With their flagship brand Cateye Ply, Indian Plywood Co., based in Yamunanagar, is a well-known name in premium-quality plywood manufacturing. They ventured into the wood panel industry with plywood manufacturing in 2014. Today, they are proud of the fact that 95% of their customers are repeat customers. The brand enjoys a great success and contributes a lot to the industry with their premium-quality offerings. Mr Om Mangla, Director, Indian Plywood Co. spoke to the Ply Reporter about their entry into calibrated plywood manufacturing and expansion plan for future needs. Here is a brief on the discussion.
Q. How has been your journey so far in the wood panel industry?
We have been actively manufacturing wood panel products since 2014 under the guidance of my father Mr Anurag Gupta. I joined Mr Rajiv Kumar in 2019, who has been involved with this industry since 1998. The journey so far has been challenging, but satisfying as we overcome them easily and moved ahead. When we first launched production in 2014, twoto three years things were relatively smooth, but after 2018, there was severe shortage of timber and in 2020 COVID hit new world order, which created a difficult unforeseen and unpredictable situation. We believe that the ups and downs are in every industry, and if an industrialist wishes to move ahead, they have to face those challenges.
It's in that periodthat we realised that the future would be with factory made furniture. Good Caibrated plywood will be a must have for any furniture manufacturer using good hi-end machines. Understanding this we started manufacturing calibrated plywood in 2021. Initially we had a difficult time as the product was new to us.But soon our product gained popularity and we have been operating at full capacity since September 2022. Today we have company stock point in Ahmedabad to cater to the western market.We are now a leading brand, offering high-quality products such as block board, flush doors, calibrated plywood, and, most recently, 100% machine core & panel composed plywood. We are making plywood with four press technology. Our sister concern, Jai Hanuman Plywood, is also doing well in wood panel manufacturing.
Q. What is your business model, and to which segment of the customer base do you cater most?
Our business model is based on distributors’ channels. Currently, we have 15 distributors, mostly covering the regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, UP, Rajasthan, J&K, etc. We offer our products under the CATEYE Ply brand, which has different ranges like Armour , Primerce , Primerce Plus , Seaspark , Clubtech , Sparkshield etc. We are in the final stages with our expansion plan to double production by the early start of the next financial year. By 2024, we hope to have a laminate manufacturing plant as well as a shuttering plywood manufacturing with two presses of 25 delights each. This will enable us to cater to a wide range of customers based on different segments. With our premium quality plywood offerings, we currently cater to our customer base in the premium segment, major OEMs, and leading Architects across more than 15 states.
Q. What is the specialty of your plywood offerings?
The speciality of our plywood offering is that it is 100% calibrated plywood, made in Matt process with a thickness variation of maximum 0.20 mm, which is perfect for machine operations and excellent for OEMs, architects, and interior designers’ needs. Through our own process we’ve equalled and in some cases even bettered the Calibration offered by MDF Boards. We are currently working on successfully manufacturing laminated plywood, which will be launched very soon. The range of offerings is 4mm to 36mm, of which 16mm and 19mm are most demanded. Currently, our production capacity is 50 tonnes per day with 12 delights on two presses, and within the next 2 months we are set to achieve 100tonnes per day.
Q. What attracted you to expand your capacity, especially in calibrated plywood?
Post Covid there has been a rampant growth in the demand for good Indian made factory furniture. Imports are on their decline and getting tougher with the uncertainties involved. Locally, skilled carpenters are getting scarce. With the rising real estate prices, customers demand and want faster execution in furniture making. Good machines require good panels and plywood for Indian customer is an irreplaceable panel in furniture making. We are committed to keep innovating in such a way that price no longer remains a factor. As a result, we are expanding our premium quality offerings. Our 16-mm calibrated plywood is more commonly consumed by OEMs based in Gujarat, Bangalore, Noida, Jaipur, etc.
Q. How do you see the northern region's timber scarcity, and what would be the incumbent's policy to ensure a continuous supply?
The current situation is challenging for the wood panel industry, with high scarcity of raw materials. In particular, the availability of wood is decreasing and prices are shooting up every day. However, our strategy is to obtain the timber on 100% immediate payment basis, which allows us to obtain high-quality timber at a reasonable price. Even ,with rising costs due to our upfront payment policy, we are comfortably able to procure high quality timber. I don’t think the situation is going to ease in the near future. We are competing on price by lowering our margins and serving our customer base. I see that in the premium segment the demand is good, so with the same strategy we are expanding the production capacity.
Q. What challenges do you see with MDF and particle board?
Plywood is the all-time favourite for the customers, and I believe that MDF and particle board will not replace it at every level. Although demand for plywood has been affected, but specially calibrated quality plywood has made an impact and has become the first choice in the premium segment. There is no challenge for calibrated plywood as it has various features like uniform thickness, high screw ability, load bearing strength, longevity, no bending, no warping, small core gap, etc. So, it has various advantages over MDF and particle board that suit Indian consumers. Calibrated plywood is a perfect fit for OEMs since their machines require uniform thickness. Calibrated plywood demand is picking up at a fast pace for modular kitchen and furniture manufacturing.
Q. What is your plan for the next five years?
The current industry aspects are unpredictable, and industry players are in a dilemma. But, following our passion, we have to make plywood a big brand and expand our reach. It should come to the customers' minds when they think of plywood, and for that reason, we are doubling our production capacity and customer serviceability. We are also expanding our shuttering plywood production by installing two presses of 25 delights, with production beginning in the middle of this year.
With these initiatives, we see good brand visibility and attain a position in the panel industry. We are venturing into the laminate segment under the same brand, Cateye. The material will be promoted, and within two years, commercial production will start. Government projects are our direct consumers that will help us in terms of maintaining a continuous demand for our offerings. Also, with the growth of the economy, the demand for houses is increasing, so the demand for good-quality panel products will increase.
Q. What is your message to the channel partners and the industry?
I would like to say that focusing on selling good-quality products will help us gain goodwill and popularise the brand. With goodwill, you will get repeat customers. Make efforts to get the rising input costs accepted in the market. The industry players should also not oversupply, stop counterfeiting, and start working on brands. The advertising benefits only when the quality is good, as it gives a brand recall and finalises the purchase decision of the customers if the product is good. Cateye has a track record of getting 95% repeat customers, which we wish to maintain.