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    Master of Every Household

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    Established in 1994, Clay Craft India is one of the fastest-growing manufacturers and retailers of bone china and ceramic tableware in the country with more than Rs 150 crore turnover. Its state-of-the-art production facility at Jaipur has a production capacity of 1,10,000 pieces per day. Rajesh Agarwal, Managing Director of the company, speaks to IMAGES Retail about the brand, its USP and the path ahead 

    Start from Scratch 

    Agarwal family was involved in the distributorship of various bone china and ceramic crockery before 1990s. Being constantly in touch with the shopkeepers helped them understand the customers’ choices and problems. In early 1990s, the group realised that they were facing problems such as product breakage and dead stock, so they thought of setting up their own manufacturing facility at Vishwakarma Industrial Area, Jaipur. Hence, a company called Clay Craft India was formed in 1994 by Rajesh Agarwal with the joint efforts of his elder brother Padam Agarwal. They converted their distributorship store into company’s own store in the same year, which is still operating at the same place.
    Spreading Wings
    In 2009, moving ahead and seeing the growing market of plastic merchandise, the company ventured into the manufacturing and retailing of plastic tableware, kitchenware and bath ware by launching their retail store called Crown Craft India.
    According to Rajesh Agarwal: “Crown Craft India is a leader in premium plastic dinnerware and plastic bath-ware sets along with a host of related accessories including food storage items, casseroles, tiffins, partition plates, water jugs, fridge bottles, etc. We are fully dedicated to the highest level of customer service while continuously delivering quality products that our clients demand. This includes our newest innovative items such as PET bottles and insulated ware. Crown Craft India carries a full line of dinner plates, serving bowls, serving spoons, microwave dinner set options and more, in a various shapes and colours. Food storage containers preserve freshness and flavour and are available in many convenient sizes. As one of the leading plastic bottles manufacturers, we also have a line of quality plastic drinking bottles and plastic household products including ice trays, dustbins, plastic soap containers and stools.”
    “We had started with the manufacturing of cup-saucers and designer mugs made out of fine bone china and ceramic. Since the inception of our company, we have been producing quality products and have also introduced many trendy items, which have been an instant hit then,” he claims.
    Store Metrics and Location Strategy 
    Currently, Clay Craft India is operating with eight company-owned stores across six cities – two are in Ajmer, two in Jaipur and one each in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru. Going global, Clay Craft India had also launched a store in Australia in 2013. In India, Clay Craft stores occupy an average space of 18,000 sq.ft. Talking about the location strategy, Agarwal says: “We do not have any set criteria for choosing locations as of now, but we do take care of certain elements such as footfalls in a particular area, potential customer base for crockery industry, transport facility and distributors’ inputs.”
    “For a store of Clay Craft India, an investment of around Rs 15 to 25 lakh is required, excluding the space cost. Depending on the location, the expected ROI can be achieved within 1.6 to 2 years,” he shares.
    Store Designing 
    Clay Craft India’s stores are designed by their in-house designing team. Merchandise is displayed in such a manner that it highlights every product under proper lighting so that product surface gets the original shine. “We have our internal designing team that takes care of designing of all our outlets. All our stores have same merchandise, which are in trend nationally. For domestic trends, we keep on introducing products as per the store manager’s inputs and experience.”
    Clay Craft stores are designed such that each outlet is divided into four sections. One is for cups and mugs with different colours, shapes and messages; second is for dining table ware; third is for thermoware products; and fourth is for premium plastic product range. All these four sections are built up with convenient sized shelves to display various products. There is a section in the front of the store that displays the seasonal products which are in the trend or have some offer running on them. Agarwal states: “We usually introduce complete crockery product range according to seasons, festivals, special occasions, etc. At our store, every product display is uniquely designed and organised.”
    The USP of a Clay Craft store is focussed lighting, special shelf for products that are in trend, consultant for customers to provide matching crockery, convenient shelves to handle the products, unbreakable packaging, and single window solution for the customer for buying any kind of crockery of same/matching designs.
    Products and Price Range 
    The product range of Clay Craft India is broadly divided in four categories, viz, hospitality, household, institutional, and export range. The products for the hospitality range are for the HoReCa (hotels, restaurant and caterers) segment which includes hospitals, private/government guest houses, cafes, pubs, canteens etc. The household range is targeted towards day-to-day and special occasion dinning and food presentation which fulfils the needs of an Indian family. Elaborating on the same, Agarwal says: “A different perspective has been given for designing daily and occasional range. For example, for daily use, convenience and maintenance are the prime objectives; so, microwave-safe crockery is preferred, whereas on the other hand, crockery with royal and elegant look is preferred for occasional dinning.” In the institutional range, the target customer is a private or a government company who would want to gift the product to its employees, channel partner or customers. The export range on the other hand targets a specific country or region and it has been designed as per the food habits of a particular country.
    Crockery is now a part of home fashion, and people are putting in a lot of efforts while purchasing the same. The company claims that its price range suits every type of customer. “From Rs 50 for a small mug to Rs 50,000 for a gold plated set, we have products for all types of people. From lower to middle and upper class, we are making items for all kind of categories,” shares Agarwal.
    With nearly 10,000 retail counters and over 150 channel partners, the company enjoys partnership with major retailers such as , Home Center, Lifestyle, Spencer and HomeShop 18. The company’s corporate clients include , , Nestle, Airtel, Vodafone, Taj Group, Hyatt Hotels, Pepsi Wipro and many more. Clay Craft also exports its end products to the UK, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
    Growth Rate 
    Fine bone china and ceramic crockery industry is nearly a Rs 700 crore business in India. According to Agarwal: “Being one of the organised leaders in this industry, we are enjoying 25 percent market share. The kitchenware industry is growing at a rate of 30 percent year on year because the dining lifestyle is upgrading and ceramic and fine bone china dinner/tea sets have come into fashion for Indian families. Moreover, food served in ceramic crockery gives a fresh look and it is no doubt healthier than stainless steel/low-quality plastics.”
    E-Retailing
    Clay Craft India has joined hands with , Homeshop 18 and recently with Fabfurnish.com. As a part of this association, Clay Craft’s fine bone china, ceramic ware, plastic and thermoware products such as tableware, tea sets, kitchenware, interior art pieces and designer mugs will now be merchandised on these e-commerce portal.
    According to the company officials: “Joining hands with Fabfurnish.com is a step towards providing fashion in dining to our valuable customers. Our exclusive tableware and tea-set range will be available online also on portals such as Jabong and . Currently, we have put over 60 exclusive products under the Kitchen and Dining section of Fabfurnish.com. This business tie-up will help us reach to customers who love fresh and healthier dining with designer crockery.” Going ahead, the company would look forward for more such tie-ups.
    Festive Season
    The company regularly introduces seasonal and festive collections at all its stores. Agarwal says: “We keep in mind the demand of special days such as Mother’s Day and Valentine Days. Diwali is the key festival when we get most of the orders. Of course, rest all festivals and seasons are important for us. We get nearly 40 percent of our annual sale during October to January.”
    Challenges
    Talking about the hurdles, Agarwal shares: “Initially we had less resources and funds. We were also new at experience on technological advancement. Our production was mainly dependent on labour resources because it was handmade. Gradually, after searching for a while, we got the best technologies and machineries and implemented it to make our processes faster with the same labour resources. Till 1998 as our presence was quite low in terms of network of distributors and stores, we expanded our retail network by adding 10,000 retail points in our wings.”
    Marketing Strategies
    According to the , their focus areas are non-metros because very few choices are available to customers there as compared to metros. Talking at length about it, Agarwal says: “To promote our stores, we often come up with special seasonal collections and discount offers. We also participate in various exhibitions at national and international levels. Many options are available for the customers while choosing their products. In order to fulfill our customer’s expectations, we are also planning to make customised products on demand of any particular design they give us and we also have lots of innovative design options available at our computer where the customer can just come and select the design and the product will be available in a couple of days.”
    A dedicated network of nearly 100 distributors and further the wide spread retail outlets all over the country cater the demand of Clay Craft products. The suitable policy is practiced to ensure the value for money and to match the market sophistication. A separate team of officers handles the hotels and institutional business. Proper follow-up is done with the prospective customers and after sales follow-up is carried out for the entire satisfaction of customers.
    Funds for Retail Expansion
    “We have our own funds to pump in and also we share relations with various banks. We have been in association with our distributors for long and many of them continue investing in our retail network expansion on partnership basis. Currently we are not aggressively looking for franchise or any such kind of partnership for expansion, but we always welcome the potential retail investors for our company-owned store expansion,” says Agarwal.
    Road Ahead
    By the end of 2014 , the company plans to add four more stores to its folio at Lucknow, Banglore, Amritsar.”Majority of Clay Craft’s stores are located in metros. We will now focus on mini-metros where organised players are very minimal and crockery is now becoming fashion in the lifestyle. Our penetration in tier II and III cities will help us increase the volume of business with adequate margin. Thus, our production capacity will be fully utilised for whole year. Today, using designer crockery has become fashion everywhere and volume of demand is expected from untapped markets. This will also help us achieve growth rate of 40 percent year on year,” concludes Agarwal.