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“We, as a Company, have Always been Innovation-Driven”
By: Shankho Chowdhury
WFM Media is honoured to interview Shankho Chowdhury on his professional journey over 30 years, his company and products. Excerpts from his interview:
Give us a brief introduction to CenturyPly as a global brand and its inception in India?
CenturyPly Boards (India) Ltd., the first ISO 9002 Company in India for plywood and veneers, started its operations in 1986 and also received the ISO 14001 Certification in 2004. In a very short span, it has created a niche for itself and is the market leader in this sector. It has manufacturing units in Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati, Roorkee, Karnal, Kandla, Hoshiarpur & Myanmar, with plans to set up operations in the African continent also.
CenturyPly Boards India Ltd. (CPIL) manufactures the entire range of commercial, marine, shuttering and decorative plywood. Other products are laminates, veneers, doors, MDF, PRELAM, Face-veneers, Exteria exterior laminates, WPC boards and fibre cement boards. It exports to various countries, mainly in the Middle- East and Latin America.
How long you have been in this business and in the Indian market?
CenturyPly has been in the business since 1986. We are in the business for over 34 long years.
Tell us briefly about the journey with CenturyPly over the years, also about your major success stories over the decades in India?
We, as a company, have always been innovation-driven. Hence the graph of our journey has been never a straight line. In 2004, we started manufacturing decorative laminates in our Joka factory in Kolkata. Decorative industry has given us a huge playground to play with and we have not stopped since its inception branching out to Veneers and Exteria. The 1MM Laminate Catalogue called LookBook was introduced as an annual activity from 2014, making it India’s most comprehensive and up-to-date catalogue with the latest international trends.
Following which in 2015, Silver Nano Technology was introduced making our laminates anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. The popular high- gloss laminate range called Lucida was introduced and it made a huge impact in the market especially for high-scuff areas. In 2017, capacity augmentation was done by adding a second High Pressure Laminates (HPL) plant, making it India’s largest laminate manufacturing operation. In 2018, CenturyLaminates launched the first solid surface finish range of laminates called Silk Tuff. We have also developed a first-in-theindustry ‘Design Library’ for our range of products in laminates to enable architects and interior designers to visualise and experiment with their design ideas in their drawing softwares like AutoCad/3D Max, etc. which was much ahead of the digital age.
How has the pandemic affected the industry in India and your business?
The pandemic has impacted every Individual life, therefore, wood and decorative surface industries couldn’t remain untouched. There was an immediate pause in every aspect of business due to the halt of construction and repair work. However, with our persistence and prompt efforts, we could ramp up our sales with record-breaking numbers in a very short span of time.
This pandemic has increased worry about well-being at large, not only amongst end consumers but also amongst manufacturers, retailers and applicators like carpenters, masons, etc. This mindset has changed consumer and applicator preference in the selection of building material products so as to ensure the health and safety of themselves and their dependents. In order to address this concern, our research and development team worked diligently during the lockdown and developed our latest and probably our biggest innovation till date “ViroKill”, a technology that kills 99.99 per cent viruses, making our laminate and veneer surfaces completely anti-viral along with being anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. ViroKill was the need of the hour during this pandemic and it has helped us realise the importance of solution driven innovations in our products. We hope to achieve many such milestones in the future.
What are the product categories offered by CenturyPly?
CPIL primarily operates through three business segments as under: Plywood: CPIL’s plywood products used extensively in commercial and industrial settings. Its plywood is wrap resistant, which helps maintain its original shape for long-term. Its unique GLP formula makes every ply borer resistant and termite-proof. The company also guarantees seven-year powder proof for PF plywood. Some of the prominent brands under this category are Club Prime, ArchitectPly, FireWall and MarinePly. It also manufactures doors and blockboard, and retails fibre cement boards and WPC boards.
Decoratives: CenturyLaminates’ exotic range of decorative laminates is considered for its higher colour-fastness and the best bonding properties with substrates. Some of the prominent brands under this segment include Look Book range of 1mm thickness laminates, and StarLine 0.8mm range. The exterior range of laminates is retailed under the brand name Exteria. CenturyVeneers has some of the most exotic ranges of natural and reconstituted veneers under the retail brands NatzuraWoods, SenzuraStyles, NaturePro, Dark Forest and ProgettoWood.
Container Freight station (CFS): CPIL’s CFS facility is spread over an area of 100,000 Sq m near Kolkata port with a capacity to handle 160,000 TEUs. The company uses RFID/GPS/GPRS based container tracking system.
Please tell us about your company facilities and structure?
Headquartered out of Kolkata, CenturyPlyl has over 35 branches and 8 manufacturing units (located at Joka, West Bengal; Guwahati, Assam; Kandla, Gujarat; Chennai, TN; Karnal, Haryana; Roorkee, Uttarakhand; Hoshiarpur, Punjab and Myanmar).
How do you see the façade cladding industry evolving in India?
Façade holds a great deal of aesthetic value for any building, whether it is commercial or residential. With changing design and functional preferences, there has been a shift from traditional wet façade elements such as bricks, stones, and wood to newage elements and composites around HPL or fibre cement. There are also significant technological advancements and novelties in the industry that are aiding in evolving consumer preference. We have seen that currently highpressure laminate cladding and stone veneers are a few of the most popular cladding options in India. Other than this, perforated metal mesh claddings are also in the trend, mostly for commercial buildings and factories. Using fibre cement or HPL as a cladding element is still a new concept in India and we believe it has a huge scope and its market is growing rapidly.
Of late, the area of advanced materials and technologies has progressed rapidly. New researches on nano-materials and smart composites imitating natural structures and processes are trialed almost every day within the technologies. In the architectural field, and especially in the sector of building cladding, only a trivial amount of such advanced technologies have settled. As an alternative to traditional mechanisms and techniques, architects and civil engineers are nowadays using enhanced composite materials to provide crafted and efficient façades.
What has been your or your organisation’s contribution to bringing about the current revolution in the façade cladding sector?
In 2012, when Centuryply launched their exterior grade laminates range, this category in India was in its neonatal stage. It was the time, when only a handful of foreign players were prevalent in the market, catering to a tiny splinter of the industry; and from there to here, today, exterior grade HPL is considered as the most popular dry cladding member across the façade cladding sector. In all likelihood, the credit goes to CenturyPly. Over these years, CenturyPly has incessantly harnessed the sector through continuous innovations and phenomenal application novelties. The organisation has launched several exclusive product variants, introduced new shades, and most importantly, has rationalised the price points which has radically augmented the penetration.
As per your view, how important is the role of right cladding in achieving system performance, optimum acoustic and thermal insulation as well as in achieving the desired aesthetics?
It doesn’t require stating discretely that environment protection is the biggest concern world is facing right now; bearing this in mind, the building material manufacturers have actively engaged themselves in introducing more and more environmentally-friendly products, and the façade industry is no exception. The construct of a building façade immensely influences the system performance, acoustic, thermal insulation and also the peripheral environmental health.
Hence it is imperative to apply typical dry and green cladding materials, like HPL, only in the façade, because this product creates a gap in between the wall and cladding product lining, providing a layer of air cushion that acts as a thermal barrier, enhancing the overall system performance of the building. Dry cladding members can also realistically emulate the look of genuine wood, stone, solid and many other abstract surfaces, which help the patrons to achieve the desired aesthetics.
How well aware do you think the decision-makers are in general about the availability of the cladding products, its functionality & categories? And how do they gauge the effectivity of the same?
When it comes to cladding, though the most common choice used to be ACP, still when investing in a new asset, many architects are faced with a choice between different kinds of options available. There were days when exterior grade HPL was used to be confined within a certain kind of application only, but now the scenario has changed. Now, more and more people are yearning for the authentic wooden, stone or abstract look for their façades and the demand of the exterior grade laminate is increasing considerably.
Does the demand for wall cladding materials is expected to escalate in near future? What is your industry outlook for this decade?
When it comes to cladding, the common choices were paint or wet cladding materials. Days were there when dry cladding members were used to be confined within a certain kind of application only, but now the scenario has changed. Now more and more people are yearning for the authentic wooden, stone, abstract or customised looks for their façade claddings and the demand of different kinds of cladding members are increasing considerably, so unsurprisingly the dry cladding Industry is also going to grow manifold in this coming decade and within the category, new age products like HPL will be the crusader.
President, Decoratives Division,
Shankho Chowdhury, President - Decoratives Division, CenturyPly, is an astute business operations professional with 30+ years of total experience including organisations like Xerox, Shinawatra, Hutch, Vodafone, Reliance, Airtel, etc. He has immense expertise in startups and high growth of organisations, having been credited with building the strategies, teams & execution of organisations like Xerox, Hutch & Vodafone, RCom, Airtel’s Landline & Broadband Operations and, later, CenturyPly itself. Post his stint in the OA & IT Industry, he moved from technology services to consulting in the ITES, telecom & construction equipment sectors and areas of livelihood skilling of the underprivileged. He is currently the operations head spearheading the high velocity growth in the decorative line of business in CenturyPly.