We see a huge potential in the D2C space: Salil Sadanandan, Kohler
Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wisconsin, Kohler Co is one of America’s oldest and largest privately held companies with more than 30,000 associates. With more than 50 manufacturing locations worldwide, Kohler is a global leader in the manufacture of kitchen and bath products; engines and power systems; premier furniture, cabinetry, and tile; and owner/ operator of two of the world’s finest five-star hospitality and golf resort destinations in Kohler and St Andrews, Scotland.
The initial phase of the pandemic was very slow, however, in the second and third waves, the company has bounced back and saw exceptional demand for their products. Today, a large segment of consumers is moving towards “Smart” as a concept and replacing their hygiene products thus, the demand for hygiene has significantly increased and the future looks bright. The company also has their Kohler Experience Centres in Delhi and Mumbai, where initially people were reluctant to come to the stores. However, as things have opened now and people take building their dream homes very seriously, the company has seen more customers visiting their Kohler Experience centres.
In an exclusive conversation with Adgully, Salil Sadanandan, President, Kitchen and Bath, Kohler Brand K&B, South Asia, Middle East & SSA, speaks at length about the company’s growth journey, the emerging trends in kitchen and bathroom products, the focus on Smart products, experiential marketing, D2C and more.
The pandemic disrupted every other industry. How much of an impact it had on the luxury and lifestyle space for high end kitchen and bathroom products?
The initial phase of the pandemic was very slow, however, in the second and third wave, we bounced back as we saw exceptional demandof our products. Today, a large segment of consumers are moving towards “Smart” as a concept and replacing their hygiene products thus, the demand of for hygiene has significantly increased. This worked well in our favour from a retail and sales perspective, which led to the launch our product, Universal PureClean. This product is thoughtfully designed to provide intimate hygiene and care for women. It is an attempt to meet the rising hygiene standards of women. We aim to design products that have the potential of meeting with the concerns of consumers, providing ease, comfort, and most importantly, hygiene in their daily lives.
The luxury bathrooms were a success during the pandemic due to the increased focus on home itself and within that on wellness and technology. We are excited to launch Quila - 1st Indian artist edition, balancing artistry and craftsmanship with utility, celebrating India’s rich tradition of storytelling. The main thought of bringing Quila to the Indian market is to introduce art in bath spaces and through this exclusive vessel, we aim to celebrate the artist, the art, and the product.
Now that things are opening, how are you planning to bounce back? What is going to be your strategy for the coming year?
With an exceptional demand for smart and hygienic products, Kohler has been able to bounce back after the pandemic. The cherry on top is the increased interest in homes over apartments in the last few months. Homes are the new sanctuary and consumers are willing to invest both time and money.
The future of the segment is promising, and we are expanding our portfolio of intelligent toilets, Alexa enabled products, Artist Editions and best in class showering products, to cater to the demands of our luxury consumers.
With a surge in the market for technology and intuitive products, we’re excited about the Anthem collection as it represents a milestone in showering design and overall bathing experience. Its mechanical controls and valves offer elevated style, and its intuitive interface enables complete command over the temperature, volume, spray experiences. Additionally, it also comes with the ability to create and save pre-sets for a truly customised experience.
In the case of Kohler and bathroom business, experiential marketing is important. How do you plan to bring this back and will online retailing be able to deliver the same experience?
We have our Kohler Experience Centres in Delhi and Mumbai, where initially people were reluctant to come to the stores. However, as things have opened now and people take building their dream homes very seriously, we have seen that more consumers are coming to the Kohler Experience Centres.
The second part of your question is tricky, but we have experienced an increase in our online platform. We aim to make consumer-friendly content on e-commerce for them to have a better understanding of our products and offerings. With the motive to fulfil the consumers’ needs, Kohler is soon launching its D2C (direct to consumer) website as we see a huge potential in that space.
In the bathroom business, you have an architect and interior decorator who are highly influential. How do you engage with them and what is the role of the primary customer in the decision making?
Architects and interior decorators are critical for our business and are a part of a larger customer ecosystem that we cater to on a regular basis. We continuously strive to be their preferred partner and their one stop solution for all bathroom related needs. Since 80-90% of our premium and luxury customers work with architects and interior consultants, they are also key influencers for us in the consumer buying cycle.
All customers have varied tastes, preferences and requirements and we create products to satisfy all such needs. The concept of one size fits all doesn’t exist in today’s time. We partner with the best consultants in the country to offer solutions and help them solve problems for their clients. This strong working relation supported by our service orientation and engagement programs, makes us the preferred partner.
What is the trend that is currently prevalent in the kitchen and bath business? What is your frequency in introducing new trends and products in this category?
The success story of luxury bathrooms and kitchens during the pandemic was driven by the increased focus on home itself and within that on hygiene, wellness and technology. In the post covid market scenario, we have seen a spike in demand for our range of bathtubs, steam generators and intelligent toilets. Our luxury clientele refuses to compromise on wellness and hygiene, which has resulted in increased focus on new categories and products.
Currently, our trending products in the kitchen and bathroom segment are as follows:
- Steam Generators - With increased focus on wellness, another bathroom amenity which has seen increased interest is our range of steam generators. With just the press of a button, they provide a private steam bath in just 60 seconds.
- Captured in an unexpected aesthetic, the Anthem collection represents a milestone in showering design and overall experience. Anthem’s mechanical controls and valves offer elevated style and an intuitive interface. Acting as the control centre for up to six water outlets within the showering space, Anthem enables complete command over the temperature, volume, spray experiences, and more – along with the ability to create and save pre-sets for truly custom experiences.
- Quila - The India artist edition balance artistry and craftsmanship with utility, Artist Editions products celebrate beauty and creativity each day. The products honour the inherent beauty and potential of natural materials such as glass, bronze, marble, and ceramic, to create works of art using methods that have been passed down for generations. India’s diverse heritage of Painting, Textile, Architecture, and embroidery styles was a strong direction for exploration for the brand to create Quila – a limited edition ‘work of art’ celebrating India’s rich tradition of storytelling. This piece of art has been specially painted by Padma Shri Jai Prakash Lakhiwal, a well renowned miniaturist of our times. The main thought to bring Quila to the Indian market is to introduce art in bath spaces and through this exclusive vessel, we aim to celebrate the artist, the art, and the product.
- Universal PureClean - The Universal PureClean is a women-centric product for hygiene with a delicate wash for women and convenient front-to-back cleansing. Its extra sleek 6 mm body is known for its comfortable seating, leaving no gap, and is perfect for all seat types and bowl combinations. The Universal PureClean’s most important feature is its compatibility with your existing toilet with a Self-cleaning nozzle after every use. It has a retractable spray nozzle, which self-cleans itself with water automatically after every use.