BY BEPHINE OGUTU
Kohler, an American company that manufactures kitchen and bathroom fittings, has set up a showroom in Kenya as it seeks to target real-estate developers. Located in Westlands at the Ukay shopping complex, this outlet is reflective of the company’s expansionary ambitions in the region. The Wisconsin-based firm has launched its showroom in the Ukay shopping mall in Westlands, bringing its Africa store portfolio to five following its presence in Mauritius, Uganda, South Africa and Angola.
“East Africa is by far our most important market in the region. We want to bet big here,” said Salil Sadanandan, Kohler’s president for Middle East, Europe and Africa.
The company – one of the oldest, was founded in 1873, with the headquarter in Kohler. It is one of the Americas largest privately held companies comprised of more than 30000 associates. Having more than 50 manufactures, Kholer is a global leader in the manufacturing of kitchen and bath products, engine and power systems, premier furniture, cabinetry and tile, and owner of two of the world’s finest five star hospitality and golf resort destination in Kholer, St. Andrews, Scotland.
The plans to open a showroom in Kenya were announced back in October 2016 with an aim of tapping into Kenya’s fast growing middle class.
“The potential of this market was clear and we realized the need to further strengthen our African roots prompting the opening of our dedicated office based in Johannesburg in February 2014. This office services the entire sub-Saharan region. The company will be opening a showroom in the first quarter of 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya and will drive further growth across the continent,” Kohler senior vice president – human resources and stewardship, Laura Kohler said in an interview
The growth of middle-class families has seen expansion of real estates and the Kholer USA was not going to take this lying down. The company opened its first room in Kenya in partnership with Kitchen and Beyond, their distributors in the country. The showroom carries distinct features that resonate a cross all other world class Kohler showroom globally and showcases a wide variety of Kohler bath and kitchen fixtures.
There was never an opportune moment for venturing into Kenyan markets as currently local property developers are frequently turning overseas, mostly to China and India for house fittings such as ceramic tiles, fitted kitchens, wooden flooring and sanitary ware, all with a view to wooing high-end buyers and tenants. Kohler prides themselves in delivering the concept of gracious living, showing their dedication to making sure their products and services bring charm, good taste and generosity of spirit to the lives of their customers.
Customers coming to the showroom in Westlands will, for instance, be able to purchase a smart toilet for Sh800, 000 while the basic configuration for Kohler’s digital shower system (DTV+) will cost at least Sh1.2 million. Digital Thermostatic Valve (DTV) is an advanced showering system that brings together water, sound, steam and light and controls them to give you a true multi-sensory showering experience. Smart toilet or Veil intelligent toilet as it is called at Kohler, addresses bathroom technology in a sleek contemporary fashion. Due to its clean, refined design line and concealed tank, the toilet offers smart toilet functionality with minimal interruption to the overall bathroom space.
The company has already made its first strides in the hospitality industry after completing its first contract for the installation of bathroom amenities in the newly opened Two Rivers Mall in Nairobi. At the same time, Nairobi has become a hotbed of hospitality sector development. The Hilton Garden Inn at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Hotel Pullman Nairobi and City Lodge are all expected to open their doors to visitors this year. Other projects under development are the JW Marriott Hotel and Park Inn in Westlands. They will be competing with the more than 10 firms that have opened new hotels in Nairobi over the last two years.
Through its partnership with Kitchen and Beyond, Mr. Salil Sadanandan, the President, Kitchen and Bath South Asia and Kohler brand EMEA said, “This partnership is impeccable as Kitchen and Beyond operates in the retail and project segments, offering clients a superior quality holistic solution,” adding that he expects early demand for the products to come from the hospitality firms and the burgeoning residential property development market. A similar trend has been observed in Kohler’s Kampala outlet, which has been open since 2014.