Luxury bathrooms have become increasingly popular in recent years. This demand-driven increase has further been fueled by the pandemic. Surfaces Plus, an Ahmedabad-based store specialising in high-end bathroom accessories and sanitaryware, has tapped into this industry. Thus, for our next stop in Retailer Talk with BuildingandInteriors, we interviewed Mr. Shail Rajubhai Trivedi from Surfaces Plus, an esteemed dealers of luxury bathroom fittings, sanitaryware and Stiebel Eltron renewable energy products in Ahmedabad.
In this engaging conversation, Mr. Shail Rajubhai Trivedi provides us with his unique insights into the sanitary market in west India and the peculiarities of luxury segment bathroom fittings. Keep reading to find out more!
Inception and expansion
Surface Plus is a 35-year-old company. The business was started by my father, Mr. Rajeev Trivedi. I joined this business in 2011 after completing my MBA. Initially, my father started the business with a product line of mosaic decoration, Italian marble, and vitrified tiles. Surface Plus was one of the first businesses in Ahmedabad to bring Nitco and Asian Granito into the market. Soon, we started expanding with the number of brands and verticals. Right now, we have a total of seven segments. We started as dealers of CP fittings and sanitarywares from premium brands like Kohler, Hansgrohe, Geberit, and Villeroy & Boch, and then we expanded horizontally in the bathroom segment. Now we are also dealing in pipes with brands such as Viega. Apart from this, in the wellness segment, we are associated with the luxury brands Jacuzzi and Effe.
Additionally, we also deal in renewable energy solutions with pioneering companies like Stiebel Eltron. Surfaces plus has been active in other segments like wooden flooring, cladding, tiling, doors, partitions, and ceilings. Basically, we have everything for home furnishing except for lighting and furniture. Surfaces Plus is known for bringing something new to the market. We were the third company in India to associate with Kohler and we have had the longest relationship with Villeroy and Boch, almost 15 years now. So, we are not just retailers but also promoters of these brands. Thus, we believe in understanding a brand and positioning it the right way in the market.
Surfaces Plus is a high-end store; we sell concepts; we do not depend on walk-in retail sales. Our main operation is to guide and explain to the client the peculiarities of the system. So, our target audience is not the end customer so much as the architects, interior designers, and builders. When you handle a business that deals in luxury products for bathroom fittings or otherwise, our job is more of a consultant than a retailer. We try to understand the client’s budget and the architect’s drawings, and after a detailed discussion with the architect or designer, we suggest solutions. We work on set protocols by the building or design professionals because each architect or designer has different tastes and demands. After considering all these nuances, we draft a proposal.
Surfaces Plus is not a one-brand outlet, it is a multi-brand outlet dealing in multi-product categories. So, we are a solution-based company. We try to provide solutions to our customers according to their requirements.
Showrooms: all about the experience!
Since we target selling entire concepts, displays and the layout becomes a means of creating a luxurious experience. Thus, we study the products and ranges in detail from their material, texture, technology, and theme to positioning them in the correct way. In the luxury bathroom fitting segment, the showroom has to have a wow factor. The luxury ambiance of Surface Plus is elegant and sophisticated. It is a three-floor showroom, each floor spread in 4000 sq ft. According to me, the entryway matters the most and then everything comes down to the design and budget. We want our customers to feel pampered as soon as they walk in, so we constantly upgrade our products and renovate displays every two years. Now, the brands are aggressively producing products and ranges. Therefore, we too keep upgrading and showcasing the latest systems.
We build an experience by showcasing whole ranges instead of single products. Surfaces Plus displays everything from cabinets to bathtubs, mirrors, faucets, and sanitary ware from a brand together as a luxury bathroom. This is to give an idea of how the product is going to look. We display everything together even when we know each product will not have an equal sale volume. However, with this type of display, when a customer enters a particular brand segment, at a glance they can see the range and experience the luxury.
Two essentials for a successful brand partnership
We take a lot of time before finalizing a brand. Firstly, we try to understand their management. We believe that it’s not just products that make a brand successful but also the people behind it, and their understanding of the brand is important. For us, the right brand positioning in the market is also a factor. We like to work with brands that have maintained their position as luxury brands throughout. There are brands that started in luxury but then slipped down to discounts and lowered their standards. In such cases, the brand image changes.
Secondly, it’s the liberty to display on our own terms. Generally, most brands have their own criteria when it comes to displaying their products. However, at Surfaces Plus, we display ranges and products from all brands in our way, and the brands are more than okay with it. This is because we have a design sense and we invest a lot in the interiors and the designers. Most store owners in this segment try to utilize the maximum space, but we are not here to save money! At Surfaces Plus, each corner of the display is justified, be it in a product from the starting segment or the most premium range.
Stiebel Eltron instantaneous water heater & heat pump
We have been in association with Stibel Eltron for more than 3 years now. Two products from the brand that are absolutely amazing and unique are the heat pump and instantaneous water heater. So, for water heating technologies, I think no other brand in India is working under an organized sector as Stibel Eltron does.
Another factor that makes these products stand out is the fact that they are designed with German technology. Their technology makes them far superior to any other local brand. I personally really like their instantaneous geysers with full electronic output control and 4i technology. These geysers are energy efficient and so well designed that their compact and aesthetic design make them a desirable option. Thus, as dealers of Stiebel Eltron in Ahmedabad, it is easy for us to sell these. Instantaneous geysers, even when not concealed, look so beautiful and well blended in the bathroom.
In Ahmedabad, most houses are based on the villa concept, unlike the metropolitan city’s high-rise apartment styles, which are compact in layout. The construction is massive, and both the builders and the customers are looking for centralised ventilation, cooling, and heating solutions. Thus, brands like Stiebel Eltron are saviours for sanitaryware & renewable energy solution dealers like us in Ahmedabad and all over India because products like heat pumps are in demand.
Stiebel Eltron is the pioneer innovator of heat pumps, so the efficiency and quality are unquestionable. Furthermore, we too explain to the clients to opt for such sustainable solutions as they are better investments for the long term. Although not much convincing is required because the brand, Stiebel Eltron, has a name for itself and they have brand awareness. Also, with the increasing purchase power and standard of living, customers are not stingy with their budgets. The customer is now focusing on the technical excellence, sustainability, energy efficiency, and design that the products from Stiebel Eltron provide.
Hallmarks for Luxury brands in the bathroom fitting industry
Currently, the challenge for a luxury brand is not the pricing but the ability to survive in the Indian market on their own terms and conditions without compromising their image and pricing. The brand must figure out how to capture a market on a technical level rather than a commercial level. With this, the brand value of the company stays intact.
Ahmedabad luxury bathroom & sanitary ware market
If we compare the markets of cities like Delhi and Mumbai to Ahmedabad, it is obvious that the former is busier and denser. In metropolitan areas, the end customer more often than not leaves decisions of technical & sanitaryware to the developer or builder, but in Ahmedabad, the customer is very active. Here, even if the designer or builder has advised the XYZ brand and product. The customer will likely seek another possible alternative and engage in negotiations. They will take suggestions from professionals but will also explore more.
So, the conversion time for us is at least three to five meetings. First, the customer will come and look at the selections made by the designer; then they will try to explore other options, and then it takes another two or three meetings to conclude. To summarise, I would say that the market in Ahmedabad is hard and the customer is still a bit skeptical of anything new. So, as dealers for sanitaryware in Ahmedabad building trust and providing solutions to close a deal is not as easy compared in other markets.
To get in touch with Mr. Shail Rajubhai Trivedi, contact on the following details:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: +91 79 26853312
As part of our series of Retailer Talk with BuildingandInteriors, we interviewed Mr. Parag Desai of Parag Traders, Indore. Mr. Parag Desai is one of the most notable Stiebel Eltron dealers (heat pump, sanitary ware & tiles) in Indore. In this conversation, Mr. Parag Desai, helps us understand the peculiarities of the sanitary ware market in central India and the upcoming trends in the bathroom sector. Since the pandemic, the bathrooms market