H&R Johnson India interview with Joydeep Mukherjee

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H&R Johnson India – Interview with Joydeep Mukherjee, CEO & Executive Director

Established in 1958, H & R Johnson (India), a division of Prism Cement Ltd is the pioneer of ceramic tiles in India. Over the past five decades, H& R Johnson has added various product categories to offer complete solutions to its customers. Today, it enjoys the reputation of being the only entity in India to offer end – to- end lifestyle solutions covering Tiles, Sanitaryware & Bath Fittings, Engineered Marble and Quartz as well as Modular Kitchens & Modular Furniture.

How is the Indian ceramic industry evolving?

The tile industry has grown to a sizeable chunk today and the potential seems to be great, particularly as the housing sector, retail, IT & BPO sectors have been witnessing an unprecedented boom in recent times. The key drivers for tiles in India are the boom in the housing sector coupled with government policies fuelling strong growth in the housing sector. The retail boom in the Indian economy has also influenced the demand for high end and innovative products.

Which trends interest the Indian consumer?

Talking about the latest trends in India – the natural look of marble, stone, and wood is seeing an increasing preference in ceramics aided by the high-resolution printing technology. Another overall trend is to move away from too much shine. Matt and rustic finishes are in trend. Glazed vitrified category in flooring is emerging fast because of surface enhancement possibilities that it offers. The germ-free tiles or the anti-skid tiles that H&R Johnson has introduced are an added collection in tiles and are much in demand. Along with the look and feel of flooring, consumers today also consider functionality as the key factor while choosing tiles.

How do you expect tile demand to evolve in India?

The demand for ceramic tiles, especially floor tiles is expected to grow substantially as a result of rising investments in commercial spaces as well as core projects like airports, hospitals, hotels, and construction project investments. Ceramic and vitrified tiles are cost-effective, durable, easy to maintain, and aesthetic flooring solutions. The rise in the global urban population and standard of living is propelling the demand for high rise buildings. This trend is leading to an increase in high-rise building construction, which is driving the demand for floor and wall tiles too.

What are your latest investments and what’s next in your expansion programme?

We are today in the process of reinventing our brand and be seen as young and vibrant, a company that has led innovations and will continue to do so. Several innovative products are being introduced in Tiles, Bathrooms & Engineered Marble & Quartz businesses to offer differentiated product offerings to our customers and drive growth for the company. Our efforts on strengthening our brand through a healthy mix of ATL and BTL marketing initiatives would continue with a higher vigour in the future. A focused drive is underway to expand our distribution footprint across all our key businesses. Manufacturing capacities are being constantly augmented to meet the demands of different categories of tiles for our brand.

What are the trends you foresee for the year 2017?

The trend to go with aesthetics close to nature and use of sustainable or environmentally friendly materials would witness an increasing rise in 2017. The look combines soft timbers with an industrial look and feel, which involves distressed flooring and slightly rusty looking floors (hybrid concrete/metallic rust). Johnson has been at the forefront of introducing some such products, whether it be the Cool Roof SRI Tiles which help reduce electricity consumption or the germ-free range of tiles and Sanitaryware for Bathrooms and floors which reduce the dependence on chemical disinfectants usage. A lot more attention is also being given now to outdoor flooring with a combination of beauty and durability as well as external cladding which provide a durable and aesthetic look to exterior walls with years of virtually maintenance-free performance.

How does your brand add to the ‘Make In India’ campaign?

Make in India is essentially a project to encourage domestic manufacturing to boost job creation and skill enhancement. There is no other tile brand in India that aligns better with this noble initiative launched by the Govt of India. Johnson is the oldest tile manufacturing company in India, manufacturing tiles here since 1958. Today we have 11 manufacturing plants including joint ventures for tiles in India as well as two plants for our bathroom products, making us one of the largest ceramic products manufacturers in the country. The Make in India project will further help the tile industry to facilitate investment and enhance innovations, skill development, and to build better manufacturing infrastructure in India.

Tell us about the major technology innovations that H&R Johnson has witnessed over the last year and its contribution to the industry?

Over the last 6 decades, H&R Johnson has pioneered most of the innovations in ceramic products thereby creating new categories e.g. industrial application tiles, swimming pool tiles, etc. Some of the innovations we’ve pioneered over the years include anti-skid tiles & water repellent tiles for bathrooms; rectified wall tiles; industrial & pavement tiles; tac tiles for visually impaired people; vitrified wall tiles; scratch-free tiles; stain-free tiles; anti-bacterial tiles; germ-free sanitaryware to name a few. We recently launched a new range of Wall & Floor Application tiling under the Johnson brand as ‘CARE’ series collection which has been designed with an aim to fuse the latest style trends with hygiene that provides varied interior themes coupled with germ-free tiling solutions. This latest collection prevents mold and stain-causing bacteria and also has a slip and scratch-resistant qualities for the floor range which ultimately provide safe and healthy interiors. Johnson Endura Tac Tiles is one innovation from our portfolio that provides cues combined with environmental information to assist visually challenged people to commute independently and to make India access friendly. Tac Tiles are ideal to alert visually challenge people for their approach to streets and hazardous drop-off thereby alerting them of impending danger from oncoming vehicles, obstruction, or change in path gradient. This is H&R Johnson’s initiative to creating a safer environment for them and in making them independent. Our Industrial Products and Natural Resources Division (IPNR) is Johnson’s R&D arm. The Laboratory at Pen (Maharashtra) was the first to get recognition by the Department of Industrial and Scientific Research, Govt. of India, in the field of ceramic engineering. I am pleased to mention that one of the ceramic R&D initiatives lead us to develop a solution to address the nuclear waste and we are associating with BARC for providing specific ceramic materials for this purpose.

How has your business developed in the sanitary ware & faucet market?

Considering the preference of today’s customers for making high-end bathrooms in their homes, Johnson today is amongst the few brands that offer the most comprehensive range of solutions for bathrooms covering, bath fitting sanitaryware as well as full range of wellness products like bathtubs, shower, and steam cubicles, multifunction shower panels, etc. Our bathrooms business is shaping up very well for us and would be one of the major growth engines of the company going forward. Some of our products like our germ-free sanitaryware and water-saving WCs and high-end faucets from the Elite range has met with very good acceptance in the market.

What are your export volumes and from where do you see maximum demand?

Our export volumes are over 2 million sq. meters annually and is growing at a fast pace. We are seeing a lot of responses from the Middle East markets.

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(This interview was originally published in The Tiles of India Jan-Feb 2017 issue)

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