Picture sleek lines, shiny steel surfaces, minimalist designs that are painstakingly handcrafted, all by Gaggenau, one of the most luxurious appliance brands in the world. A range of high-end ovens, cooktops, refrigerators, washing machines, coffee machines, dishwashers, have been devised through centuries of understanding the craft. The brand is part of the BSH (Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte) Group’s array of brands, which includes household names like Bosch and Siemens. To understand what makes Gaggenau the king of luxury household appliances, LuxeBook spoke with the man steering the show in India —Neeraj Bahl, Managing Director and CEO at BSH Household Appliances. Bahl took over in August 2019, bringing with him over 25 years of experience in the consumer-electronics field, having worked at Panasonic India Pvt. Ltd, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Electrolux India before taking over at BSH Household Appliances.
Enter a zone of luxury
At the BSH Group’s lavish Experience Centre in South Mumbai, Bahl takes us on a tour of the newly designed space. The CEO’s grand vision for Gaggenau has manifested itself into this state-of-the-art experience centre, called UnserHaus, German for ‘our house.’ Grand wooden doors, carved with a giant U, handmade by Indian craftsmen, push open to enter a space that feels like someone’s home. The U itself has been given an Indian twist, the design of the letter takes inspiration from the distinct borders of a Banarasi sari, an ode to the craftsmanship of India, and an attempt at injecting local culture into an international brand. Housed on the 9th floor, the 2,500 square feet space has sprawling views of the coast and Mumbai’s famous Bandra-Worli Sealink. The centre is mindfully designed. The welcome area incorporates the Indian design concept of a courtyard and uses natural handcrafted bricks. A perforated brick wall at the entrance borrows from the concept of “jaali” (net) used in traditional Indian architecture. This adds an element at fluidity and provides an interplay of light and shadows. Next, the Gaggenau section of the experience centre is sophisticated and luxuriously laid out. The brand’s philosophy of promoting artisans and taking their customer’s local tastes and preferences into account is reflected in the woven netting for the window shade and covering of the hanging lights. Two live kitchen counters are fitted with cutting-edge Gaggenau appliances and dotted with bar stools, alongside a linear dining table that could seat twenty. The centre is also home to Bosch’s premium range of appliances, and that section is decorated in bright colours keeping with the brand’s lively colours.
A limited number of centres across the world makes this one even more special, as it signifies the importance given to the Indian luxury consumer. The level of attention to detail at UnserHaus is impressive. Personal chefs can prepare dishes from a consumer’s curated menu, so one can taste the difference in everyday food when cooked using Gaggenau appliances. The team spends two to three hours with prospective clients to ensure their understanding of the state-of-the-art appliances. Coffee makers that save up to eight personalised configurations to memory and create a variety of hot beverages, as well as allow for switching between different bean types without mixing them. Cooking essentials like a full surface induction cooktop offers up to 3,200 cm sq. of space to juggle 5-6 pots and pans or even a teppanyaki grill.
A legacy of artistry
Talking about his vision for Gaggenau, Bahl said, “I want to make it a very aspirational brand, not only for the rich and famous, but also for the youth.” Established in 1683, Gaggenau brings their vast experience to every product. Till date, 85% of the manufacturing process is done by hand, and the brand makes only a few units a day, with multiple quality checks at each stage. Gaggenau’s repertoire is limited, as each product bears the impressions of its 339-year history, available worldwide on launch.
Whether it’s a wine cabinet in which three separate temperature zones can be customised, or an EB 333 90 cm oven that is coated with signature blue enamel coating, each item follows international standards and is completely imported from Germany. Mostly sold to high-profile clients through renowned architects and interior designers, Gaggenau provides each shopper with the ultimate experience. Trained staff gives detailed explanations of features and appliances, demonstrating its applications, while a dedicated service team visits the consumer’s home to understand the space and suggests the ideal productsand solutions for the home from the brand’s 400 series and 200 series. A typical Gaggenau consumer decks up their kitchen with end-to-end appliances from the brand, making the process to acquire the precious appliances a long one, ranging from three to six months. Once the order is placed, the factories in Germany start manufacturing as per specifications, as Bahl adds, “… if a consumer wants a refrigerator to open from the left, we can do that, if they want it to open from the right, we can do that as well. Even the positioning of the knobs on the oven doors can be tailored.” Gaggenau’s highly trained team handholds each customer from browsing until installation, even providing demonstrations once the home is completely fitted. “We strive to provide complete engagement with the customer,” said Bahl.
The innovations in the pipeline at BSH Household Appliances are also a source of pride for Bahl. Gaggenau’s appliances are all set to be connected via Wi-Fi in 2022, eliminating minor inevitable inconveniences that comes with chores such as pre-heating the oven or switching on the washing machine. Bosch’s premium range of appliances now comes with a Vario Style refrigerator that has brightly coloured doors which can be changed in a jiffy. The innovative doors are attached with a combination of invisible hooks and magnets, so one can clip and unclip colours with ease. When it comes to refrigerators, Bahl is most excited about a never-seen-before three-door refrigerator for which the company has secured a patent. Unlike the current models in the Indian market, this one has a 65-litre middle section which can be converted into either a freezer or a fridge, according to your needs at the time. Guided by user experience and market research, BSH will be launching this Bosch Max Flex refrigerator as an India-exclusive product. “We are launching it here first, if it’s success story who knows, it may even be taken to emerging markets,” says Bahl.
Bahl, appointed only 6 months prior to the pandemic had to battle it out in a time of extreme uncertainty. However he credits his intuition for leading the company through it. This same intuition pushed him to order a huge quantity of dishwashers in December 2019, which kept BSH well-stocked for the 10x rise in demand for dishwashers during the pandemic. “When I joined BSH way back in 2019, I was very gung-ho about this product [dishwashers],” says Bahl. The pandemic not only caused the unprecedented increase in interest for dishwashers, but the sales of dryers doubled as well. Bahl also noted a discernible growth in the demand for ultra-premium household appliances. As cooking became a vital part of staying at home (remember the days of Dalgona coffee and feta pasta?), the luxury consumer upgraded their appliances, aware of the difference a premium product can make in the cooking experience. A fact that Bahl himself is very aware of, being a foodie who is fond of cooking with wife alongside a collection of Gaggenau appliances. Through BSH’s three-brand strategy, Gaggenau, Siemens and Bosch, consumers can pick products across luxury, premium and mass-premium segments respectively. “We have been able to enhance our market contribution in the premium household appliances segment to almost 50% last year,” says Bahl.
Bahl is on his way to supply each Indian household with tools for the ideal kitchen. From June 2022, the company plans to launch the unique chula (cooktop) possibly in the under Rs. 10,000 range from Bosch, which targets a 5 million consumer market, to the expansion of Gaggenau experience centres across India. 2022 is set to see experience centres opening in Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. On the cards for the future is expansion in Punjab, Chennai and renovations to the Delhi centre. This is part of Bahl’s ambitious plan to get every Indian to associate luxury with Gaggenau.
Charting new territories
Bahl is hopeful about the future of Gaggenau in markets across the country, citing an increased focus on design and greater consciousness of luxury and premium brands. “I see a phenomenal growth of 50% to 100% to continue for the next for four to five years,” says Bahl. Ramping up BSH India’s ‘Make in India’ efforts, he is focused on expanding production capacity at BSH’s factory in Chennai which is now ready to manufacture Bosch’s front-loading washing machine, refrigerators and cooktops. As the head of BSH Household Appliances for India and SAARC countries, Bahl signs off with his plan for expansion, “Very soon we will expand Gaggenau to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.”