Smaller Bathrooms - An Illusion of Space
Despite getting squeezed, facing the space crunch, bathroom remains an important place invariably delineating the lifestyle of the inhabitants, and hence, is eligible for greater attention to help define the status-quo of the occupants. Explores Syed E. Hasan.
Bathrooms are the new 'personal space' nowadays. Yeah! You got it right. It's not that a plush café, a coffee parlour or a quiet corner of an extended lobby in a hotel can bring you the needed relief that you can simply earn from a brief stint of around 15 minutes in a personalized bathroom. The latter recharges your senses, de-stresses all the worries, and helps you rejuvenate by quenching the thirst for a much needed uninterrupted privacy! This new definition of personal space has led to a forced shift from having a common bathroom to a few individual/personal ones, though smaller, but attached with almost all the bedrooms in the contemporary boxed apartments. No wonder that the need of the hour is to offer pretty functional customised solutions with innovative products along with designer accessories to help customers match their urban lifestyle.
Fighting the Space Crunch
To this, agrees Mr. Pau Abello, Managing Director (India), Roca Bathroom Pvt. Ltd., and opines that rapid urbanisation has brought tremendous change in people's lifestyle, and spending patterns have been rerouted towards complete bathroom solutions with superior space optimisation. "New technology-driven pieces are preferred by the customers that go with their urban lifestyle and give an instant facelift to the look of the bathrooms. There is a rising popularity of concept washrooms and coordinated sanitaryware, fittings, and accessories. More premium and high technology products for their bathrooms are being preferred nowadays by the customers," he shares.
Mr. Abello further elucidates that urbanisation, especially in metros, has led to a rising demand for luxury bath products with finesse finish but limited space availability. "Metros in India are fighting through extreme space crunch, and thereby needing superior bathroom solutions without compromising on the design and functionality of the products. The trends here, especially in the lifestyle domain, are inspired by international standards of luxury and bathrooms are now the new living rooms. Designs that serves the purpose is the trend in the bathroom solutions industry today. To enjoy relaxing ambience in limited space, bathrooms solutions for smaller spaces have a huge market in metros."
Speaking on the growing love for luxury among modern Indians, Mr. Salil Sadanandan, Managing Director–Kohler Kitchen & Bath India, Sub-Saharan and Africa, says, "In India, luxury loving consumers are looking for high-end designs in all products, and are willing to invest in comfort. Kohler, with its cutting edge technology, design, and innovations, gives consumers more options to make their personal space luxurious and provide them an experience like never before. The bathroom segment is witnessing a rising demand from customers for innovative products, designer accessories as well as customised solutions for their bathrooms."
He suggests that similar is the sentiment at the mid-segment as well. "The need is constant for customers in mid-segment products too. However, additionally, with the increase in disposable incomes by the rising urban elite; there is a greater demand for comfortable and luxurious products across all genres, bathroom emerging as one of them. And, we have a range that extends to the mid-segment and gives them an elevated quality and premium design experience in their budget."
According to Mr. Ashutosh Shah, Managing Director, Duravit India Pvt. Ltd., India is witnessing a steady growth in the housing because with every year passing, there is an increased deficit of the dwellings. "Duravit reveals extraordinary furnishing ideas for small spaces because of their inherent space limitations, many guest bathrooms and powder rooms face unavoidable design challenges that leave them looking cramped or sparsely furnished. We at, Duravit, offer the ultimate solution to these constraints through our wide offering of flexible, design-conscious products, which include 2nd Floor, Bacino, Happy D, Starck2, Vero, Architect, Starck1, Starck3, X Large, etc.," he says claiming that depending on the available space, budget, and personal preferences, Duravit can transform even the smallest powder room into a comfortable place to unwind.
Defining Wet & Dry AreasWhen it comes to metros, bathrooms are generally getting smaller than usual and scarcity of space makes it rather challenging to separately define wet and dry areas. Most of the players agree that one of the latest trends in the bathroom space is to keep wet and dry areas separate, and that the problem is acute when it comes to providing segregated areas in small spaces. Here comes the need of using the space in the finest manner without compromising with the aesthetics and look of the bathroom.
"For creating a distinction between the wet and the dry areas, we have quite a few attractive options to offer. Our Roca Cocoon Shower provides a closed state shower environment with complete relaxation. Apart from featuring various functions such as bath, shower, Jacuzzi, and providing an ultimate place for relaxation, this concept can complement to any bathroom interior through its smooth bionic form and great aesthetics. The curved glass doors remain closed when a user is taking shower inside, and when not in use, the glass doors remain concealed inside the curved frame," says Mr. Abello.
Going forward, Mr. Sadanandan elaborates how the new age bathroom is now looked in two distinct parts-the wet and the dry area. "For the dry area, we have been seeing a majority of the hotels opting at wall mounts closets and counter top lavatories. In showering area, customers look for bigger showers to enhance their showering experience. Quite a few consumers, these days, are also opting for green products. Designers on the other hand have shown preference for more sleek and minimalistic lines. Kohler focuses on these specific needs and offers its customers a complete bathroom range, with a variety of products ranging from premium to high end in different styles, colours and materials to match their taste and décor preferences. Some examples are Airfoil, Vibracoustic Underscore, Stance, Escale, Presquile and Purist."
Catering to this specific need, Duravit offers both functional and attractive solutions wherever space is at a premium with versatile ceramic options and bathroom furniture that offers lots of storage space featuring shorter projection. "Wherever space is particularly tight, toilets with a shorter projection are great problem solvers. At Duravit, these are known as compact designs and come with narrow dimensions with masses of storage space. Duravit offers bathroom furniture with economical outer dimensions and a spacious interior in a wide variety of different sizes, variants, and forms," states Mr. Shah adding that in India the demand for sanitaryware is highest in residential sector followed by commercial sectors including malls, hotels, and hospitals.
Meanwhile, growing apartment culture and exposure to the international brands have transformed Indian bathrooms with world class fittings. Thus, over the last couple of years, as disposable income is constantly on the rise, the category has been witnessing a lot of international players coming into India. Though the country is still a developing market for foreign/luxury product, the quality of construction has dramatically changed in the last few years. With booming real estate, developers are also putting much more emphasis on layouts, designs, and products that are being used. Thus, there is incredible demand, not only from the end-users but also other consumers.
According to Mr. Sadanandan, the entry of international brands has resulted in a transition in the quality of bathrooms and has also upgraded consumer taste to international standards. "Over the years, Kohler has become hugely successful in India and international markets, and has an exemplary reputation to prove it. With unrivalled innovative designs, skilful craftsmanship and advanced technology, our ambition is to be acknowledged as a market leader in sanitaryware, besides being one of the leading kitchen and bathroom brands."
R&D – A Must for InnovationAs a matter of fact, the R&D becomes the core of the innovation process thereby increasing the role of specifiers including designers, architects, and consultants, in the development of new products. This is because the sustainability of a product is not a matter of chance; rather it is decided well in advance, at the development phase itself. "This is why, for decades, Duravit has been investing a considerable amount of time, money and energy in research and development – an investment that pays off later for the company, users, and of course, the environment," notes Mr. Shah.
He underscores that developers and designers nowadays focus on water-saving and energy-efficient solutions, environmentally-friendly manufacture, timeless forms that retain their appeal for years and simple product assembly. "In order to achieve the best possible results, Duravit enters into a dialogue with its customers, trade partners and sanitaryware dealers, as well as with retail consumers. Whether at national or international trade fairs, during seminars or in conversation with our customers, we welcome requests, ideas and criticisms, which we then analyse and process further," shares Mr. Shah.
Echoing the same sentiments, Mr. Sadanandan says, "For us at Kohler, research and development plays an important role in the innovation process, but every group inside a company and beyond (architects/consultants) needs to be involved as well. In this way, a firm has a much greater chance to uncover opportunities to innovate that will lead to a competitive advantage."
"R&D is the core of any successful industry today as technical advancement is of paramount importance to keep the aesthetics and functionality of the products ahead of the competitors. Over the years Roca has collaborated with many designers, and constantly given the consumers novel bathroom space solutions. Roca has come up with designs that not only cater to the present needs but also the future demands. Innovation rules our industry and there is no alternate route to that," says Mr. Abello adding that it does not happen one-handedly.
"For that matter, a proficient team of designers, consultants, and product developers are engrossed in the development of new products to suffice the ever-changing needs and aspiration of global customers. Remarkably, several international designs have been well-received in India while some of the faucets are especially designed for few exclusive people here," he asserts.
To cater to the changing needs in the urban cities, Roca's easy to install In-Tank - a water-closet meant to revolutionize the bathroom space. It's the first system in the market to incorporate the cistern inside the water-closet, thus saving space. W+W (Washbasin + Watercloset) is a washbasin that has been merged with a toilet to create one singular and innovative product that combines functionality and water saving and benefits that uses optimum space.
Roca has collaborated with top designers all over the world, people who bring together creativity, convenience, and quality. "To maintain its own lofty standards, Roca has empanelled designers of international repute such as Armani, Gabriele & Oscar Burati, Belén & Rafael Moneo, David Chipperfield, Antonio Bullo, Ramon Benedito, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Schmidt & Lackner, amongst others. This brilliant confluence has resulted in the creation of extraordinary collections, year after year," he elucidates.
A Peep into the MarketMr. Shah maintains that for Duravit, India is a very important market for the future. "We expect that, in the foreseeable future, it will be one of Duravit's five most important countries. Thanks to its healthy economic and demographic development with its young working population, the country has a growing lifestyle consumer base. There's a strong desire for design and lifestyle brands. The upcoming target group knows exactly what makes a real brand. Real, high performance brands are experiencing a true renaissance in India," he asserts.
Going by an industry estimate, the country's sanitaryware and bath-fittings industry is together valued at around $427 million in 2014, where sanitaryware alone stands approximately at $124 million. The Indian sanitaryware and bath-fittings market, though a niche domain, accounts for 8% of the global production and ranks second in terms of volume in the Asia-Pacific region. Besides government initiatives and boom in the real estate sector, factors such as increasing disposable incomes, higher standards of living, and increasing expenditure on beautifying homes, and using premium products provide further impetus to the growth of this segment. The sanitaryware market has been growing at a CAGR of 12.5% since 2010, while the bath-fittings market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 15% until 2016.
Amidst all this, not to forget is the fact that the Indian sanitaryware market is divided unevenly amongst the unorganized and organized players. The organised segment makes up almost 45% of the market, and is growing faster than the industry average. As far as mid-segment is concerned, major shareholders (in terms of volume) are the unorganized players. While the organised sector focuses mainly on middle class and affluent segments in urban areas, the unorganised sector has, by and large, targeted the lower section of the pyramid, catering to both mass end of the urban market and the rural areas.
Taking note of this, Mr. Abello agrees that this is one of the biggest challenges in this segment we need to tackle, and we are doing our bit towards it. "Educating consumers about importance of quality of products is the key approach to make them understand the significance of the product quality and how it can ease them off with frequent problems which they have to go through otherwise."
He further adds that one of the ways is to reach out to the customers is through campaigns which will strengthen the brand in near future. "Along with educating the customers and strengthening the brand, effective customer services go without saying with established brands and helps in reinforcing the quality and value of a good product from an organized product seller. We have impeccable customer service for our customers and it helps in retaining the customers as well," claims Mr. Abello.