RAHUL KHER | Country Manager – Indian Sub-Continent | KEUCO | India
Rahul Kher, Country Manager – Indian Sub-Continent, KEUCO GmBh & Co KG India is known for his unbridled passion for the company he represents. Mr Kher who holds Bachelor’s degree in Electronics (Hons) from Delhi University and MBA in Marketing from Pune University has taken several creative steps to grow the KEUCO brand in India. In an exclusive interview with Sawdust, Mr Kher speaks about the trend in the industry and his plans for KEUCO which enjoys global product leadership in bathroom furniture, accessories, light mirrors, mirror cabinets and is also making its presence felt in the field of high quality design oriented faucets & fittings.
Do you apply the minimalist concept across all products or is it restricted to some range of products?
To start with, our design philosophy is always centered around “WHY” before we plan to bring out a certain bathroom concepts/product in the marketplace. Our products are always recipients of high design awards and that is because we focus on answering the “WHY” part very effectively.
Well, for KEUCO minimalism is a deep-rooted design philosophy, which runs across all its major product lines or complete concepts. Our approach has been to remove the unessential components and deliver a timeless concept where everything, each product – be it the light mirror, bathroom furniture, fittings and accessories comes together, so that we deliver truly a purest concept.
You may have observed that on one side, customers are moving towards “Modern Minimalism”, straight and clean lines across products and on the other customers are looking at unique contemporary furnishing concept which can convey their personality, is a warm natural space and can fulfil their simple and uncomplicated needs.
In bathroom fittings as well furnishing concepts, we are also observing a clear preference towards understand luxury, something which distances a high end customer from the ordinary. This also means that even if the design is taking an organic form and/or a minimalist form within bath space, it has to deliver a great experience, which a consumer can enjoy for a very long time.
KEUCO is the only bathroom brand in the world which has delivered the most awarded minimalist bathspace, with Edition 11 furnishing concept and Edition 11 faucet meTime_spa showering concept and iLook_Move cosmetic mirror, one can enjoy the most unique bathroom concept in the world and that’s what a high end luxury seeker is looking for , a bath space with which he or she can identify and also that space is complete in itself from all aspects of design, quality, functionality, ergonomics , safety and well-being.
How important is the Indian market for you? Do you have any India specific products/brands?
India is currently growing at a faster rate, at double digit year on year and consumers at the top of the economic pyramid are always looking for a high class experience and lifestyle in their homes, which makes India a very strategic market for any brand which is keen to grow organically in this dynamic yet challenging market.
We sell our entire global product portfolio in India, there is one single approach toward market or business development and that is to sell and serve an Indian customer, exactly the way KEUCO sells and serves across the world.
KEUCO wants to fill this gap with our contemporary product portfolio, which can bring in a fresh element of bathroom experience to Indian consumers matched with world class pre and after sales service.
We are focussed to the B2B side of business also on the retail side as Indian consumers are now demanding high quality products for their homes. Further, we also see a good opportunity in collaborating with developers for their high-end residential products. Hospitality is also a big opportunity for us as we have a very strong product portfolio, which can cater to hotels.
Broadly, there a three to four main challenges in bath segment in India, especially at the high end as we compete at the high end of the market.
Firstly, the segment is too fragmented; so the challenge is to champion the concept of bathroom furnishing, bring in awareness and education on investing in right brand for their bathroom as it’s the most exciting and demanding room within a home.
Second is to engage with the right architects, interior designers, developers and hoteliers, so that they can make an educated and an informed selection for their respective projects and customers.
Third is, to establish a good price-performance ratio of KEUCO products to the intelligent discerning high-end customer, so that they can make an educated and an informed selection of bathroom products for their homes.
This is not going to be easy, however 6-7 years in India have been fantastic, we have received a great response from all market segments and we are on course to bring in that change within the top end of the segment, in our own way.
What trend do you observe in bath ware segment in India and is there any difference in the trend seen few years ago? Also how do you keep yourself aware of latest trends and moods of consumers in India? Do you think premiumisation of Indian market is happening?
All the latest products innovations in bath fixtures are clearly moving towards three key trends 1) Products or concepts which offer wellbeing in the bathroom. Ultimately, a bathroom is one of the most sensual rooms of the house, a very intimate area where you want to feel comfortable, 2. The level of “design and planning freedom ” as they trend is towards the larger bathrooms and interior individuality plays a great role .3 Timeless yet excitingly unique bath spaces which are well crafted with urban and modern designs.
KEUCO with all its latest innovations EDITION 400 for its complete concept backed with IF Design Award for 2016, German Design Award 2016 and Design Plus 2016 & IXMO a showering concept backed with Red Dot design for 2016, IF Design Award for 2016 and German Design Award for 2016 are offering great possibilities to interior designers to have 1001 ways to design a bathroom with EDITION 400. With its enormous potential for individualization, EDITION 400, the innovative furnishing concept from KEUCO sets new trends in modern bathroom design. Thanks to the modular concept and the large variety of colours and materials of EDITION 400, there are no restrictions to personal creativity for a maximum of planning freedom – regardless whether for families, couples or singles. And for the final touch EDITION 400 offers fittings and accessories, light mirrors or mirror cabinets, all perfectly coordinated in design and function. The large selection offered by EDITION 400 thus opens up enormous potential for combinations and planning, from small solitary elements right to large washbasin solutions, which can be adapted individually to the interior given architectural conditions.
IXMO impresses with many refinements for planning and installation. Individual and versatile – that is IXMO in a nutshell. For users, IXMO offers a wealth of combination options for shower and bath tub fittings. Additional modules are simply added on to the thermostat or single-lever mixer. It is a versatile system with a minimalistic appearance. Because, “less can do more”. And this is where IXMO is truly multi-talented. Fittings from KEUCO combine multiple functions in the smallest of spaces. For example, the diverter valve, wall outlet and hand shower bracket are all integrated into one module.
Further, KEUCO EDITION 400 light mirror with its Intelligent lighting and mist-free vision make hearts beat faster. A special highlight of the full EDITION 400 bathroom furnishing series from KEUCO is the innovative light mirrors. This is where first-class quality and top-notch design made in Germany meet clever lighting technology and mist-free vision. The result is a perfect combination of light and mirrors that enchants the user. A special light-conducting material conducts the light of the LED to the surface and provides the ideal lighting for the room or face at all times. With unobtrusive and intelligent sensor controls the light can be dimmed and the light colour altered in an infinite number of steps: From bright-white daylight for ideal, day-to-day beauty care, right to a warm-white light, ideal for perfect evening make-up or an atmospheric bathing ambience. The EDITION 400 light mirror always places the user and the room in the right light. Moreover, in every light situation the LED lighting is glare-free and long lasting, and it also saves energy and is maintenance free.
Home Stores and Virtual Showrooms are all becoming a part of selling pre-requisites nowadays. Is KEUCO also following similar methods?
Well, Retail is going through an age of disruption as the relationship between the customer and the brands are changing rapidly. Virtual Showrooms or social media can help to establish a connect between the customer and the brand, however one has to test the digital platforms step by step before going all out in building a virtual showroom.
We at KEUCO and also in my personal opinion still believe that lifestyle and luxury specially in the world of interiors is all about delivering a certain user experience (UX) and how a brand would like to engage with its customers.
Lifestyle interiors products and concepts will have to have a mix of virtual and largely physical brick and mortar showrooms to further develop the concept of “sensory retail” where one can see, touch, smell, feel and hear the essence of a brand.
KEUCO is more into sensory retail as our products are high end and have to be seen, touched and felt, so that the customer knows that they are investing in a brands which will be part of their life for next 20-25 years.
On Home stores, India is yet to see a full-fledged home stores coming up which can cater to all needs and requirements of interiors, hardware, furnishing, etc. Unlike in Europe and the US, we are still being very fragmented retail economy and I don’t see that changing in next 10-15 years.
Strong distribution network of retailers and dealers and widespread service providers are the main USPs of many of Indian suppliers. What is your strategy in India?
Well, KEUCO wants to have retailers who can present and sell in a certain environment, therefore KEUCO Studio where one can clearly experience KEUCO brand will be our prime objective. On the other hand, we are also looking to scale up in the category of bathroom accessories and trying to get quality shop in shop, again choosing retailers who can present the brand in the right manner.
You will agree with me that, modern bathrooms are changing immensely in terms of the level of “design and planning freedom “offered, more and more individual creative freedom is expected and I think we will start to see bathrooms which will look less like bathrooms. This will further develop the concept of luxury bath spaces, which will be truly individualistic, which also means architects and interior designers need opportunities in order to be able to design rooms in a more individual manner. The inherent need to have more open and more emotional design language is forever increasing and KEUCO understands this very well.
Therefore, to support that, we will go with adequate number of speciality retail areas what we call as “KEUCO Studios “and will also have good number of “KEUCO KUBS” which is a smaller shop in shop area.
KEUCO has always approached the products from the point of view of the user and focus on psychology of “wellbeing & wellness” and that is the reason our products have always displayed an inherent regard for the wellbeing of the users. We understand that emotional wellness can be created through design, particularly in the crucial spaces of the home.
Bathrooms are an extension of the human experience, it’s a living, breathing, interacting “organism”, working every day to fulfil the desires, whims and moods of the people who are inhabiting it.
Look at the market today, not only in the high end architecture or interiors space but also into other high end segments, one side you see path breaking innovations coming out and on the other side there is a huge pressure to meet price points by completely overlooking the essentials and that is resulting in eroding the notion of luxury.
Today, KEUCO is trying to ask, what is a bathroom, exactly? I don’t mean what does it do, but what does it signify; and therefore what does a world-class, truly luxurious, truly individualistic bathroom stand for. You will see lot of brands fading away when these questions are asked and maybe few truly innovative brands stand out and KEUCO will be at the top.
Any efforts on eco and sustainable products and practices by KEUCO?
Of course sustainability, water -saving, energy saving bath fixtures are being discussed and are being specified at the project level, be it a high end hotel or a high end residential building. However, at the individual level, there is more to be done, both in terms of water saving as well energy saving.
Further, one also has to look at total cost of investment and invest in product, which are made in factories that are concerned about the environment, made with high quality material, perform for a very long time and have less maintenance. All these factors are important when we are looking at sustainability in a long term.
Also, sustainability in the contemporary bathrooms is not just about using “eco-products”, it also involves the eco-living with efficiency. There is no point in putting a eco product which over a period takes more water or energy to maintain or to even run.
Further, it not always just about the products and their inherent eco-impact, our lifestyles and behaviour can also directly magnify the impacts through the choices we make. Weather we keep the wash basin tap open for more time or use more water in washing our fruits and vegetables or we use a shower system which consumes more water unnecessarily, everything steps towards how eco-efficient we are.
KEUCO understands the challenge of sustainability is a key factor for selecting the product. Therefore our environmental policy has always been to generate more added value and international competitiveness.
All our products, be it fittings, accessories, bathroom furniture or light mirrors, bathroom furniture, wash basins have a holistic approach towards sustainability from the material stand point and also from the maintenance standpoint.
We have LED light mirrors, Eco Air technology in Edition 400 showers and faucets, which are lead free and can be tuned to lower flowrate from 6 to 4.5 also. Our fittings offer lesser flow rate and we can always customize a flow rate for a hotel project based on the sustainability and water saving goals.
Any new product or product range launches planned in near future?
Yes, ISH is coming in March in Frankfurt where we will take the innovation to the new level and deliver products all across bathrooms’ areas, be it wash basin area or the shower area. We will strengthen our product portfolio in the fittings area and will launch a very high end, conceptual full furnishing concept. Also, it will be one of its kind, the industry has never experienced or seen.
Growing disposable income, rising awareness about hygiene and big push given by the government towards sanitation and smart cities – all bode well for the industry. How well are you prepared to make most of the available opportunities?
Yes, KEUCO with its product portfolio and implantation plans is all set to make the best of these opportunities all across market/business segments, be it private residential, high end residential, hotels, hospitals, or high end offices. We have products to cater to all segments, which can deliver great quality, design, functionality, ergonomics and offers great cost of ownership to customers.
We are also keen to engage with government on its initiatives on sanitation and provide products, which can further compliment their vision of offering something world-class to its users.