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The M factor

SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI
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Marketing makes or breaks building materials, feels architect SATHYA PRAKASH VARANASHI

AD ZAPTraditional material is not as well promoted as modern material
AD ZAPTraditional material is not as well promoted as modern material

Theoretically speaking, every construction material has a role and place in the construction industry, otherwise it would not have been introduced at all. Yet, analytically speaking, each material has its own pros and cons, which together decide how appropriate it is and how useful. Unfortunately, such an analytical method does not work in all cases and nowadays we can see that advertising and marketing have become the yardstick for selecting materials.

Once again, marketing too has its role and place; otherwise one would not know the availability of the materials. So, the problem does not lie with the idea of marketing, but with the materials which the market promotes. How often have we seen red-oxide floors, Athangudi tiles or Bethamcherla marble being advertised? Are there any executives for Kota floors or websites for Tandoor stones?

Marble and granite have witnessed some aggressive marketing, primarily to win over the increased competition that picked up during the last decade, rather than to promote the material. If so, what is the focus of marketing, especially in the flooring business? The two materials that have become commonly known thanks to advertising and marketing are ceramic tiles and vitrified flooring, making them virtual market leaders. The slow supply of local materials, unpredictable quality, increased pace of construction in urban areas, skilled human resource required to work with natural materials and many other factors directly or indirectly promote manufactured materials. This promotion is also enabled by a chain of players – raw material suppliers, manufacturers, carrying and forwarding agents, wholesalers, transporters, advertising agencies, retailers – wherein each player has to financially benefit.

Naturally, everyone strives to ensure that the materials get accepted and popularised.

To that end, ceramic and vitrified tiles come with many attractive features some of which are not possible in natural materials. Finished in high temperature kilns, they have a level surface and good glaze. The top layer is a high-density skin which can last a long time. Enabled by latest research and development, these tiles are becoming thinner by the day and are available as thin as 4 mm nowadays. Though dimensional variations happen to thinner tiles, the top brand materials are fairly perfect in their sizes. Easy to clean, neat to look at and sophisticated, these modern manufactured materials rule a large market share of flooring.

Most of these characteristics have been enabled by industrial manufacturing. Debates on sustainability are concerned about such apparently ‘better’ options, wondering if they are better for the Earth also. Floor tiles could be a good example to test this concern, before we blindly buy them.

(The writer is an architect working for eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)


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