Latex is the Mercedes of Mattresses

Mr. Roy Mammen, Managing Director, MM Foam

Q What is your marketing strategy now as we enter a new world in terms of consumer behaviour, expectations, choices and economic dynamics?

The way I see it is that everyone has entered the digital realm- from marketing to advertising. In India, we have barely scratched the surface as far as online is concerned. But we have great potential. Online platforms have both – their plus-sides and minus-sides. There is brand visibility, you can communicate to different customer segments, and there is flexibility in marketing – so many advantages. Everyone is going to go digital sooner or later. Companies like us- with both digital and retail presencewill also transform. We have to find the pulse. Each market is different. But digital is here to stay and companies will have to capitalise on it or they will miss the boat. We have to speak the language of the young audience.

Q There is still a small segment of customers that buys online. How much time will India take to achieve digital scale?

When we say Online- a lot of sales are towards pillows. People are still hesitant to buy a mattress online. This is because of the price tag. They also want to touch and feel the product. That’s why a lot of companies will have ‘experience stores’. We have a lot of exclusive dealers. We are very clear in terms of giving experience to customers. Even if customers make their decisions online, they want to be in the store, lie on the product, touch and feel the mattress and then buy it. In my showroom, we encourage the customers to jump wherever you want. Sit wherever you want. The touch-and-feel concept will not change much in the long run – in my reckoning. At least- not immediately.

Q How has the emphasis and innovations on natural latex played out for your company’s success?

We are, predominantly, a Latex manufacturer as compared to other players. We have been around for more than six decades and we innovate a lot in this space here. We have stressed on sustainable development. We are trying to be as natural in mixes and products as well. It is not easy but we are walking that road. We are responsible to the environment and this is not something we have begun yesterday. We have been doing it for decades. We started with
Natural Latex and as time progressed we are pushing more and more natural latex in a majority of our products. All
our R&D efforts also cater to Latex. In order to make a queen size Pincore mattress sap output of around 2500 rubber trees a day is required. These 2500 rubber trees accounts for the removal of 143 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the environment every year. This is the contribution we make to the environment by making more natural Latex mattresses.

We also offer the highest warranty for a specific category – that of 17 years. That shows how much time and effort
we have invested in this space. Latex mattresses are not cheap so we want to give value to the customer. We want
to give her/him the money’s worth. In today’s scenario when customers can be a little hesitant to spend money, we want to give them quality and assurance. That’s why we work towards increasing our warranty for various products – not just Latex. We want to give the customers a better bang for the buck.

Q How important is warranty for a product like this?

The way I look at it is – what if there was no, or a lesser, warranty-assurance. The customer base would immediately
shift somewhere else. By increasing the warranty I am telling the customer that they can be assured of their money’s
worth. Our repeat customers are strong. It is a niche segment. We always have customers. Warranties actually help us
expand the business. Most customers, anyway, start changing mattresses after a certain period – often around eight to ten years.

Also, the emphasis on warranty has accentuated after this crisis. Today people are investing in quality beds – which was not the case some years back. India has always been a price-sensitive market – easy to sway with discounts. Companies have been running the rat race of schemes and discounts. But in Latex, which is a niche segment, high value pays off. We give this additional warranty and we get more people on board. Obviously, the product stands the test of time- that’s what they hear when they think of this warranty.

Q Tell us something about the idea behind niches like Pincore and Hardcore mattresses?

Pincore mattresses are specially engineered with pin-holes – they are great for ventilation and take care of the pressure valves. It is an optimum medium that supports all pressure parts of a human body. It is an excellent product in terms of breathability and posture. Then there are customers who want really-hard mattresses. Certain customers find a lot of relief in these products. The market is very fluid and we have to look at products based on various cultural preferences and how people think.

Q Do you think hybrid mattresses are the future? How has this area worked for your marketing strategy so far?

I was never a fan of hybrid mattresses to begin with. I find Latex to be the Mercedes of the mattress market. Hybrid
is here, and it may not be the future yet. It has its own benefits on affordability and customer needs. Hybrid segment
is more of a price-game. Today we are into all sorts of products, including accessories. We have expanded our range and are addressing many market segments.

Q What should marketers pick from trends like omni-channel and bedin-a-box formats?

The bed-in-a-box format has savings on freight costs as well as space. Freight costs are a big component of costs for
any company – and compounded by fuel prices. There is all the more reason today to compress and roll-pack – to save space in any way. But companies should test the products very well. Also, this cannot be done to all products. It can only be done for certain products. As far as omni-channel is concerned, manufacturers need to be customer-centric. They should understand customer behaviour, for sure. Lot of organised players have not effectively communicated about their products. We have been caught up in the ambition to capture the market share. But we can improve a lot on communication aspects. The customers should know – what are the actual benefits of a product, or about the material used in it. We can do a lot more at our end on that front.

Q What have been the ramifications of the pandemic – as you observe it?

Generally speaking, many customers do not know what mattress they want. This is not the case for a phone or a car –
these are visible brands. But a mattress is an invisible brand so it is not hard to understand the emotion of ‘who cares’
that this customer generally exhibits. Especially when you cover something with a sheet. Most people visit a friend’s
home and ask about curtains or the wood used in the furniture- but never about the mattress. So yes, it is an invisible brand. But what Covid has done is paramount. Now, at least, customers are concerned about what mattress they want. The Covid phase has worked well in shifting the narrative for our industry. People are looking at quality. They don’t mind spending a little more if the product addresses their needs well. Now the dialogue has become better. So companies would be guilty for not effectively communicating about the importance of sleep – and all companies
are part of this, including us. We need to communicate better about sleep. We have now started the ‘wake up positive’

Q Any thoughts on the prevalence, and relevance, of the unorganised sector?

It is here to stay. It caters to a different market segment. It is still a sizeable portion of the business. But -by and large – most customers are slowly shifting to branded goods due to quality reasons. This is not an overnight change but I feel the shift from price to quality is gradually happening.

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.