Choosing and Sourcing
Competition in the sanitary ware segment, coupled with the need to cater for varying financial abilities and tastes of customers, has driven manufacturers to be increasingly innovative.
The result is an amazing array of products that leaves customers spoilt for choice.
In Kenya, most plumbing fixtures and bathroom ware are imported. Majority of these come from China and India though Turkey is also a major source.
Traditional source markets in Western Europe and North America, though not totally eclipsed out by China, are no longer as popular as they used to be due to price considerations.
However, some discerning customers still insist on sanitary ware made in the West as it is believed that quality controls are stricter there than in the eastern countries.
When choosing sanitary ware, one has to be extra careful because they should not just be pleasant to the eye but also be sensible to use.
For instance, a little technical knowledge while choosing bathroom sanitary ware always helps.
Though one may lay more significance on the design and the colour of the sanitary ware, other considerations are necessary.
The equipment should render itself to easily and quick installation.
Ease of Cleaning
How much cleaning does one need to do to in order to maintain the sanitary ware? If it stains easily and is difficult to clean, then perhaps one ought to look elsewhere.
Resistant to Deformities
Strength and design are two major factors that a customer must take into consideration while choosing sanitary ware. For example, because of their constant handling, bathroom basins and toilet bowls should not just score highly on the design but should also be sturdy enough to endure chipping and breaking.
For those conscious of the environment, it gratifies them to purchase equipment that is made from environment friendly materials.
As noted above, there are very few manufacturers of sanitary ware in Kenya. In the category of toilet accessories, there are a number of manufacturers who produce toilet seat covers made from PVC or Plastic. These are generally low quality and are targeted at the lower end of the market.
However, one company has been manufacturing melamine toilet seat covers and fittings, making it the only such manufacturer in East Africa.
KIP Melamine Company Limited, based in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, produces toilet seat covers made from pure Urea Formaldehyde ((known as ‘UF’, a derivative of Melamine Formaldehyde) through Thermoset Pressing. UF is a well-known material and is widely used for various other industrial applications and processes as well.
KIP’s sanitary ware products are high-quality, strong, durable, and come in various styles and colours. According to Fayaz Ladha, the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing, sanitary ware products made from UF are known to have the highest hygiene rating and the longest durability in the category.
“All our sanitary ware products are certified by KEBS (Kenya Bureau of Standards), according to strict production and quality standards”, says Fayaz.
Although most of KIP’s products are sold in Kenya, the company has also been exporting to Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Rwanda. Fayaz says that KIP is looking at expanding in the region but must first expand its capacity in order to meet the huge demand in East Africa.
“As part of our strategy we are actively seeking sole distributors in all countries in the region and are confident that we will be able to forge these business relationships very soon”, explains Fayaz, adding that they anticipate attracting customers from as far as North America and Europe in the future.
Fayaz points out to KIP’s distinct advantage of being the sole maker of melamine toilets seat covers and also the inherent benefits of being a local manufacturer.
“Builders and contractors do not have to wait for importers to bring in goods from abroad since our products are in stock all the time”, he says.
“Another advantage would be that since we manufacture locally, we can stand by our products in terms of replacements and provide a level of service that our competitors would not even dream of. For example, we had a large order last year from a well-known contractor who bought 2000 black toilet seats for the project they were working on.
One month later, his customer changed his mind and wanted all white toilet seats instead of the black. So, we took the black ones back, no questions asked, and replaced all of them for the customer with white ones. Believe me, the customer (and his customer, in turn) was happy. An importer would have never been able to do that, for fear of bearing dead stock.”
Fayaz also believes that KIP is strongly leveraged on the fact that it supplies fittings for the covers, which is convenient for customers.
In addition, the company provides four different designs with multiple colours to choose from.
With a boom in the construction industry clearly evident, KIP Melamine Company is likely to find itself busier than ever, putting it on course to become one of the largest suppliers of sanitary ware for the construction industry in the region.