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Wanna have a trendy bathroom? Read on

Sangeeta Singh | April 16, 2005

You know the small second button on cisterns that no one ever uses? Sanitaryware companies have diligently devised the technology behind it in order to save water.

Not just that, in their bid to rationalise water usage, leading players like EID Parry (India) and Hindustan Sanitaryware have also come up with waterless urinals.

And according to Sandip Somany, joint managing director, Hindustan Sanitaryware & Industries almost 1,50,000 litres of water is saved through these urinals. Is this diligence due to their concern for the environment?

Or is it because they want to beat out the competition, hotting up in the Rs 700 crore (Rs 7 billion) sanitaryware industry with not just the disorganised players selling cheap products but also with imported products invading the market?

Sanitaryware companies are getting into entire bathroom solutions in order to provide their customers with a one-stop-shop. Some, like HSIL, are also giving the option to choose between a premium German brand and HSIL's own products.

"We have made a concerted effort to move into higher value-added segments and for this we have entered into an exclusive tie-up with Europe's bathroom fittings major, Grohe. Through Grohe we offer our customers international quality faucets," says Somany.

Similarly, Cera Sanitaryware is opening bath studios to showcase their products through wider space and better demonstration. Having started with Ahmedabad, the company is opening bath studios in Bangalore and Kolkata.

"In order to grow we are expanding our product range and our penetration in the overseas market," says Vikram Somany, chairman-cum-managing director, Cera Sanitaryware.

EID Parry, on the other hand, has tied up with foreign companies and is selling bathroom solutions under its brand name.

"We have already established ourselves as a big brand and today we are a household name. Therefore, we prefer selling under one brand," says G Ramprasad, CEO, Parryware division, who was looking after the sanitaryware division some time back.

However, for a consumer it is more the look and the affordability that matters. "We showcase all kinds of products in different colours, sizes and shapes," says a Delhi-based multi-product retailer, which even houses some imported products from China and Indonesia.

Industry biggies are, however, not impressed. "Imported products just comprise 10 per cent of the total sanitaryware market, which makes them Rs 60-70 crore (Rs 600-700 million) -- hardly any reason to worry," says Ramprasad.

He also says that the high freight cost does not allow Chinese and other products to make good profits in India. Besides, most of these players are entering the ceramic tile market. Imported products generally include Toto from Indonesia and American Standard from Thailand.

Back home, companies are also making aggressive moves in order to supply a host of related products solutions, which include suites, wash basins, bathtubs, bidets, water closets as well as bathroom accessories. HSIL and EID are also supplying taps.

HSIL supplies premium brand taps, shower enclosures and faucets of Grohe For sanitaryware, it has a strategic alliance with Sanitec Group of Finland and markets their brand, Keramag, in India.

To cater to a wide range of customers, HSIL has products in different price ranges. "Our brands Hindware and Raasi complement global premium brands like Grohe and Keramag," says Somany of HSIL.

To keep itself ahead of others, HSIL has introduced 50 products in the last 18 months and Cera has come up with 30 colours. They are also trying to cut into each other's markets.

For instance, HSIL is making headway in the southern market where Cera and EID Parry have a larger presence. And both HSIL and Cera are making aggressive moves in the overseas market, which include developed markets of Europe and Australia.

In the Rs 700 crore sanitaryware industry organised players contribute 50 per cent. And each is constantly devising new strategies to increase its share of pie. Clearly, the sanitaryware business is going through a major overhaul.

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