It all started in 1986 for Century Ply. Today, Century Ply is the largest seller of multi-use plywood and decorative veneers in the Indian organized plywood market. From use in modular kitchens to furniture (including kitchen furniture), the company has been going strong on innovative solutions. Century Ply has recently launched it’s Virokill range of products to address the post-pandemic market. Ms.Nikita Bansal, Executive Director, Century Ply talks exclusively to buildingandinteriors.com on a range of subjects, from standardisation, business customers, end customers to upcoming products.
B&I: How do you see the evolution of India as a market for Century Ply over the last 4 decades? Which are your strongest regions and which are the ones in focus over the next 1-2 years?
NB: Since the onset of Century Ply journey in 1986, the company forayed into plywood, laminates, doors, particle board and then MDF over the years. We were the first company to launch BORER free plywood. We are what we are today because of these innovations and quality that our brand is built on.
Over the last 40 years in India, there is an increase in demand for branded products. Still our industry has a large proportion of unbranded players, and with better implementation of GST, we are hoping to capture a larger market share down the line. Another shift that we have seen is the increase in demand for MDF. All over the world, MDF has always occupied a larger segment than plywood. But I think India will follow the trend of China where both plywood and MDF segments will grow, and since Century Ply has a strong prominence in both the markets, we will continue to cater to all kinds of customers.
Different products have different strong regions in terms of market value. For Century Ply, East and South are stronger for plywood and laminates while north is stronger for MDF due to location of plant. In coming years, we will be focusing on our markets in Western region to bring up the performance like other markets.
B&I: How do you see the balance in your focus on the B2B versus the B2C market spread over your product portfolio? Which solutions do you see more as a B2B and which ones as the more B2C?
NB: For Century Ply, the MDF and PB business cater to OEMs, whereas laminates and plywood cater to end customers. Our focus as a company has always been towards end consumers when it comes to selling our core products. We have a small team handling very large projects and we have always found growth in B2C portfolio. Hence, we have now also launched E-Commerce operation pan India, where the customer can buy CenturyPly products directly from our EShop.
B&I: End-customer involvement and awareness is limited in the building materials market in India. Your opinion on that.
NB: One-fifth of the end customer’s interior budget usually goes into plywood segment alone. According to me, the end customer involvement is not less, but there are several influencers in between who can play a big role in changing consumer’s mind-set – be it dealers, interior designers, or contractors in terms of increasing awareness. We keep trying to educate our consumers through digital initiatives and TVCs.
B&I: The wooden door market has been seeing a lot of activity from established brands. Talk us through your wooden door business – key focus points, product differentiation and customer support?
NB: We have seen huge growth in wooden door market in the last 5-6 years where we have almost quadrupled our wooden doors business. Though all the plywood brands are manufacturing wooden doors, there is a lack of good quality wooden doors in the market. At CenturyPly, we have a separate team for wooden doors. Our focus point is only on development of every town above a certain population. Product differentiation and customer support are same as what we provide for are all the products from house of CenturyPly, best quality products.
B&I: As one of the important players in the Indian building materials market, what is your take on the standardisations in the doors industry? Any special training/educational initiatives on standardisations that you would like to highlight?
NB: For the initial years, we found that standardization in our industry is next to impossible due to the quality of workmanship available in India. Yet in the last 2 years, once we had substantial data to analyse, we discovered that the retail markets in every state have standard sizes that they stock and push into retail. I believe we will manage to standardize at least 80% of the market in the years to come.
B&I: Architects and Interior Designers are an important constituency in the building materials value chain. What are the takeaways for this audience from Century Ply?
NB: We are all intrinsic part of this industry. A customer gets his need of suitable and exquisite design done from an Architect / Interior Designer and his requirement of quality products from brands like us. So, from a customer’s need perspective, we are interconnected. From our point of view Architects and Interior Designers are a very important segment as they play a critical conduit in our products reaching end customers. Our expectation from them is that they keep doing exemplary work, using the entire range of products depending upon the work (from a quality trustworthy brand like CenturyPly) and keep us on our toes by giving us feedback on future changing needs of customers.
B&I: How do you support the Architects and Consultants on their large commercial projects? How are you weathering the post-Covid19 market on your interface with the Specifier community?
NB: We work very closely with the Architect fraternity and support them with innovative solutions. We arrange regular product promotions and demonstrations for their touch-n-feel and assist them with technical knowhow ensuring that they get the best class product.
COVID pandemic has made it challenging to reach out to them physically, but we have largely tackled that part through organizing digital conferences and webinars. In fact, we have found them to be far more receptive and inquisitive about our products while being away for the buzzing office environments.
B&I: What are the communication challenges you see in reaching out to the business audience (B2B) across your product portfolio?
NB: Effective communication is the key to business relationships and our company is very specific on that ethics. Apart from our sales force which interacts with B2B consumers on a day to day basis, we are actively engaged with them through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc. We are prominently visible in the ATL medium as well with our newly launched Virokill Technology. It is our constant endeavour to be on the top of recall value.
B&I: Century Ply is also into LED lighting. What synergies are you able to draw out from the plywood, laminates and doors business for this product line?
NB: LED Business is complete different operations and business for us. It is also in a very different stage as well (in terms of brand journey), hence there is no direct synergy as such. However, currently we are in the process of implementing Theory of constraints in the supply chain of our LED business, which we had executed 2 years ago in plywood business with great success.
B&I: The Architect, Contractor, Installer and Painter (in some cases). With the Architect as the centre point for this universe, as a solution provider in this ecosystem, what are the pitfalls that you look out for?
NB: There are no ‘pitfalls’ as such and we believe in working cohesively with all stakeholders. Architects are indeed the nucleus of activities but contractors, installers also play a vital role in successful completion of these projects.
An architect would need the right product for his use and the contractor would need the same product at a right price and in right time. We at Century Ply always ensure that we meet these expectations.
B&I: What are some of the new solutions, categories that the Indian market can expect from Century Ply?
NB: Century Ply has recently brought Virokill products in market, where the products are now tested to instantly destroy 99.99% single-stranded virus in its exposure. During such a tough time, our R&D team worked overnight to test this technology and get the product out in the market in record time. We have a division in the company that keeps working on new age products and plans to launch one new product every year. Innovative products like PVC sheets and FCB Boards have been the brainchildren of this division. We have grown very successfully in Starke PVC Sheets as well.
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