Prices of basic raw materials need to be brought under control: Ramesh Baliga

The Indian sanitary ware and bath fitting industry is about INR 8000 crore in India.

Improved standard of living, higher awareness on sanitization coupled with government’s missions like Housing for All and Toilets for every home across the country has further boosted the growth prospects for the sanitary ware and bath fitting industry. With the impact of pandemic and renewed focus on hygiene, many leading manufacturers are now innovating into building touchless products. The polymer bath fittings industry in India is about INR 500 crore and Watertec, a total plumbing and bathroom solution provider, holds around 80% of this market share.

Manish Joshi from NewsBarons connects with Bantwal Ramesh Baliga, CEO, Watertec India Pvt Limited, who informs ‘If the soaring prices of basic raw material are brought under control, we are sure that we will have good quarters to come’.

NB: How is the bath fitting industry performing in the post-Covid era? Has the industry and Watertec India faced any challenges?

Ramesh: It has taken almost two quarters for the companies to start the operation to the level of pre Covid era. Initially, it was a big challenge due to norms laid by the government on approvals needed to start the production with restriction due to social distancing. Getting back employees, especially skilled employees, was a big challenge in terms of production. We overcame the same and, today, we have almost 120 % production in force.

www.newsbarons.comIn terms of sales, we had to get the confidence of the retail channel partners as the COVID-19 fear had created a negative impact in the markets. The real estate industry is now slowly improving in terms of sales, and construction has re-started with slow pace and will improve in coming quarters.

Now, the industry is facing the issue of price rise in the raw materials, construction material and this is going to be a challenge to grow. We hope that the government takes a note of the same and focusses on the building material industry as a whole.

Developers are focusing on completing existing projects and liquidate inventory. The premium and larger homes are garnering good demand, but affordable segment is likely to remain the major diver of real estate recovery going forward.

NB: How the pandemic has impacted the designs of innovative products in this space?

Ramesh: The vagaries of infections have become all the more apparent these days, despite maintaining basic levels of hygiene. Every surface from sink handles to shower faucets to shower walls, curtains, towels, etc. all of these are potential hot zones for the spread of infections. With COVID still dangerously present, such a scenario could be all the more vulnerable to attacks of bacterial and viral infections. In a new world order where personal hygiene, social distancing, sanitised environment and water conservation would become all the more important – health, hygiene, sustainability, technology and luxury designs would become key to bathroom innovations of the future.

Technologically-enabled, smart toilets can actually play an important role in monitoring health at hospitals and home. Toilet seats that measure blood oxygenation levels, heart rate and blood pressure to signal when someone is at risk of congestive heart failures are being researched and developed. While these have yet not entered mainstream for regular commercial use, sensor-enabled toilets equipped with LED lights, Bluetooth, built-in Amazon Alexa, where you can inquire about the weather, play your favourite tunes, hands-free, motion activated & heated lids, are already here.

Watertec will also provide skills training to students, plumbers & technicians to increase the awareness of various new products, installation & servicing.

NB: What is your outlook for your organization?

Ramesh: The company is further planning to invest in the development of three more plants in the year 2021-2022 in Gujarat, Odisha & Coimbatore. It also has plans to invest in its own twenty-four showrooms that will focus on educating the customers about the company’s product offerings rather than just product promotions.

Watertec will also provide skills training to students, plumbers & technicians to increase the awareness of various new products, installation & servicing. The markets now are slowly developing into hygiene focused, easy to use, maintenance free, touch free bath rooms in the smart homes. The markets are going to be quite slow in the couple of quarter in the year 2021-22, but with a focused approach and if government put their focus on our industry, we are sure to start the growth story in second half of FY21-22. And for the next two years, the government’s initial commitment for housing for everyone is going to help us in that segment.

The industry should be able to grow about 13-15% in coming years, and we would be matching that growth rate for our companies too.

NB: What is your industry outlook for the next few years?

Ramesh: From an industry point of view, for next couple of years the industry will have tough challenges to face. We are expecting a slow improvement in real estate sector, and if the soaring prices of basic raw material are brought under control, we are sure that we have good quarters to come. The government is focusing on affordable segment, smart homes, infrastructure development which is going to support the industry in its growth plans. Homes and toilets for everyone in the country would help our industry if we can get the “house for everyone” initiative by the government is duly completed. The relaxation by the government policy to have second homes at a reasonable interest, increase in the spends will definitely support the industry to grow. Also, the organized sector and companies with robust infrastructure will have good opportunities to be a part of successful growth plan. So, we are all focusing on building the infrastructure considering the industry is expected to bounce back in next six months.

Further evolution of REITs will take place in India as we move forward, which is good for the formalization of the industry.

NB: What are the core strength and competencies of Watertec India?

Ramesh: In one line – Uncompromising Quality and Constant Innovation. Watertec was envisaged with the mission to replace basic metal products available in the market with superior quality Engineered Polymer products in an affordable cost, yet that would be durable. While doing so, we have emerged to become a leading brand in this segment. Watertec’s innovation-based business model ensures that the products evolve according to the market needs and demands. For instance, during the COVID situation, the company came up with the “H2O Philosophy” in our product range, that promotes Health, Hygiene and Original designs. In fact, these would go on to become key to bathroom innovations in the future.