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Government moves to cut dependence on exports

Kohler, the US-based manufacturer of sanitary ware and plumbing products, has been promoting Thailand as its base for manufacturing and product development in the region to cash in on the coming Asean Economic Community, which will be fully effective in 2015.

Kamol Lertsattha, managing director of Kohler (Thailand), said that Thailand will take on a bigger role in manufacturing and product development, particularly for the Southeast Asia market, especially for some niche products used only by consumers in the region, such as hand spray and cold-water faucet.

“We are looking at Thailand as our base for business growth in Southeast Asia. We also would like to encourage all neighbouring markets in Southeast Asia to use Kohler products that have been imported from Thailand,” he said.

Kamol said that AEC would have a positive impact on the company as it encourages a free flow of goods within Asean.

“Kohler has maintained the same quality standard in any market all around the world. With AEC, Kohler’s manufacturing facilities in Thailand will serve a bigger market and that will increase its economy of scale. Consumers themselves will have better choices,” said Kamol.

He said that since the beginning of this year, Thailand has exported sanitary ware products to member countries in Asean with no import duty.

Kohler actively entered the Thai market in 2002 when the company took over Karat Sanitaryware’s factory in Saraburi. The company also set up another factory at the same manufacturing complex in 2004 to increase its production capacity.

“Our production capacity is now two times bigger than our closest competitor in Thailand,” said Kamol.

He said that Kohler’s manufacturing plant in Thailand has produced a wide range of sanitary-ware products, including washbasins, and vitreous China products to supply the domestic market and for export.

Kohler (Thailand) on Wednesday opened its first showroom for Kallista, a separate luxury brand for bathroom products owned by Kohler, at Decor Mart Design Centre on Soi Thonglor. The Kallista brand targets luxury consumers who want something unique.

“Bangkok is a good market with strong selling prospect. The market itself is very sophisticated and international. Thai consumers have good appreciation for luxury products and it is a good market for luxury brands here,” said John Hart, chief creative officer, Kohler’s Interiors Group of Companies, USA.

Kallista was founded in 1979 by two British entrepreneurs who recognised a void of luxury bath products in the US. This new boutique company would bring sophistication and a sense of fashion to the bath and powder rooms, and today, to the kitchen as well. Kallista, however, became part of Kohler’s Interiors Group in 2006 to focus on affluent consumers and boutique showrooms.

“Kallista’s vision is to be the most desirable and compelling luxury plumbing brand in the world,” said Hart.

He said Kallista has currently opened more than 220 showrooms in the US and potential markets around the world, including China, Thailand, Vietnam, UK, Canada, Dubai and Kuwait.

Hart said Kallista entered the Asian market three years ago by opening its first showroom in China. The brand today has about 15 showrooms in China.

Kallista opened its first showroom in Ho Chi Minh City in March this year.

Source: The Nation

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