In the lap of luxury - How sanitary ware is evolving
If kitchen is the heart of the home, bathroom can be considered as one of its muscles. Neo Indians are writing their own style statement – they are focussing on styling their bathrooms as one of their favourite rooms
Bathroom, as a segment, had for long, been the most neglected part of the Indian homes. However, since the last few years there has been a significant shift in people’s thinking and approach towards it. They have started wanting their baths to be like what they see or experience in a hotel or an airport.
With rising purchasing power and travel, Indians have started seeing their bathrooms as a place of investment – and hence people make budgetary allocations for their bathrooms while constructing or renovating their homes.
Most of the developers in these Tier-I cities have various segments of projects – starting from affordable housing to aspirational to high end to ultra-luxury. And thus the selection of sanitary ware also differs for these segments.
Affordable housing is for the masses where the end customer is happy with the kind of basic amenities and hence they are neither too choosy nor do they worry for the brand value. But the aspirational and ultra-luxury segment constitute major share of the market. “These customers are aware about the different brands available and hence we have to strive best to offer best brands,” said an architect.
An organised market
There is no dearth to the features and specs for this choosy category of customers. They demand ultra-modern sanitary ware – jets with multi modes, sensors, remote controls, touch-free gadgets, smart sanitary ware with voice commands, thermostats, hot seats, self –closing seats, etc. People refrain from using brands used by their neighbours to ensure uniqueness of their bathrooms and hence developers’ perspective changes as they leave the choice of brands to such clients. Also most of the developers give an option of ‘bare shell’ to the customers so that they can select their sanitary ware as per their choice of specs and budget.
Sandeep Shukla, general manager and head marketing communications, Jaguar Group Global Operations said, “What we are witnessing is an attitudinal shift of preferences from the desired product to desired experience. While aesthetics represent a crucial role in designing a new-age bathroom, today consumers are becoming more experiential with their choices. Consumers want their bathroom products to not merely look beautiful but capable of delivering an indulgent experience with therapeutic benefits.”
The desire to accentuate homes with state-of-the-art sanitary ware fittings and fixtures is on the rise as today the country boasts of more organised bathroom solutions market with wide range of options from even the top international brands. Despite having the purchasing power, most of the times the customer needs to be educated and informed about the various products available and its benefits. One such concept gaining momentum is water-saving and eco-sensitivity of the products.
“We have products that are not just safe and convenient for children and elderly people but are water-saving and electricity efficient. And hence all of our VitrA products stand out which saves costs and in turn reduces energy consumption. Our basin and sink mixers are equipped with a BluEco cartridge that reduces unnecessary consumption of hot water thereby ensuring up to 60 per cent natural gas and electricity savings in the homes,” said Serhan Ates Yagiz, India country manager, VitrA.
Nowadays people demand customisation for their apartments and most of the developers construct marquee, luxury projects where there is flexibility to increase or reduce the size of the bathrooms if deemed necessary. “The procurement of sanitary ware differs from product to product. International designer brands like Villeroy & Boch, Grohe and Roka are preferred options for the luxury segment whereas the best-in-class Indian brands are sought by the new-age compact home buyers,” opined Jayesh Rathod, director, The Guardians Real Estate Advisory.
“We make sure that customer demands are accommodated without any alterations or breaking the existing plumbing or toilets. As far as possible we incorporate the changes depending on the existing provisions for the specific customer segment that we are serving,” said Deepak Suvarna, chief projects officer, Mahindra Lifespace.
With rapid urbanisation, Swachh Bharat Mission – the outlook towards sanitary ware market has changed. The rising involvement of architects and contractors has replaced the good ol’ plumbers from the ultra-luxury segment of the society.
The trends poised to rule the sanitary ware industry – complete bathroom solutions, water conservation technology, Green bathroom solutions and the latest bold Black bathrooms.
“VitrA’s Green bathroom solutions are not only environmentally friendly as it saves costs and reduces energy consumption but also reduces the water usage without disturbing the overall trendy experience,” said Yagiz.
The new-age homemakers prefer to add a touch of greenery to their bathrooms to create a connect between the outdoors and the indoors.
A cleaner look
While green has always been the in-thing, black seems to be a fresher take. Some architects and interior designers still follow the cliché that lighter colours make a room feel bigger. But the spa-inspired bathroom trend seems to have made inroads to our homes. Darker colours, as some say, convey more depth and thus have become a great choice for bathrooms. Developers state that clients ask one of their bathroom walls to be painted black as it makes the room feel deeper or at least opt for black fixtures as it increases contrast thereby giving the bathroom an aesthetic look.
“People coin it the ‘Bold Black Bathroom’ which is inspired from the spa culture. They find black to be bold, dark, sultry which evokes an indulgent high-end experience,” said another city-based architect.
Procurement of the right style of sanitary ware thus becomes crucial. “Depending on the segment of the project, we evaluate the procurement which is based on the brand name, the aesthetics and the sizes, the newness of the series within the same brand or segment, the budgets, etc,” said Pallavi Matkari, chief architect at Runwal Group.
She said that owing to the rising expectations of the customers offering customised sanitary ware at all times is not recommended. Although customisation has become a trend their expectations cannot be matched as it can lead to time delay and cost escalations. “We therefore prefer to stick to a more generic design,” Matkari added.
Mayur Shah, MD, Marathon Group seconded Matkari and said, “We have a procurement division in our company that works closely with the clients and the manufacturers and finalise budgetary provisions depending on the customer’s lifestyle and preferences. Once the budget is approved we get clearance from the clients on the products that could give them the desired look. However, if deemed necessary we do change the products if we feel that there is any compromise on the quality or if the desired look and feel is not achieved.”
Manufacturers of sanitary ware need to focus on the changing demand pattern from homemakers and architects. “We take into consideration the end consumers, the changing user habits, usage patterns, preferences, market and competitive landscape, material availability and production planning. It is important to understand the product category and the project requirements and if necessary we offer our recommended product lines (our universal designs) which helps them choose the products to suit their requirements,” said Taro Muroi, MD, TOTO.
Besides ceramic, there is a wide range of other materials including steel, acrylic or reinforced marble, cast-iron, etc. Cast-iron is being used in lavatories, bathtubs and faucets and ceramic is still preferred in WCs. Major Design experimentations and modifications happen in the faucets and lavatories segment.
What to expect
The credit for the rising sanitary ware market can be attributed to the growth in the Indian hospitality industry and increasing urbanisation which has paved way for the entry of various multi-national companies in this industry. While asking for complete bathroom solutions people are also concentrating on the various water conservation technologies, energy efficient gadgets and aesthetic appeal. The perception of individuals has registered a dramatic shift over the past decade. The high-end well-travelled community aspires for luxurious products and are ready to shell out any amount. What was perceived as a necessity a few years ago has presently evolved as a style statement as consumers are increasingly becoming hygiene conscious and the growing preference for functional and feature-rich bathrooms has been and will lead to the rising sanitary ware demand. There are optimistic projections for healthy growth potential for the different players of the industry in the coming years.