Cover Story

The bedtime story

With consumers demanding better comfort, global hotel chains standardising their products and rising standards of quality, the bedlinen and mattress industry is undergoing major changes at a very fast pace. Food and Hospitality World catches up with industry stakeholders to uncover the price and quality challenges in the India market By Saloni Bhatia

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Sunil Dutta

Over the years the bedlinen and mattress industry in India has become highly competitive and price sensitive. The sudden rise in the budget hotel segment and demand of 200,000 hotel rooms in the country has forced the industry stakeholders to offer good quality bed products at competitive prices. While the comfort of the guest is of top priority, the sellers are also ensuring that the purchase managers are well aware about the product features and quality in order to make the best decision. Sunil Dutta, sales head, hotels and institutions, India and SAARC Nations, King Koil, informs, “80 per cent of guests sleep on hotel mattresses for less than three days in a row. We need to make sure that guest should get a sound sleep and luxurious feel during their stay. Keeping these factors in mind, a soft sinking feel comfort layer with support of high density pocketed spring for luxurious body contouring experience can take a guest’s sleep experience to a whole new level. In fact, a good sleep experience can elevate guest retainership in the long term.” King Koil, is an international brand selling to major international chains across the world.

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Mohanraj J

Speaking about how a good sleep has become a vital part of the brand promise across the hospitality sector, Mohanraj J, vice president, sales & business development, Duroflex adds, “Since the hospitality segment is showing a strong growth with many international hotel chains coming to India, the environment for the mattress industry is upbeat. With the continuous demand to
provide improved quality, comfort and durability, the manufacturers are also continuously bringing in innovations and technology to have an extra edge over the competition.”

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Kodaganur Achar

Commenting on the trends in the industry, Kodaganur Achar, business commercial director, Simmons Bedding and Furniture, mentions, “Three to five-star hotel developers go for pocketed spring mattresses of height ranging from 10 inches to 16 inches luxury mattresses for their guests. But a highly competitive environment puts a strain on the price of the product. More hotel developers are now moving towards procuring global brands like Simmons Mattresses. Five years ago, both competition and high end mattresses were totally absent from the market.” The specialty of a Simmons product is the original pocketed coil mattress. The barrel-shaped coil, the pre-compression and the optimum usage of carbon allows Simmons pocketed coil to have good spring effect, high durability, great comfort and support.

The paradigm shift

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Rahul Agrawal

Talking about the bedlinen industry where competition is upbeat, Rahul Agrawal, CEO, Amoda India, opines, “India is emerging as a major production centre for bedlinen and has now attained the topmost position in comparison with its competitors, Turkey and China. In recent years, the US, Japan, South East Asia, Middle East and European countries have emerged as major export destinations for India.  In the current scenario, premium hotel brands are investing in large size mattresses which demand similar size bedlinens. The existing width fabrics are not adequate to suit the current demand. So, industry is asking for extra large fabric width. This is one of the many changes because of rising industry standards on bedlinen.”

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Shrinidhi Nadguada

Shrinidhi Nadguada, vice president, sales and marketing, Intermarket adds, “The industry is slowly evolving. In order to cut down the costs, the franchisee hotels of many reputed brands buy linen from next door suppliers. As a result very often, guests end up dissatisfied with the quality. Realising the pitfalls, most global hotel chains are now standardising the product specifications and testing parameters for hotel linens. They are also nominating vendors based on technical analysis of products. In a way, it helps the hotel guest as he or she gets a consistent linen experience. The linen, whether bath linen or bed linen, is an important aspect of a guest’s personal experience in the hotel room. A hotel can win many ‘wows’ by investing a few more pennies in buying superior linen which India is also capable of manufacturing.” Intermarket supplies to around 100 hotels across India.

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Niranjan Vijayan

“Housekeeping is becoming more creative. There is paradigm shift in bed making and the display of towels. Blankets and night spreads are moving out for the duvet. A lot of importance is being given to bed making with bed runners, decorative throw pillows and towels being displayed as art on the bed,” adds Niranjan Vijayan, managing partner, Fabline.

Educating the buyer

The market share is being distributed among cheap alternatives which do not retain the quality. Therefore it becomes important to educate the buyer. Agrawal mentions, “Our product specialty is the single pick weave. It is processed to give a fresh feel to guests even after 100 washes. Pillows are one of the most important parts of bed comfort. We are the only company in India manufacturing various types of pillows e.g. soft pillow, hard pillow, neck pillow, memory foam pillow, gel pillow, latex pillow, spinal support pillow, ayurvedic pillow, musical pillow and many more. Therefore, it becomes important to educate the buyers about the same.”

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Vijayan who doesn’t believe in running behind market share, says, “We think if we exceed our customer expectations, we will be able to garner good business. But, at times it gets really difficult to educate the customer on the quality and other maintenance parameters as they have a certain ideology and stick to it. They neither wish to try something different or take a chance on a new product which makes it difficult for a new seller with a good quality product.”

Duroflex is now entering its 53rd year of operation, having been incorporated in 1963. Today the company has eight factories located across India supplying to certain big brand hotels and a relatively good market share.

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But when it comes to quality, Mohanraj opines, “The Indian mattress market has faced a lot of competition from cheap Chinese products. Mattress purchases are usually made towards the final stage of an hotel project, so hoteliers may sometimes compromise on quality due to budget constraints. Moreover, for some hoteliers the look of the mattress or the price is the deciding factor, but it is very important to check the quality and also whether the vendor is a
manufacturer or an assembler, the market standing in terms of years of operation and brand image, production capabilities and of course the after sales support and the testing facility or lab at supplier’s factory.”

Major challenges

“Maintenance of linens has been a big challenge, whether laundry or inventory. Water is the single big source of laundry and recycling of the same has been a big issue world over. If the cost of recycling decreases, it will definitely reduce the cost of washes,” remarks Vijayan.

Commenting on how the industry needs to be aware about a product quality, Nadguada says, “The hotel industry focuses on durability of the linen. They prefer linens to last 100 washes or more. It’s a challenging market.”

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He adds, “The bedlinen industry, to remain price competitive, keeps compromising on quality and offers lower thread count products. Many consumers and even purchase managers/ housekeepers are not able to evaluate the quality of linen based on the thread count. Most of us believe, thicker the fabric more durable it is. This mindset needs to be changed. We should indulge in softer and silkier feel of higher thread count bedlinen which has excellent strength, is lightweight and also saves water and energy while washing.”

Achar reiterates, “Educating the buyer about mattresses is the primary challenge. The buyer needs to realise the importance of a good mattress in any hotel room. Hotel developers invariably give mattresses the least importance and they negotiate more on price rather than quality. Lastly, product differentiation by technical parameters/ performance is important. Making them understand why a Simmons product is premium and commands a higher price is a Herculean task.” Simmons has been  successfully supplying to Four Seasons, ITC, Oberoi, Hilton, Sheraton, Shangri La and Westin.

Growth ahead

Agrawal remarks, “In recent years, the hospitality sector in India has witnessed a sudden rise in the budget-hotel segment. The growth of budget hotels has opened whole new doors of opportunities. India is undergoing a complete transformation in this segment. The unmatched comfort and luxury offered by the budget hotels and that too at such competitive pricing has caused a surge in their growth. We as linen suppliers, are facing a big challenge to cater to these buyers without compromising on quality.” Amoda currently holds a good market share in the industry, catering to brands like Taj, Intercontinental, Accor, Country Inn, Marriott, Hyatt and many more.

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At the same time the inclusion of technology to add the best of comfort in a product is very important. Dutta mentions, “Using technology for best body contouring effect in the mattresses is utter most for any hospitality bedding manufacture, like Pocketed & Bonnell spring machinery. Moreover, currently electrically controlled beds are new innovative bedding technologies which are famous in the Western world. We are proud to be first company to bring such new innovative technology beds to the hospitality market in India.”

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King Koil has launched electrically operated beds  named Ergolife which is remote controlled to any shape the body feels convenient to. It comes with a latex mattress with anti dust mite zip cover. “We are introducing this at an attractive price for suite rooms of hotels to give an unparalleled luxury feature to their premium guests,” adds Dutta.

Amidst stiff competition and lack of awareness about quality, the bedlinen and mattress industry continues to grow in India with a constant rise in demand. The e-commerce market is also opening new channels of distribution and making it easy for sellers to reach out to the audience. Despite the challenges, the market is growing and it will be interesting to see how quickly the industry players adopt technological advancements to stay ahead.

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