Sustainability

An Exclusive Interview with Bijoy Mohan, LIXIL International

“Everything we do, we are always looking through the lens of is this really making better homes possible for people.”

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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Inc. Arabia: Bijoy, congratulations on your new appointment and role! Please share with us the history behind LIXIL's growth globally.

Bijoy Mohan: LIXIL has an interesting history. LIXIL started in 2011. It started as a combination of five different building materials leaders in Japan that came together to create this group. And then ever since then, they've been looking at expanding globally and acquiring different brands, especially in the starting with the bathroom business globally. And now LIXIL is the single largest bathroom products company in the world. It's a combination of all the different brands that it owns. LIXIL has a clearly defined purpose of making better homes a reality for everyone everywhere.

“Everything we do, we are always looking through the lens of is this really making better homes possible for people.”

And we wouldn't just do something purely for the business results alone. It is based on the purpose, and we keep saying the profitability the growth, and the revenues we need are so we can deliver on the purpose. And this is something the company lives with.

An Exclusive Interview with Bijoy Mohan, LIXIL International

IA: You had a statement this company should deliver on its purpose of adding value to people's lives through water technology. Can you expand on this statement?

BM: This is broad because when we say adding value to people's lives, and making better lives possible, better homes possible, it starts from do people have access to basic facilities, you know, basic functionality that they need and in this case, from water technology in the bathrooms.

So when we talk about access, we had set up a whole business separately within the Lixin group. We call that the SATO brand, which is dedicated to providing sanitation access for people who live off grid, and who are not connected to sewer systems or water systems.

We started that business that is run as a self-sustaining nonprofit business. That's a business that is dedicated to providing access. When it comes to looking at people, and providing true enjoyment, what do people want from water in their homes? You know, they say that waste is only when you don't enjoy it. That's the worst kind of waste. So I'll be enabling people to truly enjoy water that we do through brands like GROHE. And then we look at things like sustainability in terms of water savings. Are we truly adding value not only to people's lives, but to society the community, and the planet at large by saving water?  So we need to look at all of these things, all part of delivering purpose, access to enjoyment, and then sustainability, all aspects of it.

IA: Before we jump to the sustainability part. I want to shift gears to hear more about the commercial strategy. Can you shed some light on the commercial strategy specifically in the MENA region?

BM: Again, the strategy is very different for our businesses globally, for different brands, and each brand. One of the great things about being part of the LIXIL group, which is a house of brands is every single brand, has a reason to be.

That is also because one thing that I believe that the most important thing for a brand's longevity is also deciding what it does not do, that that's that relevance is always critical.

Being part of a house of brands allows us the liberty of defining every brand. And that's what we've done with GROHE over the last five or six years. We have refined our position truly is versus other brands in the portfolio, and that's made us focus a lot more on the true enjoyment of the water, which is the point of pride, our promise of growth is making sure that people can truly enjoy the experience that they have with water. So, we stayed true to that purpose.

First, the brand purpose itself is very critical. And then in terms of the commercial strategy, what we defined a couple of years ago was to truly add value.

We need to start looking at the very end user-driven strategy, which is consumers who buy our products directly have very different expectations from professionals like installers and contractors who buy have different expectations, and then designers and architects are designing some of the big like hotels. They have different expectations. So our commercial strategy is right now about differentiating based on the end users. That leads us to say, that there are regions where we need different types of services for different types of end users. The products themselves also are different based on the type of end users and the type of innovative business models that we bring in are also different based on end users.

So, this in a nutshell is what we're focused on very end user-based strategy that differentiates users. When you try to please everyone, you please no one.

IA: Speaking of differentiation, how is the GCC different from other markets, from a product perspective?

BM: Right now, when we think of this region, we think of it as GCC and Saudi, and we see there are a lot of commonalities and synergies emerging. Even the decision-makers in some of these places. One good thing is we have a very strong brand presence in this region. The GROHE brand has been respected. I remember the year I joined GROHE; I remember the story that I heard among many things. I came here, I came to Dubai to kind of just join. I wanted to get a sense of different markets and travel around the different markets around the world to get a sense of it.

One of the stories, I heard, which had happened that month was in the same month we had an order for our top-of-the-line luxury range to one of the royal palaces, and the same month, we were also one of the largest orders ever for the labor camp in Saudi Arabia.

We said, now, this is what the brand is capable of doing to satisfy the palace needs and also making sure we are truly adding value to a labor camp.

IA: Two topics are sustainability and competition. Sometimes they go hand in hand and sometimes they're seen as, you know, competing in a way in terms of competition. How do you see it and sustainability?

BM: I have had this question in the past about competition and nobody likes my answer, but I'm going to give it to you anyway. What I used to say earlier, and it has changed now. I used to say earlier that the company, you know, “Our competition is BMW, Apple, and Samsung”. Why?

Because the consumer spends a lot of their mind space, thinking about the next car. They want to buy a new TV or a music system or whatever. Our competition is really to fight for a share of that mind space because we are the largest brand in the industry. So, it is not about grabbing share from other competitors, it's about capturing the share of mind. So, if we can inspire consumers to think of the bathrooms and the water experience as much as they do of a great driver, that's our company and that truly is really a lot of focus on what we're trying to do.

But it is changing now to a certain extent, and that remains true, and this is where the sustainability needs come in in some way. We say our competition, of what we are fighting against is the waste is a waste of any kind. It is a waste of water, it's a waste of energy.

When it comes to sustainability. You have got to talk about the two different levels. One is as LIXIL as a company overall, what we are committed to doing, and where the GROHE brand might play.

So, for LIXIL, there are three, three different areas that I would say that is a big focus of our sustainability strategy.

  1. One is of course about carbon neutrality, and that is everything about embedded carbon within what we do within our processes at factories of manufacturing, high energy consumption. So that is a big commitment we've made that we've committed to making sure we reduce 50% of our emissions by 2030 and going net zero by 2050. So that is a commitment like many other companies have made, which we have made.
  2. The second aspect is reducing usage, and this could be carbon usage or water usage through our products, and that is then addressed in two different ways. One is energy usage through our water products, the energy that they consume in terms of heating, but also to, you know, we have a very big Windows business in Japan and that's been a big focus for of us in terms of how can we use how can we make sure that we are really promoting energy efficient windows so that energy usage and water usage.
  3. The third part is the “End of Life”. Circularity is a big topic of how we make sure what are our commitments in terms of the reusability of products or end-of-life recycling.

IA: COP28 happening in Abu Dhabi. You mentioned water scarcity, and this is something we don't think about like you highlighted. We think of energy in terms of sustainability, but we rarely think about water as sustainability. So, it was very refreshing to hear. How you are working on addressing this topic?

BM: With COP 28 happening here in Abu Dhabi is a good forum, a background for us to use that whole sense of awareness that's created around that to talk more about this kind of topic. And I think we need to because like you said, when energy is top of mind, water usage is not top of mind.

We even saw some surveys that I think the event team did that talked about, you know, people said 74% of people, including people in the UAE, said that they would shift to water-saving products if they felt their water supplies were not secure.

So the question is, we are saying water supplies are not secure. But, you know, it's not a question of if. So that seems to be lacking. You saw that about 30% of people said they are not aware that there are ways to save water and that there are products and devices again.

So I think there's a big opportunity for us to communicate this plus the need so people are aware. And then the fact that it's easy, it's not that difficult. You don't need to change your lifestyle and go three days without a shower to save water. There are solutions. So, I think that is something that we need to do. On communication. I think making sure that communication is done around COP 28 will amplify those messages. I think it's a good opportunity for us to do it.

IA: The last question is somewhat personal. share with us the fact that very few people know about you.

BM: The fact that is relevant to the fact that we're sitting here in Dubai. is the fact that I was born in Abu Dhabi, and I grew up. I did all my schooling, so I have a long history with this place. Over the last ten years, I've been here every year on a personal note, visiting friends and relatives and just passing through. So, I've got a long history with this place and just I feel the next ten years for the construction industry, this is going to be the center of the world, not just in terms of quality because it's setting standards. I'm excited to be able to come full circle to be a part of it.

Thank you very much for a very insightful session.

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