In countries like India, where sunlight is abundant, sun-control solutions a.k.a window blinds assume great significance, especially in contemporary buildings. Ever since developing the first lightweight aluminium window blinds in 1946, Hunter Douglas has led the industry in creating top quality, highly innovative blinds and specialty curtains. Banking on customisation to create high-level of product and service differentiation, the company offers solutions to meet the local requirements in each of the 100 countries it operates in. The Architectural Products division of Hunter Douglas covers Metal Ceilings, Metal Facades, Architectural Sun Control and Architectural Terracotta. Buildingandinteriors.com in conversation with Mr.Anil Kumar Singh, Executive Director – Architectural Products, Hunter Douglas India.
B&I: How do you see the India market vis-à-vis the your other markets international? What are the challenges and opportunities in the Indian market?
AKS: Architectural products business in India is both evolving and growing at a decent rate as compared with other markets that you have mentioned. This is mainly on the back of the growth in commercial, infrastructural and transportation projects.
At Hunter Douglas, we see many opportunities in the Indian market. There’s high-quality Architectural talent that exists in India (which balances the contemporary formats and energy efficiency in buildings). As a result, we see increasing integration of energy-efficient solutions in buildings. For us, over the past several years, this is driving transformation in sun control & façade business.
Indian market is quite unique and challenging as we aspire for global products at competitive prices. In 2019 Hunter Douglas has completed 100 years globally and 25 years of operations in India. Hunter Douglas has set up world-class architectural products factory at Sricity, near Chennai to serve the architectural fraternity and to support these market aspirations.
B&I: Do you have some India-specific solutions also? Talking about window blinds and related application solutions, are some of the solutions built around sunlight and temperature tolerance?
AKS: India being a tropical country, solar control products aim to achieve the right balance between energy efficiency, ventilation, and privacy requirements. Our wide range of sun louvers and sun control products are able to meet not only the constantly evolving architectural requirements but also the functional needs in the buildings.
Moreover, our dual skin façade solutions such as Quadroclad® honeycomb panels, Sandwich® wall, NBK® Terracotta are ventilated façade aimed to achieve energy efficiency in buildings. Our Luxalon® metal ceilings business offers contemporary linear, modular and customized ceilings with closed or open type designs to meet unique architectural intent.
We offer a wide variety of finishes, ranging from plain colours, metallic to wood finishes – which are a good substitute to real wood.
B&I: How do you see customization in your range of solutions? What kind of value-add is usually required in customization?
AKS: Customisation is essential to meet the unique architectural & functional intent of the building. Hunter Douglas believes that customization is an opportunity to create a high level of product & service differentiation. We do this by providing unique shapes, sizes, perforations, colours, finishes, texture, fixing systems, and coating systems.
Moreover, the customization and product innovations are aimed at improving Aesthetics, Quality, Speed, Ease in installation, and Maintenance. As a result, our products withstand varied weather conditions. Whereas we are actively involved in the customized solutions business, most of the other manufacturers mostly push their standard modular products.
B&I: From window blinds to metal ceilings, how do you categorise your customers?
AKS: Our customers include Architects, Interior Designers, Façade Consultants, Interior & Exterior Contractors, and of course the end-customer. We operate in a niche market segment. As a result, the level of customization we are able to offer is quite detailed. For us, the focus is extremely important to succeed in our business as each customer has his own project briefs and requirements. Our teams work closely with these sets of customers and offer innovative products to make their projects innovative.
B&I: Architectural solutions from Hunter Douglas – how does the execution flow from enquiry to delivery in projects and retail business?
AKS: The execution flow for project business is different from that of our retail business. In project business, our scope remains limited to design, manufacture, and supply. Authorized dealers, certified installers, or by us (for large infra projects like Airports) offer installation. For a retail business, the primary focus is on residential & commercial buildings and we supply architectural products through our all-India network of authorized dealers.
B&I: What services do you have for the Architects and Developers? How do you see these services evolve in a post-Covid19 world? What are the typical challenges when you work with Architects?
AKS: We work closely with architects and designers in the conceptual stage. This helps us understand the specific requirements of the project and suggest the most suitable solutions for their needs. Moreover, our sales consultants assist architects in suggesting the right product, finish, texture, colours, fixing systems to meet the specific project requirements.
We provide approval drawings, shop drawings, 3D views, provide samples, mock-ups for approvals and understand objections if any from the stakeholders of the project. The early involvement of sales or product consultants helps to choose the optimum solution, get approvals on time, understand transitions and interfaces, etc. this provides clarity during the execution phase.
Due to SARS CoV 2 pandemic situation, we are witnessing a surge in enquires for antimicrobial ceilings especially in hospitals and commercial buildings.
B&I: Your window blinds (and sun control solutions in general), ceiling and cladding solutions must be dependent on installers. What are the typical challenges there and how do you support the project installation teams?
AKS: Our products ensure the quality and speed of installation at the site. Our interior or exterior fixing systems are available in different modules. Therefore, this reduces measuring, marking, drilling, and cutting activities on site. We get full-time or periodic supervision for our projects by installers trained and certified for our products and systems and our dedicated project teams.
B&I: How do you see Hunter Douglas in India over the next 2-3 years? What are the new product categories/new solutions the Architects and Developers can expect from you?
AKS: The development and up-gradation of transport infrastructure in India will drive phenomenal growth over a short-term period for business. We expect Industrial, Commercial & IT Infrastructure will constantly grow year on year. Moreover, the Indian market has a high potential to become a leading consumer of architectural products in South East Asia.
Hunter Douglas has endured for more than 100 years in business due to our focus on innovation in architectural products. We shall constantly strive to meet the constantly evolving needs of the architectural fraternity.