Building resilience: Casa Milano

Casa Milano retains status as a formidable luxury sanitary ware brand in the UAE with a finger on the pulse of trends.



By Azhar Sajan

Published: Tue 26 Jan 2021, 11:13 AM

After months of brainstorming, negotia­tions, meticulous planning and organ­ising of supply chains, finalising and perfecting designs, and completing many such complex tasks, Casa Milano, UAE's premier luxury sanitary ware brand and the Casa Milano showroom, which showcases the most discerning global sanitary ware and tiles brands, were launched on October 15, 2019 by a young team, which I led while completing the final year of Business Management from American Uni­versity of Sharjah.

"On the day of the launch, my father, while congratulating me on the launch of the new busi­ness said 'The real challenge starts tomorrow when you open the doors to your clients'."

Our first objective was to establish the brand Casa Milano as a formidable luxury sanitary ware brand in the UAE and create awareness about the range of brands we showcase. Being a mil­lennial, my first instinct was to leverage the power of digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tiktok to help our en­deavour. Operating in a very niche market, we selectively and strategically used print and out­door advertising as well. By early February of 2020, these efforts had got us to a decent start in terms of generating footfalls and an exclusive assortment of products and brands along with the whole buying experience we have created at our showroom, translated those footfalls into sales.

Just as we were beginning to grasp the dynam­ics of the market, the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world in the month of March, and the resul­tant lockdowns and movement restrictions brought business activities globally to a stand­still. To say the least, our sales took a hit.

Even during the worst lockdowns, construc­tion activity had not halted in the UAE and we decided to redirect our focus towards the con­struction sector. While the world was laying off its employees, we built our B2B team from scratch and established key relations with luxu­ry developers across the country. Along with this, we also reached out to retail customers who are our main target, as the lockdown had given them ample time to refurbish their homes which had now become their offices, classrooms, etc. we distributed catalogues in high net worth areas like Emirates Hills, Dubai Hills, Meydan, Mead­ows to raise brand awareness. Some of our team's first meetings with the clients happened on the Zoom platform during this period, which helped us understand the client's needs. We also started providing complimentary design services to our customers that helped them visualise their bath­rooms in a different light.

Most of our competitors had either stopped importing new merchandise or were trying to wiggle out of the purchase orders that they had already placed. We sensed that this behaviour would create a shortage in the market in the near future, which is why we not only continued our imports, but also raised our minimum inventory levels across categories. Instant fulfilments dur­ing the tough time not didn't just win us some large clients but firmly established our identity as a reliable procurement partner.

We also added new products in categories, which reduced people's contact with surfaces, including sensor faucets, automated soap and sanitiser dispensers. Along with these products, we also launched Casa Milano branded luxury face masks. These products were well appreci­ated by the market.

Looking back, most of the decisions we took were counter-cyclical and they paid off well.

As we did all of this, the restrictions eased, and a semblance of normalcy came back. We have now renewed our focus on digital marketing and also partnered with a few influencers whose per­sonalities and values resonate with our brand and business. Our retail business is back on its feet and is scaling up well.

I have come to realise that if resilience is the fuel that is required to manoeuvre a business dur­ing tough times, agility is the crude oil.

We have now renewed our focus on digital marketing and also partnered with a few influencers whose personalities and values resonate with our brand and business.

Even during the worst lockdowns, construction activity had not halted in the UAE and we decided to redirect our focus towards the construction sector. While the world was laying off its employees, we built our B2B team from scratch and established key relations with luxury developers across the country.

Azhar Sajan

Director

Casa Milano


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