Tapping Modern Fixtures
Despite being small in size, faucets play a huge role in personifying a bathroom, and hence, are eligible for greater attention to help create a style statement. Explores Syed E. Hasan.
Faucets are the tiny touches that instantly give a facelift to baths and washrooms. The new technology and the increasing appreciation for purposeful design have made the faucet an important feature in bathroom décor. With varied options in the market, this can be easily done. Functionality is supported by aesthetic choices, making it possible to induct the clients' design preferences with ease. The variety and styles in modern water regulators are giving a distinct personality to utility areas as various bath, shower, and health faucets are emerging as design elements.
All thanks to the international bath fitting companies, which have been instrumental in showing us how bathrooms should look-like, be made, and be used. These giants are defining the trend by bringing not only new designs but also new technology, thereby influencing the lifestyle especially of the new-age homeowners. In the process, they have impacted the way products are best suited to a particular section of the society. Traditionally dominated by a handful of legacy players like Grohe, Roca, Kohler, HSIL, Jaquar, RAK-Kludi, etc., the trend in the country's bathroom fittings arena is all set for an overhaul. While aerator is a common feature to count upon, digitalization in fixtures - like e-faucets - has been adding more joy within the bathing space.
"The advent of social media has specifically has opened a window to the world. In addition, rapidly changing perception of the modern consumer towards bathroom has transformed the rather regional traditions into global across the various frontiers - be it design, technology, or pricing. When we talk of premium brands, international standard is the benchmark. The same is the case in the faucet category too," says Mr. Sandip Somany, Joint Managing Director, HSIL Limited. In the Indian scenario, variety in design, shape, and water flow (water fall, foam) is witnessing a rise. "On the one hand, there is appreciation of beauty and taste for designer faucets, while on the other, high-end precision technology, leading to sustainable use of water, is the primary driving force in the category today."
Similar sentiments are reflected by Ms. Renu Misra, Grohe India's Managing Director, who feels that there is an apparent synchrony in the preferences of Indian consumers and their global counterparts. "In fact, many of the trends in bathroom solutions in India are inspired by international standards of luxury. Every discerning Indian customer seeks products that reflect their individual sense of style, thanks to the evolved understanding of consumers about the importance of quality and sustainability. As a result, today, every Indian seeks a product that is an epitome of elegance and functionality."
According to Ms Misra, keeping the country's growth trajectory in view, water-saving bath fixtures have a lot of scope in India. "This is a growing market with several high-end real estate projects slated in the coming months across segments like residential properties, commercial spaces, hospitality sectors, and healthcare facilities. They together will push the demand for such products to cater to the rapidly emerging convenience-seeking customers, who are buoyed by the high lifestyle aspirations and insistence on durability and sustainability."
Notably, India is a huge country with diverse markets based on local tastes and preferences thus creating space for everyone – be it a budget player, catering to mid segment, or targeting high-end only. "This is the nature of the economy that restricts us from following symmetrical trends across the country. Each segment, owing to its own traditional values, needs to be catered separately keeping their specific require- ments in view," says Mr. Pau Abello, Managing Director, Roca Bathroom Products Pvt Ltd, adding that bathrooms in India are still awaiting users' attention, so are the faucets.
Interestingly, it is also a fact that today's homeowners are young and discerning. They are well-travelled and well-informed, and ask for such products, which are not only functional but also aesthetically appealing, besides enhancing well-being quotient. "Thanks to Roca Group's international quality standard, all our products are easily adaptable to the habits of consumers irrespective of geographies. Being a leader in the global bathing space, we have been constantly innovating to create products that are sensitive to present as well as future needs of our customers across the globe," asserts Mr. Abello.
Kohler, another giant in the country's high-end bathroom solutions bracket, has formidable presence in the bottom of the pyramid too but with significant premium over the other brands. "India is a market which will take some more time to be linear, as bathroom is yet to become the priority for most of the households at the moment. And, by the time it would reach that level, the wealth of the people will become the driver of the trend," says Mr. Salil Sadanandan, Managing Director of Kohler India Corporation Private Limited, who believes that Kohler products deliver promise and experience that the budget products are not capable of. "We do have entry level products, which we profoundly call 'opening price point products'. The range has been designed and developed to convert those in the budget level who are willing to pay for a better experience in bathroom. And since, we have a local manufacturing base supported by local design centre, we are able to deliver at a cost affordable to budget customers."
Amidst this much of disparity where each segment attributes its own traditional values, the markets ask for products that can cater to the specific needs of different sections of the society. Even within the high-end segment, there are plenty of variations. So, how important is the product design philosophy so as to deliver to such a varied base?
Says Ms. Misra, "We, at Grohe, are planning to cater to the needs of our discerning customers across the regions driven by consumers' preferences. We are excited about these developments as our tier-based expansion strategy is devised taking into account the increasing disposable income of the people in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and their aspirational desire to live with luxuries typical of metropolitan cities. As we do not have company-owned outlets, the decision will ensure that the company's product line-up will be available in stores beyond the major retail stores and in the Grohe-approved reseller stores. This is apart from ensuring deeper presence in the metros."
Imparting design wisdom, she elucidates, "Offering customizable options is a core part of our design philosophy. This is embodied in a variety of our products where each element invites interaction. In short, our products are not just peerless in terms of the aesthetics but also in terms of functionality. For instance, with the Grohe F-digital Deluxe, patrons can turn the bathroom into an exclusive home spa. They can tailor an experience that touches all senses and leaves nothing to be desired. Grohe offers modules that fill the shower cabin with coloured light or pleasant steam to the sound of one's favourite music - or all at the same time. One can enjoy every moment of the day in the reassurance that a sophisticated space of well-being is waiting for them at home."
According to Mr. Somany, HSIL's product philosophy is to be in sync with the discerning needs of contemporary customers who are increasingly focusing on quality, simplicity, space, and timeless styling. "Limitless creative options of products with square shapes, rounded corners, simple lines with minimalistic elegance whilst maintaining utmost quality are the USPs of bathroom products, we offer," he says adding that giving special consideration to design, size and capacity along with smart use of technology, HSIL rightly meets the needs of consumers preferring neo-modernistic designs.
Mr. Somany further elaborates, "A faucet worthy of appreciation, ideally works on three key parameters; sound casting, good quality cartridge, and long lasting coating. We call it the '3C technology, based on which, brand 'hindware' recently introduced 'Element', range of faucets for bathrooms and kitchens. Made in India's first automated plant, use of technology at each manufacturing process is one of the hallmarks of this range. Equipped with best quality cartridge and aerator of international repute, that delivers smooth water flow even when the pressure of water is low, 'Element' offers faucets of substance."
Roca with its holistic brand architecture comprising completely imported brands –Armani/Roca, Laufen, and Roca, and a brand entirely developed and manufactured in India – Parryware, serves across the segments. "For our Parryware brand, we develop designs based on the feedback from the domestic market. While for the imported ones, we have our design centers at five different locations (Spain, Brazil, Taiwan, China, and Switzerland) to facilitate us with the best design concepts as per the contemporary global trends. Of these, many designs are developed keeping in view some regional preferences as well, and therefore, they are easily deliverable to India," elaborates Mr. Abello.
According to him, on international front, Roca has quite a few renowned international designers in its contacts. "They help us retain our leadership position by constantly developing new designs as in this age of technology nothing lasts for longer, except for the 'change'. Remarkably, several international designs have been well-received in India. Going forward, some of the faucets are especially designed for few exclusive people here," asserts Mr. Abello.
Roca's L90 faucet collection in chrome and chrome black ice finish is designed to complement avant-garde architectural bathroom spaces. Escorted with parallel lines of the 100mm handshower for superior convenience, the collection is defined by its versatility in function and innovation. The range comes with a variety of handle options for washbasins and bidet faucets, and also encompasses high-neck, deck-mounted, and wall-mounted basin faucets. The high point is its stylish flat surfaces and well-defined edges that are currently driving the industry trend.
The L90 hybrid faucets also offer a choice between progressive and single-lever handling, and between automatic and manual function. The single lever regulates water flow and temperature, while the progressive one graduates temperature at a constant flow. It integrates a Cold Start system to prevent the heater from starting immediately and thereby contributes to energy saving. The Eco Click mode allows reduction of water consumption from 8 l/m to 6 l/m. A simple button allows an easy change from manual mode to automatic mode. The hybrid technology enables tremendous water and energy saving. The automatic function is backed by an option between batteries and main electric supply.
Kohler emphasizes on its global positioning with local touch. "We have a strong research & design establishment based out of India so as to develop products that can match the local requirements. But, at the high-end, the customer base is pretty global and to serve them, we pick products from our global portfolio. However, even in the high-end, there is something that works better in India viz-a-viz rest of the world. For instance, a couple of years back we launched a series called Vibrant - consisting of a range of faucets with glamorous finishes in Gold: French Gold, Polished Gold, and Brushed Gold," emphasizes Mr. Sadanandan adding that this is something that resonates better with Indian customers than with their global counterparts.
"For that," he continues, "We have invested separately in our facility in India to set up a very high-tech process called Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD), a cutting edge technology that helps in enhancing the strength and colour integrity, and provides a rich luster that resists scratching, tarnishing and corrosion. We have met with a great deal of success for Kohler's bold design with longevity of the products in this range, catering specifically to the needs of hospitality and residential segments. This has encouraged us to widen our offering by adding more such products and finishes, which we will be launching later this year."
Fostering Solution for Lime Scale
However, keeping in view the hard water problem that is rampant in almost every Indian building that uses groundwater; does India really have the appetite for all these luxuries?
"In India, water quality is pathetic. But our technological prowess helps us to produce cartridges which withstand extreme conditions. Even for the mid range of products, we use the same Roca group technology to maintain the quality when it comes to functional aesthetics," says Mr. Abello adding that apart from the latest trend of e-faucets, aerator has also become a common feature that mixes air with water thus enhancing the way faucet splashes out.
"Water quality is worsening with each passing day and to fight this out, we mostly use ceramic cartridges in our faucets," says Ms. Misra. Elaborating further, she adds, "The cartridge is the centerpiece of every mixer, where the ceramic discs are located. They are made from a space-proven ceramic alloy, one gliding over the other with utmost precision. The polished mirror-like surface of the discs is then coated with a special lubricant with Teflon technology for friction-free performance. The lever handle of the mixer is connected to the discs by a solid brass element for maximum strength and durability. This is apart from the aerators, designed to improve the feel of the water flow, while the silicon nozzles enable easy cleaning by simply rubbing with a thumb."
Echoing the same conscience, Mr. Sadanandan adds, "Water quality in India will continue to deteriorate in time to come. Besides this, availability of water for domestic use is also going to become a huge challenge in near future. So, our faucets and showering systems are equipped to use minimal water yet providing a user experience which is far superior. For instance, we have Airfoil enabled with Kohler's exclusive Katalyst technology that helps create large and heavy air infused droplets to provide a smooth and silky watering experience. In fact, Katalyst technology enabled shower faucets suck in two liters Air per minute, which then is mixed with the water thereby making the droplets bigger and fatter thus saving half the amount of water compared to normal, besides guarding fixtures against scaling and calcifications."
According to Mr. Somany, to combat this everyday problem, 'hindware' uses 'Rubbit Cleaning' system in shower heads. It is easy to clean, which one can do with one's hand, in addition, it avoids calcification within the nozzles. As for faucets, most advanced 'electroplating technology' is used which prevents corrosion, and keeps the faucets rust-free and shining for a longer period of time."
Significantly, all these developments are reflecting a slow but steady integration of technology. This is nothing but a testament to the constant revolution taking place in the way faucet is vitalizing its importance in aiding to the interiors of a bathroom apart from providing a fun-filled, water saving experience. Such innovations are likely to go ahead with more technological integration keeping in view the deteriorating water condition.