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……..

VM&RD - - SPE­CIAL FEA­TURE – FLOORING - Vivek Tal­war, MD, NITCO

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!

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