Product development and innovation
VMRD chatted up with some of the leading flooring MANUFACTURERES to get their side of the understanding of the market, trends, demand and industry challenges. Here is what they have to say……..
At NITCO our ethos is to make any product for floor or wall covering look natural. Our business canvass includes Imported Natural Marble, Ceramic and Porcelean Tiles, Mosaic, Inlay, Gemstones. The wide array of Natural Material and the knowledge of the same helps us develop designs to get the right texture, color and design developed in house by our designers. The team also has interior designers who explore design and all types of material for insight and creates mood boards basis on which we start our exploration, design formatting process. It is a scientific process which is followed and codified. The investment factor has gone up since the amount of new products, customization and speed to market is enhanced by digitization and mechanization. The control of the designer and his ability to replicate, trial and launch has been made easier. So, yes the investment commensurate return and it’s a field where investment will grow in future. Custom design is large for décor products like mosaic inlays, cladding, borders the basic flooring and walls are usually off the shelf purchases tiles or marble. The plethora of designs has increased multifold with life like prints. Retailers are on a drive for store expansion and creating an experience zone. Digital technology is becoming a norm. The demand driver is still design, availability, and commercial for the retailers. In terms of trends, existing categories such as Tile, Wood, Marble rule, carpets are out. Even large users Middle East is moving away from it. New developments of material which is light, less joints larger dimension, easy to fit tile on tile are where options are taking shape. Currently in India thinner tiles are available but do not have many takers. The segment which shows a certain rise is larger format tiles. All international technology and products are now available in India apart from price points and designs which have a different evolution and culture impact. India as a country is establishing its presence globally. We as a company are recognized globally as leaders in quality with exports across to Europe and US. Our plant in India is the only automated Sacmi plant where we produce full body Gres Porcelean Tiles and we are known for our quality standards and our rustic designs in India. The technology is at par with Europoean standards, our raw material vendors are all Europeans and we also have International expat people who are employed in our plant. Our Natural Marble processing plant is also a world class automated facility and is one of the few automated plants in the world. The technology we use to treat marble and the process is unique. Her her strength is at par with any top quality Italian Marble. As for international dealers, all international companies operate in India; some sell premium, some sell to the mass and some for attractive price points. Some companies have local presence as well. India is a fast growing market. As for challenges, wrong usage habits, transportation and storage conditions in India are the biggest challenges in India besides supply logistics since infrastructure is poor.
Rochan Jindal, CEO, Stonarts.D
Retailers look at various criteria for choosing the floor coverings; primarily they opt for simple and easy to maintain f loor ing patterns. Since the area of the floor is very important; retailers choose des igner flooring , depending on the area of the floor. Well, when it comes to designer flooring, we have observed that retailers prefer highlighting tiles. The proportion of demand for permanent and over-lays is 8:2. The demand for custom design is also very high as any designer working on a retail brand would want to signify the logo or essence of the brand by using several patterns on the floor. In a scenario when interior designers have very short time to do the whole store, “off the shelf” design is incorporated as custom design and requires 4-6 weeks from the time of placing an order. In Stonart.D Investment in design development, resources and infrastructure has always given very positive results and are highly appreciated world over. The key factor for the success has been due to continuous innovation by upcoming architects and designers in pursuing these designs and incorporating the same into their projects. Stonarts.D as a manufacturer exports to markets such as US, UK, Austraila, a few parts of Europe like Italy and Spain, Srilanka, etc. Most of the international markets have strict standards for floor covering; we have the machines to suit the international markets. As various countries have different USP’s some pertaining to the prices and some pertaining to the quality. The international companies are able to meet the demand in India and thus have been successful. The dealership for international companies offering floor covering solutions been successful in India due to various factor like
1) Prices (China)
2) Quality (Italy)
3) Design Range (Spain)
4) Surface Finishes (Brazil) Vitrified Tiles are the most commonly used type of floor covering in India because of it’s off the shelf availability, easy to install and affordable pricing. In terms of options available for retail environments in categories like tiles, wooden flooring, carpets and others: When it comes to tiles there are various innovative surface finished, patterns, sizes and textures available. In wooden florring category there are various prints, off scripts, incorporated on the wooden flooring along with various different surface finishes and also re-composition of various species of wood into the same wooden tile give a very new generation. Vaious materials are available from which carpets are made along with multiple designs to offer are available with very few of them in the markets, one of them is Stonarts.D. Designs in terms of contemporary, aesthetics
typical Indian, European are available as a choice for retailers. Of late there has been an increase in ecofriendly floor covering in retail industry, over the years we see that the demand is likely to increase further. Since retail industry is a key spot for visibility, we as manufacturers offer a range of services to this industry. We have seen the footfalls being very high compared to any other place and as manufacturers we extend periodical free maintenance for our customers, also if required over a period of time we offer replacement. The key challenge has been to introduce more sophisticated tiles into the retails industry which requires a certain level of maintenance. Finally I would say the Indian floor covering industry is now at par compared to the world market and after sales services also have been a major aspect/criteria in today’s market conditions. In terms of demand from malls, there is demand for carousal tiles as well as for fix re stalls which is economical. This is because carousal does not process as much as Italian marble and fix re stalls are easy to install and maintain. Most are going for heritage tiles as they can be customized. We are also finding that people are using IPS, which is plain cement floor. Besides, we find that almost 90% of the demand comes for custom designs, as everyone wants to give a character to the store hence generally it is custom designed. The most commonly used tile is victorian tile followed by heritage tiles. In fact, we are a niche player in the market. There is growth and demand for eco friendly tiles, but not as much as its regular counterparts as the price point is higher. People prefer to just buy regular tiles as compared to the eco friendly option due to price sensitivity. There is a possibility of it to be popular but there will always be the issue of high price. The floor industry depend more on imports because we see a lot of products which are manufactured in China and in Germany which are used extensively in India. China is our biggest supplier getting it from there is 10 times cheaper and hence more viable. But as of now we always strive to compete against the imports as a domestic player and we are making inroads as our quality is as good as theirs and our prices are very competitive. In terms of new flooring options, there are categories like micro toppings they have thin layers of flooring on top of the existing floors so you can do over lays, and make patters and designs. Also epoxy tiles are coming in to fashion. There is also a heritage tile which is coming around as it is customizable. Active sing floor is also making waves again it is quick. Investment in design development, resources and infrastructure has definitely given us positive results. Every month or two months we come up with a new collection and that definitely helps us with good returns in terms of exclusivity. The key factor is that we are modernizing the range and make it more hip and young and that is the factor for success as compared to using an old range. We provide end to end installations so that the retailer does not have to worry. They just tell us what and where they want and fix it up for them and this is our business model. The key challenge is that in malls they have very restricted working hours and you cannot work at your time and they are averse to loud noises. But I feel that the Indian floor industry is doing quite good but if you want to know what is holding back then I think the high capital cost is a big issue. But one can always import from China which can save a lot of capital as China provides imports at a very competitive price.
Gaurav Saraf, Joint Managing Director Square Foot
Every brand comes with its own signature design, pattern, colors, attitude etc. The brand would like to incorporate these inputs in flooring as well and hence we usually have custom made designs for our clients and this has been a trend in the industry as well. At Square Foot, we customize and make to order with any wood, thickness, specification, surfaces (lacquer, oil, and matt lacquer), finish, and dimension. Today designs and flooring for brands depends purely on what the mother brand follows in whichever part of the world they are. We work today with multinational brands to give them similar looking stores in India as they have abroad. With Indian brands today we work with their design team on development of look, durability, maintenance according to where the stores would be. This of course pays off in the long term. Floor covering industry has always been offering substitute in terms of technology and products as there has been a significant growth in consumer interest in low maintenance products. Consumers have a certain degree of concern over the growth of old wood that has increased the demand of products such as wood – plastic combination products and there has been a significant growth over the recent years for wood - plastic, plastic wood combination products. As we know wood cannot rot if the moisture content is kept low. Keeping the wood dry is one way to keep the shelf life long enough. Today we have treated and untreated wood. Untreated wood would not last long enough as it would have environmental implication. With technology today, we have chemically treated wood to avoid any environmental implications such as rotting, color fading. International companies offering floor covering solutions have been successful in India because flooring industry is moving towards developing better use of our raw materials as well as sustainable practices and products. Our industry is now seeing an outstanding level of collaborative research, particularly with leading brands in America, Canada and Europe. Now the products are readily available at dealerships and consumers are also exposed to international style of flooring in terms of color, texture, material and design. With this, price factor has also made a difference to the consumer. The most common type of floor covering has been engineered wood. Vinyl, laminate are some of the other floor covering that is commonly used in India today. These leading product innovators and manufacturers have described in depth about the investment in time, technology and infrastructure that has been put in by the industry to bring local products on par with Global offerings. This opens up possibilities for international brands to procure locally in India and also for local Indian brands to present global standards in their store environments. Overall, great news for the Indian retail industry!