Satoshi Konagai, leader of LIXIL Water Technology - APAC. — Photo courtesy of LIXIL
LIXIL, a global leader in housing and building materials, and known in Viet Nam as a provider of global brands such as American Standard, GROHE, INAX and TOSTEM, has been able to nimbly adapt and transform during the COVID-19 pandemic. Satoshi Konagai, leader of LIXIL Water Technology - APAC, spoke to Việt Nam News about its growth strategies in the country and around the region.
What activities did the corporation undertake during the pandemic?
Last year was an interesting year for us all and I believe we have learnt a lot from dealing with this unprecedented pandemic, which has affected markets globally. Yet, we remained focused on our medium-term plan, which involved improving profitability and transforming the organisation to be more agile, entrepreneurial, and resilient to achieve sustainable growth – which are ever more relevant in these unprecedented times.
Most importantly our purpose-driven approach, focusing on pioneering water and housing products that solve everyday, real-life challenges, has contributed to our consumers’ health and hygiene. With COVID-19, the entire world is focused on hygiene, and that is what LIXIL already does better than most. LIXIL has responded to this major macro trend of health, wellbeing and multi-purpose living space by focusing on retail and accelerating development for touchless faucets and flushing, antibacterial finishes, water filtration, bidets, and shower toilets.
During the pandemic, we continued to build a platform-based, global product pipeline worth US$1 billion in sales across all our brands. This was key for us given the increased renovation demand with people now spending more time at home and using it for more and more daily functions like work, family time, exercising, cooking and other hobbies.
LIXIL's products focus on pioneering water and housing products that solve everyday, real-life challenges, contributing to consumers’ health and hygiene. — Photo courtesy of LIXIL
How do you improve your business fundamentals in these trying times, and what is the main focus moving forward into a new normal?
At LIXIL, our purpose of making better homes a reality for everyone, everywhere requires a deep understanding of consumers – how they live and what they expect from their living spaces. And by fully understanding the evolving consumer needs as well as the importance of being data-driven, we took actionable steps to focus on LIXIL’s core businesses and to simplify our business structure, enabling our approximately $14 billion global corporation with operations across more than 150 countries to further drive growth.
We have a new 'go-to-market' strategy serving as a starting point for a comprehensive approach that will reinforce our industry leadership by moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach. New product launches are also specific to customer groups (consumer/professional) and their needs and preferences.
We have also invested in technology, such as intuitive IoT-backed products, to bring not only better designs but also optimum hygiene, enhanced comfort and convenience.
GROHE Sensia Arena stands for intelligent care: enjoying innovative functions that are tailored to your personal needs.
Due to the effects of the pandemic, we are striving to put across the importance of hygiene, wellbeing and sustainability, especially when it comes to hospitality. Increased levels of hygiene will be a more fundamental expectation from consumers, and decisions by consumers on where to book will be influenced by the availability of touchless solutions and generally safer experiences, and so it is important to offer bathroom solutions that offer peace of mind.
There will also be an increased willingness by consumers post-pandemic to pay more for a luxury wellbeing experience that feels vastly different to home. With that in mind, we can place enhanced focus on sustainability through reduced water consumption, while maintaining the same strict levels of performance and cleanliness.
What can the power of culture and purpose-driven approach bring about?
At LIXIL, our people are our biggest strength. Hence, we have embarked on a journey of transformation towards a more agile and empowering work culture. As an important first step in this journey, LIXIL decided to adopt a common, simple and unifying title of ‘Leader'.
LIXIL has redefined corporate culture through transformation towards a simpler, more empowered and non-hierarchical culture. This is a highly significant milestone. What’s important is the actual work individuals are responsible for, not the title or rank they carry. We are focused on strengthening agile, team-based work. Teams create value for the organisation by capitalising on the collective strengths and diversity of thought, which will be made possible when we have an environment that does away with deference to hierarchy, fear of consequences, and lack of transparency. We want the best ideas to win, rather than a person’s rank. My leadership team and I are committed to making this change a meaningful one.
This change in titles to ‘Leader’ is a visible change that will remind us every day of the promises we are making to ourselves and to all stakeholders – that what we do matters more than who we are, that everyone’s voice matters, that a leaders’ job is first and foremost to empower. This is how we deliver better in line with our mission, and continue to inspire and improve living and working solutions that touch the lives of 1 billion people every day.
There will be more willingness by consumers post-pandemic to pay more for a luxury wellbeing experience that feels vastly different to home. — Photo courtesy of LIXIL
What are the priorities in Việt Nam for the group?
Việt Nam is a fast-growing vital market for LIXIL in the APAC region, and in 2021 we will continue to build resilience and agility to cater to partners, developers, professionals and consumers with our latest innovations, creating better homes for everyone, everywhere.
LIXIL is present in the Vietnamese market with our industry-leading brands American Standard, GROHE, INAX and TOSTEM, covering a wide range of bathroom, window and door product categories across all market segments, from the luxurious to the basic ends of the spectrum, while catering to different lifestyle preferences and local tastes. Already in Việt Nam for more than 25 years, INAX is one of the most important brands in the Vietnamese market, and launched in late 2020 the S200 Series - maximising comfort and functionality within compact urban bathroom spaces.
The INAX S200 LINE bathroom collection reflects the brand’s design values of essence, sophistication and thoughtfulness to transform the bathroom experience.
We believe we need to, and can, change perceptions of how bathrooms are used in this country, which is especially important post-pandemic. It is the correct time to change mindsets from those that think a bathroom is solely a simple and necessary function. Hygiene is ever more prevalent in people’s minds, even in a country that has prevented large outbreaks, and so it is right to focus on improving hygiene – and that starts at home.
This is our approach to staying fully committed to transforming the way Vietnamese consumers approach their living spaces and making better homes a reality for them, while balancing business needs to not only ensure business continuity but business growth amidst external challenges and disruptions. — VNS