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Home > Business > Special

Some stylish tiles for your floors

Sangeeta Singh | May 20, 2006

Is your builder giving you a wide range of choice in tiles for your newly constructed flat? The Indian market is flooded with a range of options in branded tiles and depending on what you pick up, prices can vary anywhere between Rs 22-200 per sq ft. From regular ceramic tiles to high range vitrified stuff from Italy, the tile market has never looked better.

In the Indian tile mart, one can choose from H&R Johnson (India), SPL, Kajaria and Nitco. Others include Vermora, Bell Ceramic, Gokul and Asian.

H&R Johnson is present in all ranges from low to upper end and has various brands under different price tags. Its Porselano brand includes vitrified tiles while Marbonite priced between Rs 62-200 per sq ft is available in colours like red, blue and yellow.

If you were to choose between ceramic and vitrified products, Kajaria and Nitco have textured tiles in the affordable range of Rs 40-50. The vitrified range of these companies usually cost Rs 50-100.

A similar price category is seen in the Asian and Vermora brand of tiles. Interestingly, you can mark borders on tiles in glass at an extra price of Rs 225 per ft. If this is steep, choose from vitrified and ceramic borders at Rs 150 and Rs 25 respectively.

As competition in India's tile market gets aggressive, tile makers are devising new products and finishes to woo customers. SPL, for instance, has recently introduced Crust - 8'x12' wall tiles for floors and walls in earthy shades.

They are available in both stone finish matte and glossy finishes. Since an increasing number of people are choosing tiles over marble because they are easier to install, clean and maintain, and are affordable, more variety is only welcome. Somany has come up with a 14'x10' range of rustic wall tiles called Manhattan. This size, according to a company official, is also preferred internationally.

Since pricing is competitive, product variations become the selling point for companies that are also riding high on selling quality products. Kajaria claims that the company has no interest in the low-end ceramic tiles market and will focus on upper market ceramics, vitrified and imported tiles.

Kajaria imports tiles from China and sells it under its Kerrogress brand. According to Abhishek Somany, joint managing director, SPL, there is a maximum of 5 per cent difference on prices of products from Somany, Kajaria and Nitco on an apple to apple basis, but he adds that H&R Johnson doesn't make the same grade.

"It has the largest market share catering to the lower end of the segment. We are among the most expensive brands in India and don't compromise on quality," he says.

H&R Johnson's company official counters: "We are a premium brand, we have the widest range and are the market leader." SPL also claims it offers the best variety of imported tiles. "Our alliances are with the best in the world, such as Kalebador, Keraben, Leonardo, Azuvi or Roman," says Somany.

In terms of dealer network, however, H&R Johnson leads with a total of 1,200 dealers and 18 display centres. Both Kajaria and Somany have 600 dealers each with Kajaria having 18 exclusive showrooms and Somany having 12 company display centres. In terms of sub-dealers, all three are over 15,000.

Kajaria's Sanjeev Agarwal, GM (finance), claims the company has an all-India presence with northern and western India sharing over 70 per cent of its total sales. And Somany claims only Somany and Kajaria have the true all-India presence catering to A, B and C type cities. H&R Johnson is not behind. It has intensified rural penetration by 45 per cent and is also focussing heavily on northern markets.

Companies are also providing industrial and tough tiles. Somany is expanding its basket into VC Shield (for high-density areas like subways and public places) and Durastone heavy duty vitrified tiles. H&R Johnson is offering Endura, specialised industrial and pavement tiles.

Wooing customers through personalised and tailor-made solutions is another marketing strategy. SPL's Fineline is a top-end showroom selling concepts and designs to customers and sending trained masons to their houses for assistance.

H&R Johnson offers complete kitchen and bathroom solutions under its luxury brand Milano. Besides, it is rolling out a combination of tiles and sanitaryware in the mid- and top-range under the brand Porselano.

According to Vijay Aggarwal, managing director, H&R Johnson (India), diversification into the sanitaryware business is part of the company's larger plan to provide customers with a one-stop solution for their requirements.

With the 270 million sq metre Indian ceramic industry valued at Rs 5,500 crore (the figure has grown at over 12 per cent over the last three years), there seems to be enough space for most leading players to experiment with new products and solutions. Till then, customers can act pricey.

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