With expansion into Saudi Arabia underway and the possibility of a second manufacturing facility in India, CEO of Dubai Furniture Manufacturing Co, S. Sundar Rajan, talks new business strategies and signature sleeps.
While hotels promote the all bells and whistles approach to hospitality, with as much focus outside the room as in, the promise of a good night’s sleep remains at the forefront of a guest’s mind.
With a rise in demand for signature beds and innovations driven by the retail sector, this central pillar in the industry is taking on a new lease of life. Regional manufacturer and distributor of King Koil and Serta mattresses, Dubai Furniture Manufacturing Co (DFMC), is spearheading the personalisation of mattresses through new manufacturing techniques for dozens of hotel clients.
CEO S. Sundar Rajan, says: “It is common for each brand to select their own signature mattress, and we do that by creating products to their specifications, giving them time to test these with guests, amending the specifications and fine tuning the product. We are very keen to understand what the guest wants for that hotel and the guest. We make three or four products and give them to the hotel for testing to find out what they prefer and based on the brief we develop.”
Counting 40% of total business derived from the hospitality industry, with a 60% market share across hospitality and retail in the premium segment, DFMC is currently expanding operations with a new manufacturing and retail facility in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – producing 400 mattresses a day – to keep up with the growing demand for branded products, which can provide warranty and added aftersales customer care, including maintenance training.
Year to date performance across all sectors in 2016 has been affected by the crash in oil prices and regional instability, but DFMC is also looking at the potential to expand its regional network by opening a second manufacturing facility in India, near Bombay, by year end, where a distribution network is currently being established.
Rajan explains: “In the Middle East premium segment we have 60% market share. In Saudi Arabia hospitality we have majority market share and in retail King Koil and Serta combined has more than 60% market share. We are a dominant player in retail and hospitality.”
Revealing that there are more than 350 individual products in the portfolio, Rajan adds: “Whatever new technology is coming up in the market is associated with a premium; this is the area in which we have an edge on the competition.”
There is much research into the role of mattresses in orthopedic health with a range of new mattress technologies incorporated in products.
Rajan has witnessed a rise in demand for gel-infused products, specifically due to the temperature control benefits such products offer to users.
Whereas traditional foam fillings would generate heat and contribute towards potential discomfort, research and development processes identified the role that gel infused mattresses could play in combating this.
Rajan explains: “Gel infused foam products are the remedy and it dissipates the heat to maintain a particular temperature. The customer sleeping on the mattress will be comfortable always because there is no heat generation from the surface.”
As with all innovation, the process is an ongoing one. Looking ahead to the mattress of the future, Rajan continues: “The housekeeping department and hotels prefer mattresses that are not only user friendly for them but also comfortable for their guests. The trend in around five years, or maybe 10 years, will be mattresses that can be adjusted to any shape and comfort level at the touch of a button.”
Another innovation the CEO is keeping an eye on is that of foam and slow recovery spring technology, which is yet to come to the regional market. However, DFMC hopes to be integrating the slow recovery spring in its products by year end.
“Serta has come up with a slow recovery spring that is yet to be released in the regional market here. It is popular in the US and will be launched here by the end of the year. It’s a totally different feel and comfort level.”
It isn’t just what goes into the mattress that catches a client’s attention, it is what is taken out. With increasing focus on health, wellbeing, and the impact of hidden toxins in everyday products, DFMC has worked to remove all such products from the foam in its products. This includes dichloromethane, or methylene chloride, an organic compound that has been banned from use in mattresses across the US, Europe and UK. It has yet to be banned here in the Middle East but since DFMC began manufacturing its own mattress foam back in 2005, it has eliminated this from its products and supply chain.
Calling for a regional ban, Rajan explains: “Our mattresses use raw materials that do not have hazardous chemicals. Methylene chloride is a banned, o-zone depleting material, and while we are confident it will in future be banned from use in the Middle East, we have moved to ban it in our products as a matter of best practice.”
In order to achieve this, DFMC invested in German machinery and uses vacuum technology to form foam, in order to completely avoid the use of Methylene chloride.
“It was our decision to do this and when we took the decision to manufacture our own foam, we wanted to do this without any hazardous chemical,” he continues.
While hotels face the same budget constraints as any other business, especially given the recent disconnect between supply and demand regionally and what this means for performance, the cost of products does not fall in response.
The focus for DFMC is to add value to the purchase for hospitality– and retail – clients by adding support through maintenance, training and extended warranty periods.
Rajan elaborates: “If price was the only criteria, then we should have been out of business by this time, but there are many more things which are considered. When looking for a quality product you need the guest satisfaction, durability, returns, customer service; so many parameters before a client decides to buy.
“A warranty of 10 year is a standard for our competitors but it’s a minimum for us. There are projects here in Dubai where we have supplied our products and even after 15 years it is still performing well, because of the quality and also the housekeeping department.”
DFMC works with housekeeping departments, for no additional cost, to train on how to maintan products and safeguard their performance.
“Hotels are making a huge investment so we train them on how to look after that investment,” he says.
This is supported by regular visits to check the performance of products and assistance on how to correct any unlikely faults.”
Looking ahead, the focus remains on the new Riyadh factory and showroom, where operations are expected to begin within a few months.
“There are a lot of hospitality properties there and there is also a shift in how that market is looking to buy mattresses. Clients have realised the importance of a quality brand and the impact this can have on things like durability, warranty, customer care and so on.
“Hospitality customers are changing and even in retail, apart from the price factor, they demand known brands,” he concludes.