entry level segment, Somany Signature and French Collection offers superior features and are targeted towards the premium segment.

In the premium segment we also have Smart toilet, ensembles (coordinates) along with Double Symphonic flushing products and Artist collection Basins. To further distinguish our products at the consumer touch point, we have separate displays for our signature and French Collection.

You have also mentioned that for Somany the growth strategy will revolve around innovation and product differentiation. How are you planning to achieve that?

We have various innovative products like “Bastille”, Sensor Faucets, Smart Toilets, LED Showers, LED Mirrors, Champagne and Rose Gold finish CP products etc. in our bathware range. The product differentiation is in Style, Finish and Range which includes rimless toilets, sensor control faucets etc.

Our diverters are forged diverters, which are light in weight yet the most durable as compared to our competitor’s offerings. Consumers are not aware about forged diverters being more durable than casted diverters, there is a misconception among consumers about heavier diverters being of better quality.

You said that Somany now has products for entry level to premium segment. How are you differentiating among your product offerings as per target segment? Do you use different sub-brand?

The differentiation among various product offerings is done primarily on the basis of the product characteristics for e.g. in our sanitaryware range we have an exposed glass cistern named “Bastille”, which is aesthetically designed by keeping the desires of our consumers in mind, this is made from tempered glass with a protective film and has ultra slim cistern for wall hung toilets. In the premium segment we also have a range of products which are Red-dot and IF awarded in Bath fittings (Odette and Jazz).

We have certain sub categories of products which differentiate our product offerings in bathware and sanitaryware. While Somany Bathware caters to the entry level segment, Somany Signature and French Collection offers superior features and are targeted towards the premium segment.

In the premium segment we also have Smart toilet, ensembles (coordinates) along with Double Symphonic flushing products and Artist collection Basins. To further distinguish our products at the consumer touch point, we have separate displays for our signature and French Collection.

You have also mentioned that for Somany the growth strategy will revolve around innovation and product differentiation. How are you planning to achieve that?

We have various innovative products like “Bastille”, Sensor Faucets, Smart Toilets, LED Showers, LED Mirrors, Champagne and Rose Gold finish CP products etc. in our bathware range. The product differentiation is in Style, Finish and Range which includes rimless toilets, sensor control faucets etc.

Our diverters are forged diverters, which are light in weight yet the most durable as compared to our competitor’s offerings. Consumers are not aware about forged diverters being more durable than casted diverters, there is a misconception among consumers about heavier diverters being of better quality.

“Villeroy & Bochs premium collection Finion features an individual lighting concept that permeates the entire series, from furniture to mirrors and ceramic, for a harmoniously consistent effect. All furniture models are available with the continuously dimmable emotion lighting

The last couple of years have been pretty interesting for the sanitaryware and bath fittings industry. While new players have set up facilities in India, the existing players are also in expansion mode. What are your plans for capex?

In the last 5 years many new players have entered this segment. However, Somany has grown the fastest among all these new entrants. We have our own manufacturing facility of 30 acre at Morbi (Gujarat). Our current manufacturing capacity is 1 Lac sanitaryware units per month and 40000 CP units per month, which will be doubled for sanitaryware and CP by this year end. We will be trebling the capacity in our bath fitting plant as well.

With the product differentiation among competitor diminishing, experiential retailing has become the new differentiator. What is your take on this?

Somany endeavours to keep pace with the rapid growth of the city and the increasing demand for sanitaryware and bath fittings that are a blend of tradition and modernity. Somany has been at the forefront of bringing the latest in technology and innovation to its consumers, in line with this ideology, Somany introduced the first ever 3D Tile Visualizer, a 3D software aimed at helping users visualize their interiors. 

Equipped with Virtual Reality, the software provides a one-of-kind-experience to the users. Designed to help buyers self-create their interiors, the software lets them build their rooms from scratch – they can select the dimensions, place the tiles in a variety of combinations and furnish it with furniture and other props. Alternatively, it also offers pre built layouts to inspire creative instincts and help one get started. The designs created can be easily saved and modified at a later time. The first brand in the industry to offer this facility, Somany continues to push the envelope of product innovation and user experience.

What are the retail formats Somany is using and what are plans for network expansion?

The new experience centres and showrooms truly reflect our brand values, quality, technology, design and sustainability. Somany has over 15000 touch points across the country which include 350 franchise managed showrooms namely Somany Grande, Somany Studios and Somany Exclusive stores. These stores display an impressive array of bathware range as well. Besides these, we also have 20 state-of-the-art COCO experience centres and a vast distribution network comprising of over 12000 dealers.

Tile and sanitaryware utilize the same channel and Somany will continue to expand its retail touch points across its various formats and open 100+ franchisee showrooms and experience centres in FY 2019-20.

How does your strategy differ in marketing for the project sales and the retail sales?

In order to effectively cater to the B2B and the B2C segments, we have dedicated teams as well as a separate product portfolio for each of these segments. The split between retail sales and project sales is about 60:40.

For retail sales, the focus is on enhancing the buying experience of the customer through state-of-the-art showrooms which includes 38 bath studios and a dealer network of over 500. This year we plan on adding more than 25 bath studios and more than 100 dealers across India.

The communication for these segments differs as well. While for project sales the emphasis is on dissemination through advertisements in trade magazines, direct marketing and business development; for retail sales the communication is carried out through mass media campaigns, outdoor and via branding at point-of-purchase. For project sales, we also keep organising influencer meets and launch meets with architects.

Somany has recently roped in Salman Khan as its brand ambassador. What was the thought process behind the move?

Choosing a brand ambassador can play a pivotal role in ensuring high acceptance among the channels partners and consumers alike. What matters is that how closely the brand ambassador’s personality matches the personality of the brand and the brand ethos as well as how effectively we are able to bring that across in our communication. We have just associated with Salman Khan as our brand ambassador and we strongly feel his personality is the right fit for our brand and it will surely help us to enhance the brand recall value amongst our target audience.

How do you see the industry moving in the next 5 years?

With sustained public and private measures in recent years, coupled with improving standards of living, the level of sanitation in India has increased manifolds. These measures have created a huge market for products utilised in the construction of public sanitation facilities as well as domestic bathrooms and toilets, namely, tiles, bathroom fittings and sanitaryware.

Over the past few years, bathrooms have incorporated functionality along with convenience and have started to reflect the lifestyle of a person. In order to enhance the appearance of bathrooms, the demand for sanitaryware and bathroom fittings has proliferated across the country. Furthermore, various initiatives by the government like development of 100 smart cities, National Rural Drinking Water Program etc. have provided a great impetus to the industry.

Going forward we aspire to build Somany as a formidable brand and be among the top 3 players in the bathware and sanitaryware range. We also intend to diversify in bathroom appliances and be known for providing complete bathware solution to our consumers.


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