NITCO Ltd, a well-known entity in the ceramic wall and tile manufacturing space, has been in existence since 1953. The company has an edge over its peers in the designing space as it leverages modern Italian technology and sources superior marble from select quarries in Italy and other locations that enable it to supply international standard products.
The company owns 11 exclusive display centers under the brand name 'Le Studio', and 95 exclusive showrooms operating as franchises, known as 'Le Studio Express'. NITCO has a pan-India presence with 21 offices. It has a strong distribution network that comprises more than 500 active direct dealers and 2,000 active sub-dealers.
In an exclusive conversation with Indianretailer.com, Vivek Talwar, Managing Director, NITCO, talks about the retail and omnichannel strategy of the brand. He further elaborates on the tech innovations and digital initiatives started by the brand.
Impact of the Pandemic
The initial phase was tough since it was something that could not be planned. However, over the last 6-8 months, we have been realigning our resources, efficiently managing production, shifting to a virtual model, handling export orders, and connecting with customers, especially for B2B projects. We have also initiated virtual presentations of our products and factories for architects and builders, and this allows them to go through a lot of design inspiration from the safety and comfort of their homes.
It has been a new phase for all of us. While the recovery from the demand side has been very good, the sudden market shifts and start-stop conditions are challenges we are facing. The retail walk-in has largely been affected due to the pandemic, which we hope will pick up in the near future.
Key Revenue Markets for NITCO
The South & East Zones are the largest revenue markets for NITCO. We will continue to expand our presence through various retail formats best suited to meet the regional markets’ requirements.
We will strengthen and reinforce our dealer network in stronger markets, focussing on improving the in-house share through several support activities such as loyalty programs, annual tie-ups, etc. For markets with lower penetration, the white spaces have been clearly identified and the partner scouting, evaluation, and appointment will be done swiftly to ensure appropriate presence across all markets.
Online Space Plays a Major Role
This year, the online space will play a greater role to allow for more access and connect with more customers to enable them to access the category. The offline distribution will undergo a change with new models emerging, as the course of the pandemic redefines the shopping models of end consumers and project customers.
The company undertook several initiatives like pre-polished and cut to size marble for sites, factory finish window sills, door jambs, steps, and risers, etc to reduce wastage, improve efficiency and improve quality with a quick turnaround time. With labor shortages at almost all sites, our innovations helped projects go on and stick to their initial timelines. It is a very unique and modern approach towards value addition in this segment.
Cut to size is a breakthrough idea for many architects and interior designers. It helps them take full control of their project and deliver a world-class site. When technology is taking over every sphere of life, our cut to size service is a very big boon for designers. With the help of high-resolution scanned images of every marble slab, they can decide, from the comfort of their office or home, which slab is to be used in which part of the project.
After brainstorming on the application part, they can give us the desired sizes in which slabs are to be cut. This approach brings down at least 60-70 percent of work on-site, helps reduce wastage for clients and is more economically efficient. Other visible benefits of this approach are reduced dependency on labor, faster turnaround, and an efficient work model for optimum results.
From working on inventory planning for projects affected by the lockdown to managing proposals and site inspections online, NITCO has always looked at innovations from a customer-centric approach.
NITCO started many unique engagement platforms, such as a community engagement platform for architects to share new ideas and define new directions called NITCOTalks, which helped spread new thinking and new approaches for all. NITCO also started its “Connect” program to help architects and builders stay updated with the latest trends and innovations of the industry. It is one of the few companies, which has approached the pandemic from a solution provider mode.
Recently, the company also launched a new tab on its website, giving architects and builders the option of ordering samples directly to their homes. A new lead generation process, specification, proposal approach, and an all-new dealer portal have been some of the digital initiatives started by NITCO.
The company has also been among the few firms working with the Government of India towards the Skill India initiative by training and certifying, and empowering masons across the country. This is a philanthropic activity by the company to improve quality and provide opportunities to the mass population by touching many lives.
Retail and Growth Strategy for 2021
Currently, we are focused on driving substantial and sustainable growth by-product and retail channel expansion. NITCO has been a pioneer in terms of product and design innovation in the Indian tile industry and we will leverage this to enhance customer preference towards the brand. NITCO will continue its journey towards increasing its retail footprint across the length and breadth of India by appointing dealerships and franchisee stores, which can provide world-class products to the Indian consumer.
A lot of focus will be on channel support activities such as generating secondary sales, influencer campaigns, and customer outreach programs for our partners. These activities will ensure dealer loyalty, higher brand preference, and in-shop share.
NITCO will build on its customer-centric approach, try to improve the industry standards and improve customer satisfaction by addressing some core issues innovatively, and charter a new path of innovation the industry has not experienced before.