From cement-based products to home-beautification - The story of JK Cement’s evolution
Innovation and development of new products are the name of the game in the paints and varnish category. A brick-and-mortar company like JK Cement has recently ventured into the wood finishes segment with a mission to provide innovative products to meet its customers’ diverse needs. The company has made its foray into the Wood Finishes segment with the launch of JKC Wood Amore – a range of premium Italian wood finishes. JK Cement is a household name and has a very strong nation-wide presence in most of the paint retail outlets through their marquee brands, that is, JK Cement WallMaxX, the World’s No. 1 Wall Putty and JK Cement WhiteMaxX. The entry into the wood finish segment is to expand the basket of new product offerings beyond the cement range. By bringing art to science and exploring every artistic possibility available, JKC Wood Amore aims at redefining the approach towards wood finishes.
In our weekly special column, Talking Insights, Niranjan Mishra, Business Head, JK White Cement, speaks to Adgully on the launch of this new segment, as well as shares his insights on the company’s foray into the wood finish segment.
From being a solid and trusted brick & mortar company with strong presence in cement, what motivated JK Cement to enter the wood finish category? What’s the market potential for Wood Amore and what’s the size of this market?
Not only is JK Cement one of the leading manufacturers of grey and white cement in India and a global leader in the wall putty category, we have also launched some other new products in the recent past, such as tile adhesives & grouts, primers and gypsum-plaster in the market. Through addition of these new products to our growing portfolio, we have been evolving from being a cement-based products business to a home-beautification solution provider. Therefore, our foray into wood-paints and finishes is yet another step in that direction.
Further, our marquee wall putty brand, that is, JK Cement WallMaxX, enjoys a retail presence at ~50,000 outlets, out of which many also deal in this premium, niche product range of Italian wood finishes. Our pan-India footprint gives us the leverage to cater to our target consumers in an effective manner. Having said that, we also plan to strengthen our distribution in this particular space by partnering with new channel partners too.
As per our understanding, the premium segment of the wood finishes market currently stands at ~1,000+ crore and is growing at an estimated 25% CAGR YoY. We have currently launched a polyurethane range of finishes with 2,000+ PU colours under the JKC Wood Amore brand. Further, we intend to launch other premium finishes like polyester, water-based and special effects, in times to come.
Some of the leading paint and varnish brands are already offering wood finish products for quite some time. Being a late entrant, how do you plan to make inroads in the market and what differentiation are you offering to your end customers?
At JK Cement, we have always believed in providing our customers with the best quality of solution-oriented products. Our stringent quality parameters and consistency in product performance have given us a clear competitive edge over others. In order to keep our promise of the best in industry product quality, we have tied up with the wood-paints pioneer of Italy, NouvaSivam, who has 70+ years of experience in the wood-finishes business. In comparison to the products that are currently available in the market, JKC Wood Amore gives a non-yellowing finish that is more durable and long lasting. It is also easy to apply and its drying time is comparatively less, which reduces the overall application duration as well.
As far as market penetration is concerned, because of JK Cement’s brand name and market leadership position of our major products (JKC WallMaxX and JKC WhiteMaxX), we are already present in the wood-paint counters, across the country.
Distribution is key in this category. What will be your channel strategy for easy access and availability of the product?
For easy access and availability of JKC Wood Amore, we are leveraging our existing dealer network and retail presence at a majority of the paint selling outlets pan-India, many of which also deal in this premium, niche product range of Italian wood finishes. This is yet another opportunity to give our channel partners an additional revenue pool and also helps increasing our market participation due to the enhanced product portfolio.
Being a low involvement category, the end customer is not involved much in the decision making. It is the influencers like carpenters, interior decorators who play a key role in recommending a particular brand. So, what’s your engagement strategy to push Wood Amore?
We as an organisation have a long standing legacy of customer centricity, which has been institutionalised through various modes of engagement with the influencers like architects, interior designers and contractors. Apart from our regular outreach exercises of product sampling and architect meets, we are also planning to set-up a JKC Wood Amore ‘experience center’, where we will be showcasing various wood-finishes and colour ideas for our key influencers to take inspiration from and have an immersive experience. We have also developed innovative product finish displays and other collaterals for a real look and feel of our product’s superior finish. We will also be leveraging social media in order to reach out to our consumers and are currently in the process of creating some interesting content keeping them at the very focus.
You are planning a phased launch with more focus on the Northern region. Any particular reason for choosing the North markets? When do you plan to roll out to other regions?
The Northern region (Punjab, Haryana, Delhi-NCR, UP, Uttarakhand) accounts for almost 45-50% of the total wood finishes industry (PU segment) in the country. It so happens that these markets are also strongholds for us in terms of our existing business too, that is, wall putty and white cement in terms of brand and channel strength. Hence, to launch JKC Wood Amore in the north markets was a natural choice ahead of us.
Creating awareness and educating the target audience is very important for this category. On the communication front, how do you plan to position the product? What’s going to be your overall media strategy?
Italian wood-finishes are considered to be the most premium, the world over. Through JKC Wood Amore, we have partnered with the Italian wood-paint pioneers, NouvaSivam, to create a product which is best suitable for Indian conditions and consumer preferences. We plan to position this brand as the most premium one in this category, delivering some key functional differentiators, too, such as non-yellowing, extra coverage and high durability.
JKC Wood Amore is a wood-finish product that is experiential in nature. Hence, we are developing an ‘experience center’ in Manesar, Haryana, to educate and create awareness amongst the Influencers about the new developments in the wood-paint business, while giving them an immersive experience of our premium wood-finish products. Apart from this, for a holistic media strategy, we have chosen digital and social media as the central medium of communication, which includes social media, posts, emailer campaigns and product marketing. We will also leverage our existing relationship with architects and will participate in building materials/ interiors and architecture exhibitions as part of our overall media strategy.