Gani Atmadiredja, Managing Director Of W. Atelier, On Growing His Family's Business
At the point when Gani Atmadiredja first moved to Singapore, he had just spent three years learning the ropes of the sanitary-ware business from his father in Indonesia. It’s a period he fondly dubs as the “Toto college”. “That taught me a lot of things that you don’t learn in school,” shares Atmadiredja, managing director of W. Atelier.
The family-run firm is the distributor for Japanese bathroom brand Toto in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia; it also carries a curated selection of European furniture and kitchen brands. When Atmadiredja took over the Singapore showroom as its managing director, it was formerly known as Inhwa Marketing (which references the family’s Indonesian Chinese heritage) and was in an ailing state. He rebranded it as W. Atelier in 2008 to modernise it and change its fortune. The W in its name stands for water, as a nod to its flagship brand Toto. “The new showroom and change of name was a big step of us,” shares Atmadiredja. “If you’re not going to invest in this business, you’re not going to turn it around.”
The firm’s subsequent foray into furniture and kitchen systems felt like a natural progression. “People who buy sanitary ware are also building a home and a kitchen; they need wardrobes, lighting and furniture. It’s a natural synergy for us to have all these under one shop; we’re providing a complete solution to our customers.” It’s an area that’s set to grow, with the company to launch mono-brand stores for Fritz Hansen and Vitra this year.
Here, he discusses the role of technology in the bathroom and the company’s creative expansion:
How do you select the brands that you retail at W. Atelier?
Gani Atmadiredja (GA) We like products that are timeless; brands like Fritz Hansen and Zanotta have designs from the Fifties that are still relevant and will stay relevant. We’re also bringing in brands like outdoor furniture maker Gloster in the middle of this year. We’re choosing brands that fit the market; the Singapore market is quite European in terms of taste and design palette, while the Chinese prefer classic American design.
We’re also working with a famous European designer on a new collection for Toto, launching in April. We opened a mono-brand showroom for Vitra in March, and Jaime Hayón is designing our new Fritz Hansen showroom, opening later this year.
How has technology transformed the way we furnish our bathroom?
GA Since the Eighties, Toto has been doing washlets (a water spray integrated into toilets). When I was first at ISH (the biannual bathroom fair in Frankfurt) a decade ago, this technology was not very prevalent.
About eight years back, Toto decided to be present at the fair and made a huge splash. They wowed the Europeans with the washing functions, air dryers and warmed seats. Toto played a factor in advancing technology in the bathroom; now washlets are everywhere.
(Related: Tatler Design Awards 2019: The Winners)
What are some eco-conscious bathroom features that homeowners should know?
GA The E-water technology by Toto, which is part of the washlet function. The normal water supply is electrolysed, which changes the pH level of the water to similar to that of baking soda; this creates antibacterial and cleansing properties. A mist is pre-sprayed to coat the bowl so that dirt does not stay on it. This means less cleaning and minimises the waste of water.
The Tornado 3D flushing bowl is another big thing right now. The six-litre flushing is the world standard; if you force it to flush at four-and-a-half litres, which is the Singapore standard, it won’t flush well. So Toto redesigned the bowl to flush with a lower amount of water. As water flows through a narrower pathway, it spins faster through centrifugal force and discharges faster. It can get rid of the waste in one flush; it’s much more efficient. Another innovation is the Acti light technology which uses ultraviolet (UV) light to cleanse the toilet bowl to decompose dirt and bacteria. It’s hygienic and requires less cleaning.
Which are the best-selling Toto products in Singapore?
GA The demand for washlets has grown further in the Singapore market; there are a lot more choices now. We also have eco-washlets, which have a similar washing function to washlets but without the E-water function, it’s one of the fastest growing segments. Washlets are not cheap but we try to make it available for everybody with a mid-range and a premium range.
What are some bathroom trends that you can anticipate?
GA Technology still plays a very important factor. There’s a sensor in the bowl that can detect blood sugar levels and pregnancy; but this is more geared towards professional usage. New technology has to mature before it’s available for home use.
W. Atelier is located at 201 Henderson Road, #01-01; the Vitra and Fritz Hansen showrooms are located at Tan Boon Liat Building. Visit watelier.com for more information.