Jaquar taps into premium wave but faces stiff competition from other brands

The company faces stiff competition in the premium segment from Indian brands such as Hindware and from global labels such as Grohe and Kohler
Should a home-spun player adopt an Indian identity or an international profile to grow its business internationally and in the domestic premium market that is home to a clutch of global brands? That's the challenge that marketers and brand managers alike wrestle with in a market where consumers are spoilt for choice and in categories that are still transforming from the unorganised tangle of no-logo, no-name products into a mass of brands, all promising a premium experience at best value. 

For Jaquar, owned by a Manesar-based company that set up business in 1960, both the category and the consumer have undergone a sea change. Apart from Jaquar, there are two more labels in the bathroom décor, sanitary ware segment that the company markets: a luxury line called Artize and value label called Essco. The majority of the company’s Rs 30.1 billion in sales come from Jaquar. Artize accounts for Rs 1.25 billion and Essco for Rs  2.60 billion in revenue.

Jaquar consumers, largely the premium-urban category, are more brand aware and, given the advancements in design and technology and the Internet as a marketing platform, are more informed about the choices and options on the shelf.

Among its key competitors are large Indian sanitary ware brands such as Hindware and Cera that have also launched premium faucet lines and a posse of global brands led by Kohler, Grohe among others. For Jaquar that has been making faucets the choice was simple.  Stand out from the rest of the field with European design sensibilities, a brand that sounds foreign and a product that addresses local nuances.

Ranbir Mehra a third-generation director with the company says the name which regularly gets confused with the luxury car company owned by the Tata group, isn't a disadvantage even though the letter in the word is a Q, not a G and is drawn from Mehra's great grandmother's name Jai Kaur.  

Jaquar’s rise has been added significantly by the change in consumer perception around bathrooms and the growth in premium urban residential properties. Devangshu Dutta who runs consultancy Third Eyesight says that apart from the home being a natural environment to project personal style, the bathroom is not just another room.”It's the room which a consumer looks at the most closely and spends the most amount of time in doing up,” he says.

Jaquar says that it has paid close attention to its logo, name and positioning to set itself apart from other local labels such as Hindustan Sanitaryware and Industries (Hindware) and Cera Sanitaryware, with sleek European designs and a decade-long warranty but the differentiators went beyond just the packaging, look and feel. Service is also a key ingredient in the brand mix. Mohit Hajela group head of business development for Jaquar points to a support system of 1,200 service representatives organised across the country to address plumbing, technical and other issues. “We address most problems within 24 hours,” he adds. 

There were other astute moves. Claudia Danelon, co-founder of UK-based design consultancy, DanelonMeroni and who has been working with Jaquar over the past five years says that to start with “anytime you're dealing with water, you have to get just about everything right because there's electricity, pipes, water and steam that you're dealing with.” Her point is that there's no room for low quality materials, engineering flaws or components that don't do what they are supposed to because the results can be disastrous. 

Everyone remembers water faucets that get too hot or too cold because the temperature markers don't do what they're supposed to. Then in India, there are other subtleties at play. For example, it's not uncommon for many apartment buildings to have mice or rats populating duct areas that then lead to tubes that are connected to showers and faucet pipes so anything softer than steel like say hardened rubber or vulcanized plastic would be vulnerable to damage. Those are areas that Jaquar used only steel in. The point is that deigns can’t be divorced from the context and the consumer.

Today, however, the market has opened up to several international brands that include Kohler of USA, Toto of Japan,  Grohe of Germany and American Standard from the USA which are both subsidiaries of the Lixil Group. Most of these are visible in five star hotels, luxury buildings and premium restaurants and growing in market share.

Jaquar has a challenge at hand which is namely to retain its market share in India while pushing outward into the world. To add to the complexity of its task ahead, the brand is also extending its métier into non-core categories such as lighting, bathtubs and more. For a firm whose core expertise lies in expressly making water faucets—as many as 125,000 of them daily, the diversification may be necessary but comes with a set of attendant challenges. Also much of the company's international success depends on how it markets itself outside of India if it is to achieve the stated revenue of $1 billion by 2022. To get there, the company says it will open 15 stores across the world with locations that are already operational in Vietnam, Singapore and Dubai. Danelon adds that the company has six factories and Artize is already being sold in Western markets in Milan and London. Jaquar· aims to grow market share there.

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