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Tile firms hit eastern wall

Mumbai, Nov. 23: The ceramic tile makers have expressed concern over the lack of brand awareness in Bengal, Assam and other northeastern states.

Vijay Agarwal, managing director of H&R Johnson (India) and new chairman of the Indian Council of Ceramic Tiles and Sanitaryware (ICCTAS), admits that in the east people are not brand conscious about tiles. The Rs 2000-crore ceramic tile industry in India is evolving, chairman of the apex body of the domestic tile industry said. “Brand building” in the east needs to be taken up at a war footing.

Brands are well established in the southern and western regions of the country, he added.

The ceramic tile industry is growing at 12 per cent and is fighting it out with consumers’ bias for marble tiles. These tiles are made by unorganised sector players and hardly conform to any quality standards, Agarwal said.

Cheap imports and dumping in the Indian market add to the woes of ceramic tile manufacturers. Conservative estimates reveal that the industry has seen imports of at least Rs 50 crore cheap tiles being dumped into the country in 2002-03. “This has spoiled the dynamics of the fledgling industry,” Agarwal rues.

Agarwal hopes to strengthen the council by tapping unorganised players to widen its membership.

Agarwal is taking over the council mantle from the outgoing chairman, Shrikant Somany, whose term expired recently.

Key on his agenda is to confront cheap imports of wall and floor tiles from southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and China.

This has affected the pricing policies of the domestic industry and depleted the market shares of domestic players in these segments.

There are more than 16 players in this sector. “Over the years, this sector is facing stiff competition from rampant dumping of foreign brands at extremely cheap prices,” Agarwal said.

“This has severely injured the potential of the market to expand and attract new investments,” he added.

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