Tuesday, 18 April 2017

History of Ceramics in Construction

The modern world is full of buildings, homes, offices, shops, factories, huge industrial complexes all located from smallest of villages to mega cities. These constructions have a number of elements that make the whole construction functional and beautiful. There was a time in history when ceramics was used largely as a embellishment on these constructions. From China in the east to the Greek cities on the west, ceramics was used in construction to adorn walls outer claddings. The production was very low and rare and only the rich and people with abundant means used ceramics in construction. Pottery and clay were of course used by all classes, but Ceramics in glazed forms were used only by an elite few all over the world.
It was also used in important public constructions like Mosques, temples, and other buildings of public use and important to the country and/or the kingdom. The domes, walls exteriors etc were decorated with handmade ceramic add-ons to make the buildings more attractive and look richer.
The Birth of Sanitation
IN the early 1900s, Ceramics started being used in constructions. The richer countries, largely British and French used Ceramic Tiles as well as sanitary ware in their washing spaces and bathrooms. Some tiles were also used in rooms and exteriors. This was largely due to increase in production of ceramic goods.
This was actually the start of usage of Ceramics in interiors and exteriors as an important (but not necessary) element of any constructions. Middle class homes had but, limited usage of ceramic tiles and sanitary ware.
However, this phase was important as it actually educated the engineers as well as health awareness people about the benefits of ceramics in construction. Ceramics did not only provide beauty, but also sanitation, easy maintenance, long lasting utility and ease of day to day use. These benefits started making their presence felt in every country across the world.
Post World War II
Ceramics actually started making their way in every home in well sustained countries, in this phase of the history. Interior designers, Architects as well as engineers started recommending use of ceramics. More colleges, better education, faster communication, flow of technology across countries, people meeting each other and excellent dispersion of knowledge led to growth of many new products all over the world. Ceramic and its usage to found great liking and acceptance in the phase.
Today, Ceramics, A necessity
In today’s world, it is difficult to imagine a household or a commercial construction without ceramic goods installed. Every household, small or big has some sort of ceramic items installed.
Almost all offices and commercial buildings have sanitary ware and ceramic tiles installed at one place or the other.
The Design Challenge for Designers
The homes and offices are now a depiction of style statement and interior as well as exterior design specialists are put to challenge every time they take up a project. They have to deliver extra ordinary, functional as well as unique designs that, when installed appear exclusive as well as attractive.
The spending in home decoration and commercial construction have increased to the point where every designer has to think out of the box, innovate, create and bring to life magnificent constructions every time.
To make their life easy and smoother, the ceramic industry presents a whole lot of products with plethora of choices. These choices are easily available and extremely functional to install as well as last long.
The Decoration Advantage
Ceramic goods present a very strong decoration advantage to the interior designers as well as architects for exterior cladding. The variety of shapes sizes and colors virtually present a limitless scope for designers to run their imagination wild. The ceramic Manufacturers across the world and largely from India have together developed and supplied the market with products that are sure to match any look and appearance wildly imagined by the design specialists.
Ceramic Goods in Designing of Buildings
Wall Tiles
Wall tiles are largely used as wall cladding. Initially used in washing spaces only, they now find place in any and all rooms. They are available in smart looks with varying colors, conceptualised to make the walls look designer walls. With inherent advantage of easy maintenance and long lasting promise, the wall tiles are but the most admired wall decoration element.
They tiles are available in a number of sizes. From Small 6 x 6 inches which are right for small enclosures like public wash rooms and small office spaces, to 24 x 36 inches that are installed in huge Hotel lobbies and the homes of the Rich and Famous, they can cater to any need.
Adding to this is the punching effects that give Three Dimensional feel to the tiles. You can have waves, or grids and checkers, or stripes and bars on the surface or rough stone like finish to just enhance the touch and feel of the tile surface.
With the advent of Digital Printing Technology, the wall tiles are have broken all barriers of colors and designs. From natural stones to man made fibres to leaves to lawns to …..Anything, the Digital Printing Technology provides perfect appearance of the tiles.
The best offer of the wall tiles is, that they are not just perfect, but much better replacement of the Natural stones. They look exactly like natural stone, but can promise higher shine in case of glossy finish, lower shine in satin and no shine in case of matt finish. While natural stones will have their own looks and feels, the wall tiles can be modified to look the way the customer likes it. They provide much needs protection to the natural stones as they have already been accepted as substitutes for natural stones.
Floor Tiles
The floor tiles have all the advantages of wall tile, but are tougher and have a very hard surface. They have great abrasion resistance. They too are available in all kinds of looks and feels like the wall tiles. In fact it is possible to find good matching sets that make the whole rooms appear as carved out of a single stone.
It is also possible to machine some tiles and clad them with other material to give a unique flooring pattern. Ideal for exteriors as well as interiors, the floor tiles promise to make the walk ways of any construction amazing and functional.
Sanitary ware
Sanitary-ware has come of age and is a home decorators’ delight. Every home has a wash room. It may be big and regal. It can be small, compact and stylish. From big homes on the country side to a single apartment condo in a bustling city to a seven star hotel to a commercial complex, Sanitary ware finds application every where.
It is not regarded as just utility attachment for sanitation, but a functional element of any construction that should also add style. Themed homes and constructions have unique needs. So do contemporary constructions. While the tiles garnish the walls and floors of any such building, sanitary ware add to the beauty of real objects in wash rooms and stylish wash basins in dinette and dining area.
They are now available in great colors and shapes. From very large sizes and regal appearances to small and cosy set ups, sanitary ware has more than 150 shapes bundles along with Vitrosa and hand painted finishes to further enlighten the look of the article.
Roof tiles

While Ceramic serves walls and floors, roofs was the initial product under the pottery sector that had tremendous prominence. Roof tiles though used very less nowadays, propose very unique as well as nostalgic touch to the constructions. They are largely used in village themed homes, hotels and restaurants. Very rarely used in commercial buildings, they have limited use, but do look extremely attractive and bear a great utility in terms of providing coolness with style. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Demonetization and Its effect on the ceramic Industry

8th November 2016 will go down in History of India as a day when it was shocked, awed, surprised and amazed at what the government did. At precisely 8:30 PM, the respected Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi announced Demonetization of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. This would lead to a total overhaul of the economy in India.
While there will be short term and long term implications of national proportions, we will focus more on its effects on the ceramic Industry.

Ceramic Industry and Cash
Since long (or rather forever) the industry has been dealing largely in cash. From salaries to Purchase payments to transport to petty expenditures, cash is the norm of payments, BIG and small.

It can be safely mentioned here that if money is actually the blood of body Indian ceramic eco system, cash would constitute of red blood cells. It wouldn’t be right or even possible to mention as to how much of this was legal and how much was not in alignment with Tax Systems. But, the industry worked on CASH.

Assuming it to be an industry with a massive turnover and lot of which is in cash, the total figure would be humungous.  

In the past decade, many company’s managements have worked hard to avoid cash transaction and make their books clean, there was a lot to be desired. With the last decade also witnessed tremendous sprouting of new units in Morbi, Thangadh and Himmatnagar regions, it will be fair to say a lot of dealing was done in cash on a day to day basis.

Short Term Impact: Cash Crunch

Common sense would teach us that lack of Red blood cells would lead to a person becoming sick. If this lack is around 80%, the person would surely die or go into a Coma. For ceramic industry, death is not on, but Coma is. Yes the Industry will enter a state of Coma for some weeks if not months.
With old Cash becoming worthless and lot of time lag in new currency being replaced, there will be a heavy cash crunch situation in the nation. With a lot of illegal money being largely wiped out, it will be near impossible to replace that cash. Adding to this will be the limits of withdrawal of cash that will further put pressure on businesses.
Smarter well managed units will bounce back faster, but as the whole eco system will be effected, it will be difficult for the most prudent to get back on track.

At present, the industry is already crippled by severe liquidity crunch.  As per Time OF India Report Nov 24, 2016, 05.56 AM IST, this is what the President of Morbi Dhuva glazed tiles association, Mr Nilesh Jetpariya had to say, "We surveyed around 470 manufacturing units operating in the cluster and sought their feedback on the impact of liquidity crisis on their production. Sixty percent of them said they had already closed their units down and 20% would stop production in the next few days,"

Of around 700 small and big manufacturing units of ceramic and related products, 500 are expected to shut down by 30th November, and this is a large number.

Short Term Impact: Workers’ Challenges

Laborers, most of whom come from Bihar and UP are largely illiterate. Most of them do not have bank accounts. The remaining do not know how to operate them wisely. With their habit being of receiving cash only, they will face an immediate challenge. With no cash on hand, non of the companies will be able to pay salaries. While some of them will make arrangements to open bank accounts faster and educate their labors, it would be near impossible task to support all. As explained by Nilesh, "Production unit owners do not have cash to pay their laborers who are mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Many of these workers do not have bank accounts. With caps on withdrawal, we are unable to draw required cash from the banks," 

The Morbi cluster alone employs around 1 lac employees directly and atleast 50 thousand indirectly, all of them will be adversely affected on the short run. Ass to that the clusters of Thangadh and Himmatnagar, we can suppose a total of 3 lac workers will feel the pinch instantly.

Short Term Impact: Transportation

Another major hurdle will be transportation. More than 400 trucks of various sizes supply material and carry out nationwide delivery of products. All of these rely heavily on cash payments. With severe cash crunch, many of them have already stopped the wheels rolling. Many of these transport vehicles travel as far as Nepal, Meghalaya, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Kashmir. Some of them are on road for more than 15-20 days. It is nearly impossible for them to travel all the way without cash.
If the transportation stops, even the best managed companies cannot dispatch or receive raw material, leading to stop in production.

Short Term: Domino Effect

Like in all industries and product based sectors, domino effect will be seen in every element of the eco system. When a single element shuts down it takes slows down its suppliers as well as customers, leading to the total chain coming down. This phenomenon was expected to be very fast and just 20 days in to demonetization, it has already had its effects.

Cash crunch though lasts for about 45 days, it will take at least 60 days to get back on track. There will still be laggards with weaker management capabilities who would find it tough to get into normal production after 120 days. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Thangadh : Most Affordable Sanitary ware goes Huge….

The New India….Emerging Giant….
India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world. The Industrial Super revolution in on in India. The rate at which new industries, residences and offices are opening are phenomenal. The real strength of India, Rural parts of the country are getting a total overhaul in living standards. From traveling to housing to fashion, all is changing, at a fast rate. Government is promoting health and sanitation on a large scale.
Sanitary ware Demand….Sky rocketing…
All the above factors point at a very important direction as regards Sanitary ware demand. It is sky rocketing. In India, Sanitary ware manufacturing is still highly labor intensive, because labor is far economical as a factor of input compared to Technology. Further, Labor can be reduced if demand shrinks. The same is not true of technology that is totally automatic.
Labor management is an issue most entrepreneurs would like to do away with. Specially when the supply of labor is decreasing. The rates as well as behaviors of labor pose a very uncomfortable situation. This challenge acts as a barrier for new entrants in the industry. So, the new capacities that come is are with direct investment of old players or new entrant with assistance or direct partnership of old player in the Industry.
World’s Most economical Sanitary ware….
India has two regions where the Sanitary ware manufacturing clusters exist. The Morbi region and the Thangadh region. While Morbi is known for its superlative growth in a multiple industries, though the majority still remains ceramics, Thangadh is renowned for its price of goods. Througout the world if you talk of price effective sanitary ware, the common answers will all lead to this word called Thangadh, the city of good affordable sanitary ware.
Thangadh…..Know it…
Thangadh is a very small town located in Gujarat. It is a major source of Than Plasa clay, the main ingredient for manufacture of high quality sanitary ware and ceramics. The Travel Pundits regard it as the town of Heritage Event the Tarnetar Mela, very popularly recognized in the whole of western world. An Event that brings history of the region to life.
It once was ranked third in Per Capita Income of India, an achievement that has made people of the town proud. It is felt that it is still a very good labor generator and the payouts to the people are generous as well.
Thangadh and Ceramics
Thangadh is the Economy Capital for Sanitary ware in the world. It has domestic as well as international supply.
Thangadh and Ceramics share a long history. In fact this was a place where potters first made common clay utensils. As the fables go,  Thangadh was a junction in those days. An entrepreneur passing by stopped to have tea and saw the utensils. He inquired for the manufacturer and found that there was something different about this ceramic utensils. He took some clay to Mumbai (Then Bombay) for testing and found that this was the ideal clay for Ceramics.
The Nature had blessed Thangadh with Rich Land of Main Raw-Material for Ceramic – Fire Clay, which was main cause of the development of Ceramic Industries at Thangadh situated in Surendranagar, District Gujarat State of India.

After all the research, the entrepreneur started pouring investment in the area to start factories. This is believed to be the start of ceramics in the Thangadh. Industrial development is believed to have started in 1913. The pioneer in Ceramic at Thangadh was Shri Sorabji Dalal The initial growth was very slow and was totally controlled by a few big investors who put up factories. In the Eighties, more factories started coming up and export to various countries started. Exports were largely to Middle east but some part of Europe got a taste of the Thangadh sanitary ware.
The Maturity of Ceramics In Thangadh
Post Liberalisation, India saw a very huge change in things, which actualized in later part of the 90s. Thangadh Ceramic Industry wasn’t far behind the impending growth opportunities. However, the methods were age old. Technology was being timed out and machinery was largely non existent. The kilns used were down draft or shuttle type which gave limited production. Transportation inbound as well as outbound were very slow. IN short, the state of the affair was not good enough for the industry.
However, as necessity is the mother of inventions, the new breed of entrepreneurs with the help of traders from around the world started changing things and patterns of working. The mechanization was introduced in certain areas. Movement of material systems were upgraded. Kilns started being replaced to Tunnels which could give better throughputs. Battery casting was also introduced in some units. Colors and glaze qualities improved. Laboratory set ups were promoted in some units that dealt in international markets. All this change saw the markets for the products improving. The industry and the industrialists had matured to take on the big leap in the next century.
The Scenario Today….
The Entrepreneurs of Thangadh has put the city on the world map of ceramics. It is probably the smallest cluster of closely placed ceramics industries in a very small area. In the past year itself there are more than 12 new units established. The capacities in the earlier years was around 600 in limited units. Others had even smaller capacities of pieces per day. Today the same is believed to stand at 1000 per unit. With more units as well as more capacities, the region rolls out more products than any other cluster including Morbi.
There were only white and plain colors earlier. Today there are more than 20 colors to design with. There were very limited range and large production of Orissa Pans was seen. Today, there is a wide variety that boasts of more than 180 shapes. The surface finish was plain earlier. Today, Vitrosa and Hand painting have taken over. Not to mention stickers and other surface treatments to the sanitary ware.
Keeping their tradition of being price effective, Thangadh now offers a stylish and exquisite sanitary ware. If you are looking for sanitary ware that is affordable yet luxutious, Thangadh is the place to go.
Thangadh Caters to total India. There is not a nook of the country where there is Sanitation but there is no Piece of Thangadh Sanitary ware. In fact most of the government sanitation drives have been successful due to the price advantage of Thangadh products.
Thangadh companies are now also into building of brands as they have the quality that can be very successful in Metros and cosmos of India. The companies are going in for better advertising, developing brands rather than stick to the HINDUSTAN range and the smart ones are really using technology as well a forward marketing to build customer base for their brands all across India.
The Challenges
Due to capacity expansion all over, there are two major concerns of business houses. First, labor rates are rising and availability is diminishing by the day. There are labor migrating from different areas of India, but the situation is getting challenging and putting pressure on the costs as well. The other challenge though expected to be temporary is the impending condition of over supply. Again due to capacity expansions taking place in a very short period of time, the demons of over supply are haunting industry players, largely new ones. The costs of inputs such as gas and raw material are going up too, inviting price rise.
However, the future of the industry on the long run looks bright due to the enhancements of quality and design of the product. Add to that the new second generation coming into industry with fresh ideas and broader vision, there is only one direction the Thangadh Sanitary ware is going, upwards.

Editor’s Message
Build Avenue has become one magazine that is read all over India in ceramic circles. It has become the accepted magazine that brings good articleship with news and views. The Magazine now needs a fresher look. This is where we will need our readers to get involved. Build Avenue is your magazine. Make it great.
You can send us your views, and ideas to the magazine’s office, online or in print to help us make it better. Your articles would be a bonus. However, if you can send us just your requests for some special subjects, we will be glad to write about the same.
Further, as the editor of the publication, we are into moving into international markets. We would like to have your photos with some text for your visits to some industrial units in some other countries like Spain, China, Italy or others. This would really help you get an excusive space in our magazine and help us bring World Class factories live in the magazine.
In this issue we have our international outlook on Thailand. Thailand is a country small in size, but big on opportunity. Its Ceramic Growth is on a positive. Probably one of the first countries we are dealing with in the far eastern markets. We are sure that we will bring about many articles for the far eastern markets which threaten to be our competition in the global arena.
We further look at Thangadh, again. The area is into a major uplift as far as capacity enhancement is concerned. It is also the major supplier of ceramics, largely, Sanitary ware. Starting from history, we have covered topics till what Thagadh business houses are experiencing now. We are sure this will be a good insight into the area.

Please do get involved in the growth of your magazine, the Build Avenue.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

History: Thailand Ceramic Scenario

While the world population grows, so does the need for good housing. With increase in literacy and awareness of sanitation, every country is witnessing a surge in the need for ceramic goods. Moreover, with every country becoming more self reliant, better lifestyles too are demanded. Thailand, is not far behind in the phenomenon. While a, lot of industries are doing well in Thailand, so is the Ceramic Industry. So here is a look at the Thai Ceramic Scenario.


The archaeological survey of Thailand reveals that Thailand had a strong ceramic culture since years. However, the exact periods are unknown. Further, the articles found at various sites can be classified into two major categories.

Ones that were manufactured in Thailand had a clear touch and appearance of the Thai Artisan. As the communities in Thailand developed in science and art, the ceramics of those times reflect this progress. It is also evident that Thailand’s rich resources in clay were discovered well before these times and slowly, the ceramic potter’s tools and products came into the Thai households. Most of these products were common household utensils.

In the same period, there was imported ceramic ware in use as well. Thailand being a land of trade in those times, it is no surprise that there were other countries whose ceramic goods made it to Thai house holds as well.

Raw Material : A major Advantage

 As we know, the ceramic industry is the industry of good quality clay. If there is clay there is industry. Luckily, Thailand has huge deposits of quality clay largely in Lampong province of the country. There are other areas too that have good clay deposits.

The nearness to the major raw material makes for a great strategic advantage for the industry. This is also a major reason why a number of domestic as well as foreign players have entered into manufacture and supply of ceramic goods in Thailand.

Further, Thai Labor is quiet cheap as well. Another big reason for the Ceramic Products being cheaper and more affordable in the international market. Ceramics being a highly labor intensive line, this factor of production helps the cause of small industries. In fact, Lampong Province prides itself to provide one of the largest employments in the whole of Thailand. The province virtually survives on ceramic factories that are around 200+ in the province and surrounding regions.

Some Statistics: 2010 Survey

In the year 2010, Ceramic Industries Development Center reported some findings of the ceramic industry that are worth looking at. The Ceramic Industry in Thailand has attracted lot of foreign funds inflow which is one of the major catalysts of the industry. According to the report, approximately 800 million USD inflow was witnessed. The classification of product wise investments can be summarized as below.

The floor tiles, wall tiles and mosaics had 12 factories that focused on high technology and had a 60% exports of the total production.

Sanitary ware sub sector had 8 factories, again with the similar 60% exports to international markets.

The insulators sub sector’s 90% of the production was consumed in domestic market, which again is great, owing to the growth in the Thai economy, a clear indication of investments in infrastructure. The 10 factories in insulators are largely located in Bangkok, Nakom Pratom and in central Thailand and the Rayong province of Eastern Thailand.

Smaller Industries in decoratives ceramics as well as dinner ware are largely located in Lampong, Lamhun and Chianmai. The dinner ware had approximately 68 factories of smaller size, while decoratives are manufactured in 123 small units. All these are labor intensive and provide good amount of employment in the region. 80% of the productions of these sub sectors are exports.

Thailand also has a number of high technology roof tiles manufacturers. The best part is their Roof tiles manufacturing is now focusing on Green Manufacturing, and yet it has an affordable pricing that has domestic as well as International markets.

As can be seen from the above, the Ceramic Industry of Thailand has a very large chunk of Exports.

Lampang : The Epicenter of Thai Ceramics
Lampang is one of the most important ceramic regions of all producers. It is located at the north of Thailand. Reasons or it being a successful region for ceramics are:
  1. It is the main source of white clay in Thailand, with 93% of all white clay coming from Lampang. This white clay is highly resistant to heat thus producing quality products.
  2. The labour is cheaper in the province and surrounding areas.
  3. Lampang is has a major locational advantage. It is the bypass to many nearby provinces and has all forms of transportation.
The origin of Ceramics in Lampang was when a villager from Jae-Hom district found Whetstone made from Kaolinite. After that there were some Chinese making progresses as they had the financial might to do it.
From 1947, when partially organized factories started coming un in Lampang region, through 1960s and 1980s the economic situation as well as organizing of industry was faster. Government started taking interest in the growth of the sector in the region. There was better education and training. Stronger research and Quality Control Support. Seminars and workshops on technology and commercial education to upgrade trade commerce and exports.

Today, the ceramic factories in Lampang range from small to large scale. There are about 30 factories for medium to large scale numbering from 100-600 in labor force per factory. There are about 120 factories for small scale with 10-80 in labor force per factory. This generates a cash flow into the province of at least 2,000 million baht per year.
Some distinguishing features Of Lampang ceramics are:
  • Conservative style, i.e. : using the jigger method of production and dragon kilns, which still use wood as an energy source; they produce 5" - 7" local bowls along with electric insulators and Art Ceramics of which only 7-8 factories remain in operation today.
  • LPG kiln: to compete with products from abroad, the LPG kiln is used to produce gift sets, home decoration sets, dinnerware, ceramic fences, and handmade products.
  • High technology products: using the tunnel kiln, Lampang was able to expand production capacity to serve the market demand of Europe and America. These products are tableware, large flower pots, and vases.
Though Lampang has been producing white clay ceramics for only 50 years, it is one of the most important exports of Thailand and will continue to enhance income and occupational growth of the local people in the future.
The Future
The Future for Thailand Ceramics Sector is expected to be good in the coming years. The labor costs are going high so are the raw material prices. These may be a matter of concern, but looking at the pricing of all ceramic products going up in the past few years, there is no fear that the industry will loose its shine in the future.
However, the major players will have to look out for trends in designs and technologies. These factors will decide their actual position 10 years from now. As the world is changing fast and Asia is pretty much becoming the manufacturing continent of the world, there will be sharp competition from other countries in Asia. The development too will be huge in Asia, so it is imperative that there be consistent quality and design up gradation in Ceramics in Thailand.

Ceramic Tiles in America: The Glimpse

America or geographically known as USA, is even in the worst economic times, remained a Financial Superpower. It has the power and the courage to purchase from the world. It is also regarded as the biggest importer of goods. Presenting the total scenario of Ceramic Tiles of USA in one issue which is nearly impossible. However, we will give you some glimpses of the same.

The Consumption Patterns:

In India we largely regard ceramic or mosaic tiles for flooring. However, in the USA, This is a sub sector of floor coverings. IN the USA, most buildings in the past had wooden floorings or rugs put on wooden floorings. People largely avoided HARD FLOORs as they say. This can be due to frosty conditions in mostly during the year or just a simple habit. The tiles thus entered the US mainstream usage very late.

Looking from the information from the year 2001, the year that had close to 2.00 bill sq. ft. of consumption, there was a steady growth in consumption. This growth can be attributed to the growth in the construction industry of the USA.

However, since the housing bubble burst in 2007, the volumes came down sharply. The industry as we know is largely dependent on housing. As 2009 saw a small rise, the same was seen in 2010 and 2011 as rise in sales.

The best part is that import penetration is falling since last 6-7 years rapidly. This is a bright sign for the upcoming ceramic tiles manufacturers as they are taking the lead in the markets.

The leading Countries exporting to USA are Mexico, China followed by Italy, Brazil and Spain. With India becoming a real strong competitor in the last few years. We are sure Indian Ceramic tiles will find a way to the USA markets soon.

There are a number of Ceramic Tiles manufacturers in the USA. They largely supply to the American Market and a part of the production is exported too.

In the last few years, the Manufacturers are strongly taking lead over the importers and most of the consumption in the times to come will be met by the domestic shipments only. This is a great positive sign for America, but a huge challenge for the exporters, largely Mexico and China.

Many of the same issues that have led to the decline in tile consumption over the last five years continue to negatively affect the market, such as: 

      Struggling commercial construction and residential housing markets, despite historically-low mortgage rates

      High unemployment and low housing prices, which lead to less purchasing power for consumers

      Weak economic growth

      Historically low new home sales


India is growing as one of the best manufacturers of Ceramic Tiles. The country will be at par with Spain and Italy in the future. Our biggest strength in the American markets will be our pricing.

The biggest challenge though will be the quality of our products in the American Extreme conditions. From the Cold and Frigid North and East coast, to the High temperate deserts of USA, our tiles should be able to withstand the fluctuating weather.

Secondly, the Indian manufacturers will have to stringently follow the ASTM standards which are accepted in the USA. In the USA, the DIY or Do It Yourself is very popular. The Indians will also have to work out products offerings with a DIY option.

Further, Americans are largely Brand conscious Buyers, so the Manufacturers in India will have to have a heavy branding exercise or tie up with an existing Interior design brand which needs a hard flooring option, namely quality ceramic tiles.

All this form a good opportunity for Indian exporters if thought out strategically.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The Technicalities of Ceramic Tiles (And their variants)

We are at the epicenter of the largest tile production area in India. In fact, we are the Epicenter. Most of the tiles sold in India are largely manufactured and supplied from Morbi. However, BA has found many traders, retailers, sale persons and (surprisingly!) manufacturers who are not always very much aware of the variety of tiles and their differences.

We have therefore decided to highlight the Ceramic Tiles and their variants in a long brief article. Surprised? How contradicting? An Oxymoron so to say. LONG BRIEF. We know it is puzzling to some and largely funny to most but yes this series will have articles with LONG BREIFS, because, we may have to write a hand book to cover everything if we go into the details, so whatever we will summarize here will be very brief. But as Ceramic tiles sector has many variants, the article or the series thereof will be quiet long spanning a number of issues.

To give you an overview of the total series, we will be covering:

1.    Ceramic Wall tiles
2.    Ceramic Floor tiles
3.    Polished Porcelain tiles
4.    Soluble Salts Technology
5.    Multi Pipe Technology
6.    Salt and Pepper Technology
7.    Double charge.

With the preceding list, you will probably agree to our linguistic adaptation of LONG BRIEF presentation.

Tiles Basics

Ceramic tile is a complex subject. Let's cut down the complexity and make it simple. There are two major types of tiles, quarry tile: that is a tile that is made by extrusion from natural clay or shale and a tile that is made by the pressed dust method. The pressed category includes wall tiles, mosaic tiles, and floor tiles. All types of tiles can be glazed or fired as unglazed. Glaze is a ceramic surfacing material that is used to provide a certain appearance. Let me restate this point: any ceramic tile type may be glazed or unglazed. This includes porcelain tiles.
It may be intriguing to some that how can dust be so strong. When wet dust is pressed under high pressure, it retains some moisture which helps the body stay together. As all particles are extremely small and uniform, they compact into a strong body. The moisture in the tile after pressing is 5%. The tile is then dried and will still retain moisture of about 2%. Once it is baked in the oven or kiln, its moisture evaporates and forms a strong body. If the glazing is desired, it should be applied after drying.
Mostly these tiles are differentiated on the basis of their water absorption property. Water absorption of tile is decided by the selection of raw material used for the body of the tiles and the manufacturing process employed to produce it. In today’s world a number of technologies are available for manufacture of tiles and hence there are a number of types of tiles available.
It must be noted that it is the body that absorbs the water and not the glazed surface. This water absorption determines the classification of tile.


A Wall tile has about 7-20% water absorption. That may be news to some, but it is merely a fact for the technical experts. This is also the reason why it cannot be used at a number of places.  The water goes into the body when it rains, dews, from pools and fountains, and even atmospheric condensation. All these lead to the tile becoming heavy and may even crack due to temperature variations and the water effect in these variations.
Wall tile is made for a purpose, sticking on a wall, although in India, people have found alternative uses for the same, including on floors, where the foot traffic is very low. A wall tile should be beautiful as it is largely used for Decorative purposes. Moreover the size must be close to uniform as there is usually a small space between each tile (called a grout joint). The relatively soft body of wall tile makes it easy to cut to fit (including round holes for plumbing fixtures) and helps the tile to stick to the wall without sliding.
It is normally argued by laymen that GLAZING is water proof and hence the tiles are safer even in water logged areas. Yes it is true that glazing is water proof, but water seeps into the tiles body through GROUTS at the JOINTS. It is worth noting that the water absorption is in the body and not the glaze. With advancement of technology, high quality water proofing material can be used to protect the body of the tiles.


Ceramic Floor tiles as the name says are manufactured for flooring. The first generation of Ceramic floor tiles has lower water absorption. This is largely due to better compaction and very low porosity. Normally porosity and water absorption are directly related. Lower the porosity, lower the water absorption. The water absorption of ceramic floor tiles is 5-6%.
As these tiles are more compact, they tend to be heavier than wall tiles. So, they cannot be used on walls. Because of low porosity, the cement and mortar cannot bind with the body of the tile. It is easy to stick the wall tiles which have higher porosity, on walls, but not these floor tiles.
They can be glazed and in the Indian context they are actually glazed. This enables the tiles to be more beautiful and extremely aesthetic. The glazing also prevents water absorption. However, at the joints, water proofing needs to be done.
The flexibility of Ceramic tiles is that it can be cut at the site while laying on the floors.
It is recommended that these tiles be used indoors and not outdoors as they cannot resist consistent downpour of water or tremendous foot traffic. They are for medium range traffic. In high traffic areas, the glazing will give away, making them futile.
Polished Porcelain Tiles
This is one of the best inventions of modern day ceramics. These tiles have very low water absorption- as low as less than 0.5% which is just miraculous. These tiles are highly compact and dense. They are very much like natural stone and can be polished similarly. Polishing gives a very good shine to the surface of these tiles. Moreover, as it is like stone, on further polishing, the tile does not lose its color. Through the thickness, it has the same color and grain structure.
They can be used in high traffic areas as well. Homes, Dining rooms, drawing rooms, living rooms, bed rooms etc. all can be floored with polished porcelain tiles.
They have very high scratch resistance. They are also very good abrasion resistors. Hence they can be used in commercial spaces like malls, shopping complexes, airports etc.
Does this mean that porcelain tiles are the best for all purposes? No. To further elaborate let us take a look at some of their drawbacks.
Having virtually no water absorption, they are not recommended for walls. However, if you wish to use them on walls, the adhesives have to be very good and a good supporting element in needed in the structure.
Its advantage is, it can be cut like stone, but you need a special cutting agent of high cost to cut it and shape it to your purpose of application.
There are little holes on the surface. These do not absorb and take water downwards in the tile body, but are not stain resistant. (Though technological breakthroughs have been made to reduce staining in these tiles.)
These tiles also suffer from limited color availability. They are found mostly in natural colors and stone type looks.
Most of these are quite costly compared to the previous two that we have assessed.
Polished Porcelain Tiles can further be divided into four categories on the basis of the manufacturing technology used. These divisions are done to achieve better designs.

[A]: Soluble Salts Technology

As already mentioned, one of the many limitations of polished porcelain tiles is the limited color availability. SST employs a method to fight this challenge to a certain extent.
In SST, the soluble salts are dissolved in water. The green tiles are then sprayed with this water. This forces the water to penetrate within the depths of the tiles. The printing is done with different mesh size for getting the required designs. The tiles then pass through three water sprays. This makes the salt penetrate to 2-3mm in the surface. On firing, the water evaporates and the salt remains in the tile, giving it a design. This design is visible after polishing the tile to about 1-1.5mm.
One major limitation of this technology is that the availability of colors available is limited to Brown, Yellow, Grey and Green. So, if we want a replacement of Red Elegante the red king of Italian marble, SST would fall short.

[B] An innovation of SST: Multiple Pipe Technology

To overcome the limitation of SST, multi pipe technology was invented. It uses 3 to 4 color powders to impart print. The powders are applied before pressing, through the powder feeder. White and Ivory are directly fed on the feeder grill. This mixture of powders is taken to the cavity of press to feed the powder and then pressing is done on the tile. So these powders penetrate the tile, forming delightful designs.
Using Multiple Pipe tiles is a practical solution. Technically, however, the powders used in this process are quite costly, making the technology commercially unviable in many countries. Moreover, homogenous colors were not found in the produced tiles, which again put off buyers who wanted a large stock.

(C) Salt & Pepper Tiles

This is another innovative technology, developed to offset the color print and design limitation of the polished porcelain tiles.

Here, the main body powder, which is Ivory and white, is mixed with other colored powders, by use of screen vibrators. These powders are chosen based on the required color of the tile. The tiles are then pressed. The colors are already mixed with the body, so they form a homogenous mix within the pressed green tile.

Once these pressed tiles are fired, we get unique black spots on the tile, as if a lot of salt has been sprayed with a tinge of pepper. This is why they are known as Salt and Pepper tiles.

The reverse can be done by having Black as the base powder for the body and white being used sparsely at about 3-4%. This makes the tile totally black with white spots.

Instead of Black, orange or other colors can also be used, thereby giving a granular output.
These tiles are used in homes as well as commercial buildings. However, they still have some color and design limitations.

D] Double Charge technology: The Presently accepted solution.

The very popular technology that has replaced both the above technologies is the DOUBLE CHARGE TECHNOLOGY or the DOUBLE LOADING TECHNOLOGY.
In this technique 70% of the thickness is manufactured using low cost base powder and clay. The 30% of the surface side of the tile contains base powder and three different color powders.
Double charge or double load means, the cavity is loaded twice. First, only base powder that is employed for 70% of the tile; then the other base powder and three other color powders that form the surface. When these powders drop on grill of the feeder, a uniform pattern is formed as all the three powders have different density.
Depending on the feeder grill, different types of designs are formed on the surface of the tiles. Both these different charges are pressed to make a tile.
To achieve a balanced combination of Surface patterns, Hardness and Stain resistance, double charged tiles are upgraded from 1st generation to 3rd Generation. In the third generation, micronized powder is fed inside the tiles, requiring more pigments and stains, eventually increasing the cost. However, the final result is three dimensional, a perfect replacement for natural stones.
In double loading, the surface with the patter has a very low porosity giving it a more glossy shine and very less water absorption, compared to SST. The Low porosity enables it to be highly stain resistant.

Commercial Success

It seems that Double Charge or Double Loaded technology has proven to be a commercially viable option. The manner in which many manufacturers are already manufacturing these tiles and many more are planning to move ahead with the same certainly portrays a very bright future for this technology.
However, as the production time and double pressing process add to the costs, there will always be a big question mark over its long-term sustainability as a solution. It is believed that till nothing else is there to beat double charge technology given its cost/value proposition; the technology is here to stay. It seems the TINA (There is no alternative) factor seems to be working in its favour right now!
As we mentioned at the start of the article that humans are always thirsty for things better and innovative, we are sure, next year in the same period, we may have something else challenging the Double Loaded technology.
But for now, it is widely accepted as a great solution for tile manufacturers.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Smart Advertising in the Festive Season.

Build Avenue has always been a step ahead in giving you information that yields business advantage. Advertising has been one such sector (the others being retailing and Branding) that we have taken up as a series.

We have seen that sales and marketing in our area is not done as professionally and effectively as it should be done. We have always presented articles that have helped bridge the knowledge gap to make our players more professional and effective.

This issue is about timing of the advertisements and promotions during Diwali, the festive season.

Sales and Marketing have one of the most critical advantageous positions that we miss at times. This is TIMING. More often than not, great advertising campaigns, when held unprofessionally, lead to missing the opportunities when the markets offer some.

One such opportunity is the Festive season. In any country in the world, festive seasons mark a sharp increase in sales of products. This sharp increase may be pre season or during season, depending on the product lines.

As far as ceramics go, we believe pre-season promotions and on season sales can help a lot. However, this has to be planned and implemented in a very timely manner. We will again emphasize, timing is everything. Get it right, and with the same Ad budget, you can increase sales, brand image as well as customer relationship by 20-25 %.

Reason for the Season

The Diwali season is the right reason for people to open up their pockets for their dream homes and other buying. In India, people plan the whole year to buy during Diwali. The consumers are all geared up to make a spending.

This culture has stayed in India since years and is not going to change in the foreseeable future. We are a community who has adhered to this culture since centuries and we are still proud of it.

The festival of lights is welcomed by new homes, new cars, renovated rooms and many other things new. The freshness is so contagious that people fall into the bandwagon and buy in a smart frenzy. Kindly note, it is smart frenzy, not madness.

The Smart Marketers

 In Management classes, it is often argued as to when is it the best time to launch sales promotions? Many say it is during slack seasons, many advocate peak season promotions? What then is the truth?

The smart experienced marketer knows that it is during the seasons when the consumer is ready to buy that you need to put offers and promotions. If you do it in slack season, there is no NEED or DESIRE to buy. So whatever be the attractive offer, basic reason for buying does not exist and so the whole promo drive goes bust.

Conversely, when the consumer is ready to buy, he is looking for smart deals. He has budgeted for the same and is willing to spend to upgrade his life style. This is when the promotions yield great returns on every penny spent and every effort done on advertising and promotions. It has been already studied and established that festive seasons surely are the leaders when it comes to readiness for spending.

The Smart Buyer

Many a times it is presumed that we can increase the prices and provide good discounts. Well, the truth is the Indian consumer has now become very smart, knowledgeable and informative compared to the past. He has access to Internet that helps him get complete information of past present and future. So there’s no use trying to cheat him. He is well informed and does not like being fooled.

Moreover, his smartness can be used to a great advantage. Meet his smartness with the smartness of the marketer.

The Smart Offer

Provide mind boggling offers that attract him to at least study your offer before finalizing. It is best to try and beat the competition here, but remember, even you competitor is planning to beat you. So …What are the solutions here?

Get a professional who can help you plan your advertising and promotions. Tie-up with an Advertising Agency that can plan the total set of advertising campaigns. Also ensure that their creatives and media plan suit your budget. Take advantage of their professional expertise to ensure that you get the best ROI in the short term and a brand image in the long term.

Here are some Common Approaches from our Industry:

·      Launch a New Sub Brand with unique product offering.
·      Provide a fresh POP material, to attract eye balls.
·      Announce a new brand if you have just started.
·      Go for POP Posters to create a brand image.
·      Develop a Dealer-Distributor Offer.
·      Provide Seasonal Sales Training to the Retailers Staff.
·      Organize a Dealer meet to motivate more volumes.

Develop a good Intro letter for all of the above. However, this should not be a letter but a Diwali Wish with an offer that cannot be refused. Also, design the creative as a Card or a banner rather than a letter. Very little but effective text and many images.

The key

While the above are just ideas and a broad vision of approach, you will need professional help to devise attractive offers. This will always be the key. If the offer is dull or beatable, remember, you are already out of the market, how much advertising you do.

With this, we end the first part of our Festive Season advertising series. Do wait for the next piece of the same. We hope this issue helps you plan ahead for the upcoming Diwali season.

Let’s get ready for lighting our Diwali with great business.