Creating a sustainable product is our top priority

The storm is here but everyone is hoping and working for it to pass soon. Soon the dust will settle and we will start picking the pieces and get ready for a ‘new normal’. That’s what will be interesting for matterss players – because it would be a normal where health, comfort and home would have found new connotations that can be leveraged and strengthened well by the industry. If players can do so in innovative and sincere ways, they can unleash a completely unprecedented proliferation of opportunities.

The winds are blowing to a new world. And Deepak Mehta, Director, Tirupati Foam, explains why and how new categories and innovations would dominate both consumer appetite and industry innovations in the next new world that we enter after battling the pandemic. He shares some light on how the first and second wave of Corona has affected the industry. As we explore in this interview, the industry is already shaping towards non-traditional concepts like sustainable mattresses, customizable products, the ‘mattress in a box’ concept and accessories becoming significant in the overall market terrain. This is where he also unravels how research thrust and emphasis on IT have created strong advantages and path for the company. And why segments like medical mattresses and modular offerings would continue traction or not once the industry comes out of the pandemic stress.

Has the pandemic year been a good turn for the mattress industry? Do you feel that mattress players have found new pockets of demand even a tough year? Would the uptick in home-improvement-led demand continue?

If we look for an overall scenario talking about the Indian/Global landscape, I don’t think it’s a good turn for the mattress industry as demand did not surge as expected. Also, the increase in raw material prices had a great impact on buying trends of consumers. A lot of customers delayed buying mattresses and, instead, invested more in their health and essential items.

What implications has the Covid-impact caused on product innovations in mattresses? Anything in your portfolio or plans that you can share right now?

The impact of Covid has delayed product innovations for the mattress space but still, new development in products is going on. Creating a sustainable product is the top priority that we need to keep in mind while developing any of the products. Value for money and comfort also need to be kept hand in hand in this pursuit.

How is the industry dealing with the U-turn of Corona? Specially on the side of uncertainty over transport, abrupt interruptions in revival of physical-retail demand and management of staff?

Yes, suddenly a spike in the cases has disrupted the whole working chain. Starting from raw material, transport to staff- each and every aspect has been affected. The second wave of Corona has been more aggressive in infecting people which has seen an increase in mortality. Everyone is struggling at this phase.

As for the demand scenario, the future will show an increase in demand but it will greatly depend upon how the pandemic is handled

Would segments like medical mattresses, hybrid furniture, modular beds etc. get stronger as we move ahead? Even after normalcy returns?

Medical Mattresses will be in demand till the pandemic gets over. But once everything gets normalized, the sudden spike that we have seen now will not come in normal scenario.

Categories like hybrid furniture and modular beds will surely move at a stronger pace. The ‘Mattress in a Box’ concept is also increasing and all this may result in ‘Work From Home’ system.

Tell us something about your brand strategies for industrial foam and consumer-segment products? How do you plan your capital outlays, marketing, expansion and offerings for both the markets without blurring the boundaries? Any cross-consolidation advantages that being in both the places offers to you?

We have invested in Research and Development; and have developed a lot of products which have a B2B segment usage. These applications are different from the traditional consumption of foam. We have also started looking, and catering, to overseas market and have developed products according to the specification for that country/consumer.

How has the journey of brands like Hindustani mattress, semi luxury, luxury mattress, etc. been? What next is on the radar?

Hindustani mattress has always been a success ladder for us. We have seen a great response of our Hindustani mattress brand. There was a point where mattresses were sold by just their own names rather than the company name/brand name and we have seen a good response in our other future products as well. But it was a trend in the past as there was not enough variety in mattresses. Nowadays customized layered mattress are in higher demand than traditional single foam slab mattresses. With different types of fabrics and foam comforts, people are choosing new type of mattresses.  We have also introduced ‘Mattress in a Box’ concept for our regular retail market where even a retailer can order a single piece of box mattress and help it get delivered to its customer directly.

Has the rise of sleep-awareness in the country been significant? Any impact on the mattress industry that you have observed so far – given the fact that this factor can have huge implications on the demand side and product-choice side for the consumers?

Yes, sleep awareness has been increased in the country and all thanks to rise of digital era with low-cost internet available to consumers. This has resulted in proper understanding and knowledge-study of mattresses by a consumer before one buys a product. Online mattress format is one of the outcomes of sleep awareness. This has made consumers buy a good quality mattress through retail outlets as well. A majority of the consumers buying mattresses still want to feel the comfort & support that the mattress is going to provide them – and they explore and expect this before they buy.

You also cater to the accessories market? What trends are shaping up there? If you can share some examples from your own basket or path, that would help

The most basic accessory with a mattress is a pillow. Nowadays a variety of pillows are available and people have started buying special pillows like latex pillow, memory pillow, molded pillow which are different from cost-effective fiber pillows. People have understood the importance of a pillow along with a mattress. Mattress protectors are have also seen an increase in demand. Getting educated on the product can always increase its demand trajectory.

You had invested in IT and connected your manufacturing and administrative functions in a strong way earlier. How are using technology now, and ahead?

Integration of IT is one of the most crucial things in today’s time. We have applied and customized IT infrastructure at our company. Data is one of the most crucial things which helps in managing a company’s growth. Faster and reliable information can be obtained on a real-time basis with effective and smart use of IT. Connectivity with one’s plants and office is accomplished in a better way with proper IT structure. And no matter where you are the data provided to you can be easily accessed.

ISPF is an industry body which promotes importance of sleep and role of mattress for a Indian consumers. ISPF plays very important role in connecting Indian bedding industry ecosystem. ISPF also acts as bridge between India and international players.