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O-Furo to help HSIL, Somany increase consumer contact

In an effort to move closer to the customer, Hindustan Sanitaryware and SPL Ltd have launched the O-Furo chain of 'total bath solutions' showrooms.

Prachi Joshi Johar
agencyfaqs!
NEW DELHI, Sept 01

Hindustan Sanitaryware and Industries Ltd (HSIL) and SPL Ltd, have launched O-Furo, a premium sanitaryware and bathroom accessories showroom in Delhi. This is the first among a chain of 20 showrooms that provide 'total bath solutions', to be launched in other Indian metros and mini metros over the next three years.
HSIL is the market leader in the Rs 400-crore sanitaryware market, with 41-per cent share, by virtue of its two brands, Hindware and Raasi. SPL, the maker of Somany floor and wall tiles, is the second-largest player in the Rs 1,500-crore tile market, after HNR Johnson. SPL, with a current turnover of Rs 180 crore, has a 19-per cent market share.
O-Furo Ltd, is an equal JV between HSIL and SPL Ltd. "O-Furo came about as a solution to consumers going door-to-door, scouting the whole city for ideal bathroom fittings," explains Sandip Somany, joint managing director, HSIL. "We want to pamper the consumer, which no other store in India is doing today."
'O-Furo', which means 'The Bath' in Japanese, is an exclusive one-stop showroom offering consumers a range of bathroom accessories and tiles. The emphasis at the Delhi showroom, which is spread over two floors, is on space and an uncluttered environment. So much so, one floor is dedicated to showcase the premium offerings in sanitaryware and tiles, while the other displays bathroom settings in demonstrable form.
One of the USPs of O-Furo is its free service of in-house architects and designers who recommend tailor-made solutions, depending upon the tastes and requirements of customers. The aim is to leverage this service as a value proposition to customers.
"These architects and designers," clarifies Abhishek Somany, senior president, SPL Ltd, "are not meant to push the product, but simply guide the customers in terms of aesthetics and design appeal in the laying of tiles."
Specialized masons and plumbers trained in the companies' products for tiles and sanitaryware can do the laying - for a price - if customers so desire. O-Furo aims at providing after sales services too for complete customer satisfaction.
Explaining the reason for choosing the direct retail route, Abhishek Somany said, "The tile industry is coming close to resembling the textile industry in India. In the past ten years, tiles have evolved from being merely a hygienic product to a fashion statement. New designs have to be churned out every month, and with the plethora of new tiles being manufactured, it makes sense to showcase them in a customer-friendly environment."
When asked what makes HSIL and SPL perfect partners in this venture, Sandip Somany said, "We have certain core talents and products that SPL doesn't and vice-versa. Independently the two companies cannot offer total bath solutions to the consumer. Our combined strength makes this possible."
The objective behind O-Furo is to simplify the manufacturer-dealer-sub dealer-retailer-customer loop, thus enabling both HSIL and SPL to actually 'touch and sense' the retail market. However, both players insist that the showroom chain is not to be seen as a substitute to the 40-year-old strong distribution network that the two thrive on.
"O-Furo is a brand building exercise, and an attempt to move closer to the customer, to understand his requirements and provide customized solutions," says Sandip Somany.
An investment of Rs 1 crore has been made in the first store at Delhi's posh GK-II market. Being an upmarket city "where people have both the ability and willingness to pay good money", Delhi was chosen for the launch of the first O-Furo store. Besides, Delhi happens to be the headquarters for both companies, making logistics more manageable.
A second store is in the offing in Calcutta, where work will begin next month. Calcutta being a strong foothold for both partners in terms of sales volume, it is a natural extension after Delhi. Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Lucknow are among the other cities where showrooms are being planned.
The company plans to invest Rs 20-25 crore in the 20 showrooms. Being the company's first direct retail experience, lack of trained personnel inhibited a nationwide launch. Lack of infrastructure was another handicap.
O-Furo Ltd has set a turnover target of approximately Rs 3 crore in the first year. The company has earmarked Rs 20 lakh for advertising over the next six months. The company is looking at an ad agency other than Crescent (which handles HSIL's account) and TBWA Anthem (SPL's incumbent) to avoid any conflict of interests. The agency will be decided within the next week.
The media mix will predominantly be print. Direct mailers to architects and consumers are also planned, as are promos. The objective of the entire communication would be to generate awareness and motivate visits.

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