‘Our Products Guarantee Comfort, Remain Preferred Brand’ says Bisaria, Director, Central Africa, Ariston Thermo Group
Tiamiyu Saheed Oluwatosin
Ariston, the leading and most international brand in the Ariston Thermo Group, is the global expert of the heating and water heating sectors. The firm which has become a strong force to reckon with since its foray into the Nigerian market continues to make a strong statement through the quality of its products. In this interview with BusinessDay, Director, Central Africa, Ariston Thermo Group, Gaurav Bisaria speaks on the significance of the Ariston Comfort Challenge, the drive by the company to tap into Nigeria’s enormous potentials and how the business is approaching prevailing economic challenges among other issues. Excerpts.
1. You recently introduced Ariston Comfort Challenge in Nigeria, what is the challenge all about?
I am sure a lot of people would equally be wondering what it is all about and what we intend to achieve. Essentially, Ariston Comfort Challenge is a mission, actually the biggest mission that the Company has ever undertaken. Since 2018 Ariston has supported science and research in Disko Island, in Greenland, thanks to the Ariston Comfort Challenge: a mission to bring sustainable comfort to everyone even where it seems hard or impossible to find. Ariston has donated a warm shelter to the University of Copenhagen’s researchers to study what happens to the Arctic ecosystem during wintertime, the consequences of climate change on the ice sheet and glacier, on the wildlife and on people that live in the area. Looking for a way to improve both ourselves and the community, taking care of our environment and developing knowledge and common consciousness of our footprint. The project was also a confirmation of the quality of our products through what can be described as a Product Torture test. The Challenge offered us the opportunity or privilege to showcase to the world the quality of the products that we offer as a company.
As a company, we place a high premium on sustainability and would ensure that whatever we do beginning from product design, the environment we operate and all other things, sustainability remains at the core of it all. For us, we remain committed to our vision of delivering sustainable comfort everywhere in the world, even where it seems impossible. If you look at what is happening around the world, climate change has been a topical issue that organizations, countries are now looking at to determine what the future of the environment would look like.
Given what our business represents, we felt it would be significant to take a bold step by supporting research that would help improve the cause of knowledge in science as far as climate change was concerned. Besides, the Challenge also offers the opportunity to see what is possible for some of the products if put into use in extreme weather conditions.
With the Challenge, the company has been able to prove that regardless of the climatic conditions, our products stand mile ahead of others owing to the quality.
2. Why do you think the Comfort Challenge is relevant to the Nigerian Market?
For a country like Nigeria with a huge market, it is imperative to showcase the Challenge so that Nigerian People can begin to see what is possible with Ariston Water Heater products. Ariston Comfort Challenge is not only a global campaign, it is a mission which represents Ariston’s values. So, it would not be out of place if Nigerian People get to see some possibilities about the products especially when you are found in extreme conditions. This alone reinforces the product quality and superiority. With such a Challenge, our focus is to drive brand awareness and affinity.
3. You have started to deepen your market share in Nigeria, Africa’s populous market, what informed this recent move? What are your market penetration strategies?
For me, I think setting up a branch in Nigeria was a strategic move that is aimed at bringing focus on SSA’s largest market because we see a huge potential in the Nigerian market. In Nigeria, factors such as high population, growing Middle Class and extremely low penetration remain key drivers for growth for this category. People are starting to realize the importance of a good quality water heater at home.
With regards to penetration, I think, as the market leader, we are driving adoption and category awareness led by “Importance of Hot Water” and we are delighted that it is yielding fruit.
If you talk about penetration strategies for the business, we have done so in three different ways. As far as distribution expansion, we have new warehouses, distributors and extensive retailer expansion for arm’s length made available to customers. Secondly, we are engaging and training the installers, plumbers and electricians to become brand ambassadors.
Similarly, we are making inroads through Channel Expansion which comes in different categories ranging from the Main channel, building materials, introducing Water Heaters to Supermarkets, Modern trade Electronic/appliance chains, professional sanitary stores to Electrical channel.
Also, we are constantly enhancing our product portfolio in different categories such as Storage, instant, Solar, Heat Pumps, Industrial range, to ensure we meet the yearnings of our customers and partners. I need to state that we will be launching the “constant temperature” instant water heaters. Our next focus is to launch super safe Water Heaters for bathrooms/shower that works on cooking gas.
4. Quality and durability are key features that distinguish a product in the market, does the quality of the Ariston Water Heaters in the Nigerian market in line with the required standard? How durable are these range of products?
At Ariston, we do not compromise on quality. All our products are manufactured and developed in line with the required industry standard. All the components used in developing them meet necessary guidelines and regulations. We offer products in Nigeria which meet the stringent European Standards. Typically, these products last a decade, but they depend on various factors including routine maintenance, like any other product.
Our Water Heaters are designed to withstand water pressure & rust. Take, for instance, a vessel that has to store water for its entire life or store water in metal bowl/drum and within, the single biggest issue to worry about is RUST.
Another case in point comes when you have hot water in a glass/cup, the question would now be, how long does the water remain hot?
If you have an Ariston Water Heater, you can be rest assured that in all the instances cited, all the likely issues ranging from rust to how hot the water would be, will not occur. This is so because the Ariston water heater has Ultra-strong tank that would enable it to withstand high pressure. Secondly, the water heater also has Superior Titanium enamelling that would help protect against rust coupled with High-density PUF insulation that ensures that the water is kept hot.
5. What are the safety measures that have been embedded in the Ariston Water Heater that can prevent them from causing a fire hazard, accident to homes, offices even after they have been installed?
I think a lot depends on whether the installation was done right or the quality of the accessories being used for installation. Safety does not lie solely with product features. in spite of that, it is interesting to say that virtually all of Ariston Water Heaters have different design specification for safety i.e each product has its own safety feature that clearly differentiates it. In each case, IPX1 for BLU R, IPX 4 for Andris Lux Eco, IPX 1 for Andris RS, IPX3 for PRO1 R and Lydos Eco.
We provide a safety valve which when properly installed protects the Water Heater and consumer against high pressure. The product also comes with Safety & Cut Out thermostat to cut off heating when it reaches the desired temperature.
Be that as it may, I think the major challenge lies with the installation. Most of the times, there is no right manpower for installation, plumbing or electrical work. That explains why Ariston as a brand conducts regular training and refresher courses to installers across Nigeria on correct installation techniques and routine maintenance. Apart from having a network of trained service engineers available in select locations for new installation & troubleshooting, we are constantly expanding our reach so that customers can benefit from the pool of expertise. Our advice is that all customers should try and schedule an appointment with an Ariston certified installer.
6. We understand that there are different sizes of Ariston Water Heater products in the market, how pocket friendly or affordable are they?
I can categorically say that Ariston is highly competitive among the product offerings in the market. I think the major challenge for us is that consumers in Nigeria do not know that they can afford the Italian Quality Ariston Water Heater for a family starting as low as N16, 000 for Instant WH and approximately N25, 000 for a storage WH. It depends on product size and customer requirement. in spite of that, it is good to know that things that are beginning to change.
7. Statistics show that your annual global sales value is 1.7 billion Euros, how much of these sales are from Africa, Nigeria?
I think, going by the penetration of Ariston products in Africa, there has been a quantum sales figure but I would not want to go into that. But by and large, sales in Nigeria and other markets are growing.
Satisfactorily, we are doing quite well and we aim to keep in growing thanks to all the investment in innovation and sustainability, which guarantee to offer our customer a wider and wider range of products, with very high quality and durability. We are hopeful that Africa would strengthen its position as a major market for Ariston products in the nearest future.
8. Ariston is into water heater production and sales, how does your product compete with others in the market and what would you say is the importance of hot water for bathing?
As far as the Water Heater industry is concerned, we are the most preferred brand in Nigeria. This is because our products are noted for their superior quality and are made in World Class Manufacturing (WCM) facilities. Beyond that, we are way ahead of the competition as we constantly involved in innovation which comes as a result of research and insight from our customers. This research has contributed a great deal in upgrading in product features, efficiency and range. We are transparent in the service we offer to customers. Take for instance, if we say water heater is 15Litre it has 15Litre capacity, unlike some other brands.
Also, what stands the brand out from other competition is the fact that the Power options for the most popular storage capacities in our product portfolios are carefully selected to 1.2 & 1.5 kW unlike some other brands offer higher power.
The importance of the hot water bath is legion. Hot Water bathing induces feelings of comfort and easiness. It is an action that allows our mind, and subsequently, our body, to relax. Besides, it enables us to sleep better. Besides, hot water bath helps to relieve body pain and make them heart-healthy, and a temperate bath with hot water can also help our immune system to better fight off germs.
9. You have 26 production sites in 15 countries, what factors will make you think of having a factory in Nigeria?
I think having a factory located in a country like Nigeria is subject to some factors. Right now, certain factors are critical which I discover could hinder the chance of setting up a factory in Nigeria. As we speak, one major hindrance to setting up is the size of the market. Currently, the demand for water heater has not reached a level that would require establishing a factory. Although the market is growing in leaps and bounds, it is hoped that it would grow to become a major part of the economy.
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