09 September 2016 14:57:44 IST

Malathy Sriram writes poems and short stories for children and adults, as well as book reviews and articles of general interest. She is a post-graduate in English Literature from Ethiraj College for Women, Chennai. Her work has been published in Indian Express, Deccan Herald, Mirror and Femina. She has edited website content and is the editor of The Small Supplement, an online magazine for children with articles on history, science, arts and culture, sports, technology, companies and brands, mythology and short stories. Reading, teaching English, listening to music (all genres) and singing complete her oeuvre.

Building a firm, tile by tile

Here’s the story of Somany Ceramics, and how it managed to flourish in the tile industry

The word ‘ceramic’ comes from the Greek word Keramos , which means ‘pottery’. In India, the progression from mud, cement and red oxide flooring, to mosaic, granite, marble and ceramic flooring has been gradual but consistent.

Ceramic tiles, in particular, account for almost 60 per cent of the total tiles demand in India. We are also the third largest producer of the same in the world, after China and Brazil.

The Indian ceramic tiles scene received a major boost with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. Building hygienic toilets across the length and breadth of the country definitely needs more tiles! The upsurge in the real estate sector, lower gas prices, and anti-dumping duties imposed on tiles imported from China added to the optimism — the Indian ceramic tiles industry is expected to touch ₹300 billion in 2016.

Social touch

Riding the crest of the wave is Somany Ceramics, whose recent Nahi Phislenge campaign took the social media by storm. “A tile company that focuses on issues affecting society?” people were intrigued and impressed.


By cleverly linking falls with the tendency of breaking New Year resolutions, the brand urges viewers to consider installing anti-skid tiles in bathrooms for the elderly. It immediately strikes a chord with those who have their parents or older relatives at home.


It goes one step further to link the idea of ‘not slipping’ to socially responsible choices one must make in everyday life.

How it started

Somany Ceramics is one of the top 10 companies in India producing ceramic tiles. With a turnover of ₹1,800 crore, it has a good share of organised tile-manufacturing sector. It prides itself on providing complete décor solutions with its mind-boggling range of wall tiles, floor tiles and CP fittings; sanitary-ware and bath fittings; and tile-laying solutions and tile visualiser.

The floor tiles alone come in a wide range — ceramic, durastone (for outdoor usage), VC shield, slip shield (for wet areas like bathrooms), polished/vitrified tiles and GVT/duragres.

In 1968, Hira Lal Somany founded Somany Pilkington Limited (later SPL Limited). In technical collaboration with Pilkington Tile Holdings, UK, it set up its first manufacturing unit at Kassar in Haryana (1971). Ten years later, a second unit came up at Kadi in Gujarat. Both units are ISO 9002 certified. Along with other joint ventures, the total production capacity of the firm is said to be 41 million square metres, annually.

In fact, the Kadi plant is the first in the ceramic tile industry to have the prestigious ISO 14001 certification (quality process and environment friendly manufacturing facilities).

Somany was also the first Indian ceramics company to receive the prestigious OHSAS 18001-2007 certification; and the first firm in Asia to have implemented ISO 14051(related to environmental management).

Pilkington Tile Holdings divested its entire stake in SPL Ltd. in favour of HL Somany in 1995. The company became Somany Ceramics Limited in 2007.

Cut to the present

Somany has a wide network of more than 1,200 dealers and a large presence in tier II and III towns in India. About 5 per cent of its products are exported to around 60 countries worldwide.

You must be wondering, “How much can you innovate in tiles?” Well, Somany has the answer.

Its ceramic tiles are renowned not just for their style, elegance and finish but also for their durability. Before introducing a new design or style, the company does extensive research.

In 1996, Somany came up with India’s largest ceramic tile (45cm x 45cm). In 2012, it broke its own record with the ‘King of all Slabs’, sized 60 cm x 120 cm.

It produced India’s first anti-bacterial tile that was suitable for hospitals, clinics and hotels. The company’s fire printing technology unit at Kassar can make any type of prints on tiles — its digital tiles have high definition printing even on undulated surfaces.

Slip shield, its anti-skid tiles, have a special coating that provides a good grip even in wet and soapy conditions. The patented VC Shield (Veilcraft technology) tiles have a special abrasion, scratch and stain-free layer that is said to make them the world’s most durable floor tiles.

They retain the original glaze and finish for years. The company received the American Ceramic Society’s (ACerS) Corporate Technical Achievement Award 2014 for the same.

Research and beyond

Somany’s advanced Rotocolour Machine gives ceramic tiles a glaze decoration with any design and has a marble-like effect. Over and above all this, the tile visualizer software helps consumers see what their home would look like with different tile patterns.

With all these achievements, it is no wonder that Somany’s in-house Research & Development centre is the very first Government-recognised one in the country!

Many awards were won by Somany, including the 2011 Power Brands Award and the Capixel Award for three consecutive years. It was also recognised as “Asia’s Most Promising Brand” in 2012-13 in the ceramic tile industry by the World Consulting and Research Corporation.

Its state-of-the-art showrooms and display centres located at several places around the country showcase both tiles and sanitary ware. More such outlets are planned, pushing the total number to 250 across India. The company is trying to increase its presence in the south by setting up a manufacturing unit.

Somany was the first in the industry to be certified by the Indian Green Building Council for manufacturing eco-friendly products. It has strict no-plastic and recycling of waste rules in its manufacturing units.

The company also has a Tile Master programme to improve the tile-laying skills of masons, empowering them further by increasing their productivity and enhancing their earning potential.

Recently, Somany Ceramics launched its Humein Garv Hai (We are proud) anthem on its YouTube channel.