September, 24, 2017
In conversation with Bantwal Ramesh Baliga, CEO, Watertec (India) Pvt. Limited
26 Jul
Posted by Team SmartCEO

In this month’s Hidden Gems Series, we feature the growth story of Coimbatore-based Watertec (India) and the company’s vision and strategy to become a leading player in the polymer-based bath fittings and accessories segment in the country

When our editorial team sat down for a chat with Bantwal Ramesh Baliga, the chief executive officer of Watertec, the first thing that we noticed was his deep domain understanding of the bath fittings space. Prior to joining the Coimbatore-based company, Baliga had spent almost two decades in the sector, first at Jaquar Group, the market leader in bath fittings and then as Director and Country Head for Villeroy & Boch, the super premier brand serving elite customers with their sanitary ware products. During our conversation, Baliga gets straight to the point; “The opportunity we have at Watertec is tremendous, considering we’re the one organized player in the polymer-based bath fittings segment. Additionally, our recently launched Nickel chrome-plated bath fittings and many new products are one-of-its-kind in the market,” he says.

While looking into various opportunities available in the country today, and with lots of initiative from the government towards creating housing for everyone by 2022, Baliga is gung ho about the opportunities for Watertec. He narrates Watertec’s positioning very simply: drip-free, rust-free and leak-free. And, not to mention the lower costs of plastic-based products. Baliga adds: “But, what we’re really looking forward to is the opportunity for chrome-plated, plastic-based line of products from Watertec.” The Nickel chrome-plated product portfolio is exciting for several reasons; first, it looks good, on-par with metal-based products. And, it also has the inherent advantages of Watertec’s other products – lower costs, trusted brand, and rust-free. “Our machineries are all automated and robotic. Our products are time tested, have lots of loyal customers,” elaborates the leader.

Specifically, Baliga points out the opportunity for Watertec in the affordable housing segment. He says, “We’re now gearing up to do institutional sales, offering one-stop plumbing solutions at a budget for affordable housing players. We’ve the absolutely rightly based product for this segment, looking into the budget available with builders across the country.”

Vast dealer network

As we discuss the presence of Watertec across the country, Baliga is quick to point out the company’s 9000-strong channel partner network. “Our channel partners are at the core of our business. They are our touchpoints with the end customer, and therefore our communication at the stores is critical. We’ve started in-store branding, to help enable strong brand recall amongst customers,” he adds.

For Baliga, who is a seasoned player in this industry, marketing came naturally. He has always realized that plumbers were crucial partners for Watertec, and organized meet ups with plumbing associations and consultants. The company has organized over 1000 meet ups with plumbers every year  for many years now and has sponsored the Indian Plumbing Association’s annual events, architects’ awards, design dialogues and even conceptualized a certificate for plumbers. This has been appreciated very highly by the plumber community.

Baliga says, in terms of sales volume, Watertec is probably No. 1 in the polymer market ahead of even most of the metal players in the country. It manufactures almost 25 million products every year. To take the company to the next level, he’s paying serious attention to customer service, after sales support and strong brand messaging. The company’s 33 branch offices across India now each have an institutional sales person, to directly serve real estate companies and affordable housing players.

Our channel partners are at the core of our business. They are our touchpoints with the end customer, and therefore our communication at the stores is critical. We’ve started in-store branding, to help enable strong brand recall amongst customers.

The Product Portfolio

Baliga emphasizes on the need for a complete product portfolio – one that gives them the opportunity to supply each and every product needed for a bathroom and plumbing products in the construction industry. “We don’t want to supply only the few products of the bathroom; the goal is to offer a complete solution to our builders & institutional sales clients.”

In coming months the company also wants to service government-owned organizations – public schools, railways stations, etc. and Baliga is taking early steps to get there.

Tackling key challenges

When quizzed on the biggest challenges at Watertec, Baliga explained the importance of having right people on the right jobs. “We’ve setup a strong design team for our new innovative products, ramped up the production and sales teams. In sales, we’ve added over 80 people in the last year, and about 100 people in production and as a leader, my role is to enable them to do their jobs extremely well. Setting the right sales policy, which is largely channel partners-driven, is one of my most important activities. I am involved in all the activities in the company delegating responsibilities to my team by providing constant support in terms of innovative ideas, products and guidance to them. Baliga believes in that only team can win if they have passion and work together. Hence a lot of time also goes into working with people and paying attention to the HR function. I am also fairly excited about the GST regime, which will certainly help us in a market that is largely controlled by unorganized players,” explains Baliga.

On the topic of competition, Baliga has a very clear perspective. The goal is to deliver to end customers, what they exactly want – high quality products that last for over seven years. Our channel partners help us communicate our positioning. “I’d actually say, we look at our competition with a positive frame of mind – how do we put the Watertec Brand on par with the metal-based players? The answer is we are at par with any metal based player in terms of quality, innovation and service.”

Working with the Board

Watertec (India) is a three-way joint venture among Coimbatore-based UMS Group that is part of the GD Naidu group, Watertec Malaysia and Sri Lanka-based South Asian Investments, and Baliga is given a free hand to run day-to-day operations. “It is up to me to spot opportunities in the market place and take it to the board. The idea of Nickelchrome-plated bath fitting is one such,” he says.

Watertec India is currently debt free and the board has set itself a revenue target of Rs. 600 crore by 2020. The company currently grows at over 25%, with healthy profit margins, and all expansion plans are funded by internal accruals.

Baliga has also set himself a grand goal of becoming one of the top players in the overall segment of bath fittings in the country. And, it is this goal that creates a passion and ensures the goal is achieved. As we draw this interview to a close, Baliga simply says, “The opportunity for Watertec as one of the oldest branded players with the largest market share in the polymer-based segment is tremendous. I am sure we can achieve this goal.”

No comments for the article
Editor's Pick
  • The Snapdeal Pivot

    In January 2013, Snapdeal had a mere US $100,000 in the bank, a small chunk left after it had burned through almost all of the US $57 million it had raised since September 2009. Th...

  • Transformation by design

    Polaris’ Arun Jain has engineered a unique strategy at the mid-sized financial technology company, incubating a robust products company from within a running services entity. He ...

  • In coffee, we trust

    Tata Starbucks is the coming together of two iconic brands. 34-year-old Avani Saglani Davda, the company’s CEO, explains to us why her game plan for Starbucks in India is to “g...

  • Where there’s traction, Money will follow

    Deepinder Goyal, founder and CEO, Zomato, shares a great working relationship with investor Sanjeev Bikhchandani of Info Edge for one simple reason: Bikhchandani is more entreprene...

  • Playing 20 Questions with Mittu Chandilya

    The AirAsia India boss discusses his interview experience with Tony Fernandes, his firm-and-fair management style and why it is crucial to be a serial innovator to win in the aviat...

  • Where ownership and management are different

    Dr. Ranjan Pai, Managing Director, Manipal Education and Medical Group, has led the professionalisation of the Group by consciously empowering his senior managers, seeding several ...

  • Building a Happy Company

    Ashok Soota-led Happiest Minds Technologies has woven happiness into its business process. Find out how you can do it too....

  • Narayana Health’s ten-year plan

    Narayana Health’s Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty wants to rewrite India’s healthcare story. His personal mantra: it is pointless talking about all the advancements in healthcare if peo...

  • Creative Dialogue on Scaling Up

    Cognizant’s Lakshmi Narayanan indulges in a creative, freewheeling chat with L. Kannan and Vijay Babu of Vortex Engineering, a solar-ATM manufacturer....

  • "Businesses don’t go anywhere, people do"

    Mindtree’s Subroto Bagchi urges entrepreneurs to think of their journey as a process of continuously creating infrastructure – physical, intellectual and emotional. He specific...