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“We Churn Out the Products That Could Withstand Stringiest of Quality Measures”
Nikhil Arora, Virgo Group of Companies
Please Tell us About your Company Virgo Laminate Group and Yourself? How long you have been in this Business and in the Indian Market?
I am one of the directors of Virgo Group. As a group, we are not only into manufacturing of laminates, we have six divisions – laminate, plywood, aluminium sheets, ACP, PVC, and the last and the most recent one, the pharma, where we produce IV fluid, cough syrup and liquid injections.
I am personally in this business for the last 12 years. We are in the Indian market for the past 27 years. Pan India, we have a total of 9 plants. Three of our plants are in Dera Bassi in Punjab; two are in Kala Amb, Himachal; one in Hoshiarpur, Punjab; one in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan. In the west, we have a plant in Ahmedabad and in the south, we have one in Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh.
In total, we have 24 lines for making laminates. After the installation of all the lines in our plants to their full capacity, we will be Asia’s largest producers of laminates. Also, we are among the top manufacturers of aluminium from more than a decade.
As per our present data, we are associated with over 12,000 dealers. We are trying to increase the transactions with them, which is our first motive. The second motive is to increase the number of distributors in tier two and tier three cities. These will surely increase the volume of our sales.
We are planning to penetrate into the rural areas, where the demand for laminates and the ACP is increasing since these products are no more considered as luxury products. ACP is being used even in small-scale shops in rural areas since they are the best and cheapest alternative, at the same time long-lasting. ACP is being used in signage too.
In rural areas, since there are not many options, there is not much of price negotiation too. Till now we have about 36 branches in India, including ACP. This will help the easy availability of our products, even in Tier 2 and 3 cities, where the demand is much higher. Markets in Tier 1 cities are very competitive, where we find plenty of price war. We are increasing our volume to cater to this demand.
We have four warehouses outside India, which are in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. About 25% of laminates, 30% of aluminium, 5% of ACP and 30% of pharma produced are exported. We are targeting our exports to grow manifold in the next couple of years.
Tell us Briefly About your Journey with the Company over the Years?
ACP Sheet Making in ACP Factory at Ahmedaba
We started the company in 1993 and our first plant was for plywood. It took some time to understand the market and capture it. Then we found that there is a big scope for the laminate industry, we set up our second factory, the first one for laminates, in 2000. The consumption of the market was very high at that time and there were very few competitors. In 2006, we opened a very big plant in Himachal. We got around 5 lines in Himachal. We were doing very well, and we felt the need to diversify our business.
In 2010, we started the aluminium business, and presently we are the largest producer of aluminium roll sheet product, which is used in manufacturing chequered plates (used in the flooring of buses, buildings etc.), aluminium foil for food packing, fan blades (which we are supplying to big companies like Usha, Bajaj, Havells), car engine heat shields, radiator/ AC fins, bottle caps, LED lights, etc.
Aluminium was a completely different line and market. But we did very well. It took 6 years to settle down. There are only 4 companies in India which produce aluminium roll products. Then in 2015, we opened a new factory for laminates at Bhiwadi in Rajasthan.
We got 4 lines there. It helped us to reduce the freight cost and to capture the middle and west India markets. Then we opened another factory for laminates in Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh. This helped us to capture the markets in the south. The last and the biggest factory opened in Ahmedabad in about 55 acres, where we manufacture ACP.
We will start producing aluminium and laminates in the next 6 months. The Mundra port is very nearby and we will start exporting from there soon. We are the second-largest producer of aluminium roll products in India. We got very good clients in the USA, UK, Australia and Dubai.
For laminates, we want to expand outside India, and we are already exporting to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. We are planning to export it to Dubai, the USA and the Netherlands. We took over of the pharma business last year and it is a different division altogether. And it is a new business for us.
What are the Exterior Cladding Product Categories offered by Virgo Industries?
Coming up with the New Plant at Ahmedabad, Gujarat
We manufacture three types of cladding materials: 1. HPL laminates, 2. ACP and 3. Solid aluminium sheets. We are among only a few companies in the world that can provide all three solutions for building façades. While we are doing a lot of innovation in ACP, we are also keeping our focus on HPL laminate cladding and solid aluminium.
Every product has its own market and its own customers. We are therefore ready to meet the expectations of façade consultants, architects and customers by fulfilling their façade dream by supplying the right product.
In ACP, we have the most advanced A2 Grade along with other grades of FR Category ACP. We have done a lot of innovation in colours and designs in the ACP market in India. In fact, our new production line of ACP is the only of its kind in India. We have recently launched a wooden collection inspired by designers from Singapore.
Similarly, for HPL cladding laminates, we don’t need any introduction as we are the largest producer of laminates in India. Our expertise in this product is unmatchable. Also, a solid aluminium panel is the new development for the façade. We are making aluminium products for more than a decade. And we are proud to say that we are the only company in façade business that has its own aluminium-making capacities.
Throw Some Light on your Company Facilities and Structure.
Aggarwal Hotels, Kota, Rajasthan
Right now we have over 4000 employees, including labourers. Structure-wise, we are adopting the lead-based system for business and are upgrading ourselves. Even we are going for SAP right now. Regarding the facilities for employees, we are giving many plusses like medical insurance and other benefits. We give free food to almost all our employees.
We have a few landmark training programmes for our employees. Also, we organize motivational seminars for our key employees. We send many of them abroad and within India for such seminars and training, which are definitely adding value to our company. In our organisation, everyone works like a family and all of us drive forward for a common goal.
How do you see your Business Evolving?
We are Asia’s largest manufacturer of laminates with sales of more than 14 lacs sheet per month. As mentioned earlier, we have doubled up our production capacities and our target is to become the top player in the world laminate industry. With the new Ahmedabad plan, our aluminium sheet production will also double up and our total production figures will grow by 7500 tonnes per month.
Similarly, in ACP, we have the latest technologies in place. We are having the best and most modern technologies to produce the ACP sheets of international quality standards. While there is a lot of demand for FR Grade ACP. We have got our products also certified from Exova, Warrington Fire, UK. We are observing that the focus of the country is increasing towards infrastructure and as a building material producer, we see a lot of opportunity in the future.
Virgo is a manufacturing company with a distinct and dedicated vision. It believes in churning out products that not just withstand stringiest of quality measurements, but also delight and surprise its customers with their sheer perfection in making.
What has Been Your or Your Organisation’s Contribution to Bringing about the Current Revolution in the Façade Cladding and the Fenestration Sector?
We have always been a pioneer in terms of technology and innovation. Since our entry into façade segment, we have always promoted the most advanced products.
Since our launch in ACP, we have focussed on FR Grade ACP. Not only this, we have invested in A2 manufacturing facilities at a time when people have very less information about the same. We continuously focus to educate industry about the latest technology innovations in façade. We believe that technologies like A2 FR Grade will bring a new revolutionary change in the whole façade industry.
Also, the solid aluminium panels are one of the new revolutions in this industry. We are working on this product to make it more easy and usable for façade consultants and architects.
Cladding Industry is not just about production, but about the protection of the environment also. Aluminium is 100 per cent recyclable. There is no damage to the earth caused by the product. Almost 80 per cent of the aluminium products manufactured are recycled and reused.
In ACPs, we promote FR ACP and A2 ACP – both are fireproof/ fire resistant and are UK-certified products. In many countries, it is mandatory to go for A2 ACP.
Please tell us About a Few of your Iconic and Innovative Projects.
We have done over 1500 projects including commercial, hospitality, residential, institutional, retail, office, healthcare and many government projects across India. Some of our recent projects are the legislative building in Srinagar, Terminal 2 at the Delhi airport, the railway stations in Amritsar and Mugalsarai, and many residential projects in Punjab, UP and Haryana.
We are also doing all the signage for Samsung and MI phones. The biggest mall in India at Bengaluru, by Sobha Builders, is done by us with over 80,000 sq m of ACP applied. There are many more institutional, hospital and commercial projects to mention. Also, we are doing many FR Grade ACP projects, solid aluminium panel projects and HPL cladding projects throughout the country.
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?
Narayna Guru Hall, Trissur, Kerala
Most of the properties, like thermal insulation or acoustic performance, are the same whether you are using aluminium, ACP or HPL. There is not much difference. There are a lot of incidences of ACP flying off or falling off and causing damage during heavy winds.
Will the Aluminium Cladding Help in this Case?
It all depends on the fabrication part of ACP. If it is not done in the right way, (if it is not fitted well on aluminium sections) ACP cannot withstand wind pressure and it falls off. To save some money, people go for low-quality ACP and aluminium profile. One should go for qualified and certified products.
I believe, if you will not use the right product with the right quality and right specifications, you will not be able to achieve the system performance you are expecting. This applies to everything from the alloy of aluminium used to the kind of adhesives matters for making the right product. The cladding material is the most important of any façade system, if your product is not right, you cannot have the right output for your building envelope – aesthetically or performance-wise.
How well Aware do you Think are the Decision-Makers like Architects and Builders About the Availability of the Cladding Products, its Functionality and Categories?
Ideal Decor, Kannur, Kerala
Architects are well aware of the latest materials and they are doing a very good job by changing the face of the city-scapes. But sometimes, there are some wrong notions. For example, people have stopped using ACP and have migrated to HPL, though both the products are equally good. Yes, some products of ACP got faded out. But this would happen if one is using cheap, low-quality material.
When one goes for PE grade or PU grade, there is no warranty, it could fade in a few years. We are producing 100 per cent PVDF and we give 15 year warranty on our products. For HPL, we give 10 to 15 years warranty. The thickness of aluminium should be specified in the ACP. In some high-end projects, even with the best architect and the builder, if the aluminium cladding used is not of the right thickness, then the quality will get affected.
If the budget is reduced, then the supplier will supply low quality material. The thickness of aluminium is important. So the use of material varies from project to project based on the budget. In places like Ahmedabad, some buildings have used very high-quality materials which can be compared to high-end projects in Europe. They are using aluminium sheets for cladding in a very innovative way, applying perforated cladding on façades, designed and made using CNC machines.
Residential Project, Faridabad, Haryana
I think the architects, builders and façade consultants are very much aware and focussed on choosing the right product. But the implementation has to be controlled and checked. We should promote the right product and right specifications. Also the focus needs to be increased on whether the right product has been used or not. Since there are so many suppliers, and in this competition inferior quality material is being used at times, that gives a bad name to both the organisation and product category as well.
What is the Emphasis Laid on R&D, Especially for the Indian Market?
We are investing a lot in R&D. We are getting a number of experts from Germany to train our employees in India. China too is good in technology, and we are open to adopting any new technology in order to improve the quality of the product. They come to our factory, and train our experts on the latest in technology and share with us the latest in technology. In ACP, we are doing anti-fading treatments with some chemicals, which we learnt through such training.
We do R&D day and night for the betterment of products and for the better future of our country. Our products are premium in quality and one need not go for imported products at all. In a few months, we will be providing the entire aluminium sheet systems for wall cladding. The aluminium profiles needed would be imported and our systems would be foolproof systems with technology from Germany.
What do you See as the Main Challenges Faced by the Cladding Industry?
The main challenges are competition, a reduced price of products and low-quality products. The products specified are not supplied as per specifications and due to this the companies making good product have to face the heat.
Also, the strict rules and specification for the façade is a challenge, but we see it as an opportunity as not everyone could withstand this. Innovation and choices are also a challenge and we are gearing up to meet this at every front.
Tell us About your Channel Expansion Strategies in the Market.
We are expanding our business to tier 2 and tier 3 cities through dealers and distributors. We got about 32 warehouses in India with 4 outside India. What keeps your company ahead of its competitors in terms of products and services offered? We always provide our customers with the best of the products at a very reasonable price.
Our USP is the service. We provide the best possible one. More number of warehouses and distribution channels help us a better reach. Wherever you go, you can get our company, product catalogues through our dealers and distributor. Every client needs better service, not just looking at the money alone. Time is very important. Finishing the projects within the time given is important.
How do you See the Cladding and Door Industry Evolving over the Next 5 Years?
Le crest hospital, Ghaziabaad, Uttar Pradesh
In the next five years, we will see a huge change in the market in terms of pricing, quality and variety. People are ready to invest large amount and time on façades. Earlier, this was of the last priority. Every company is fighting for a good and innovative façade for their building. I feel that every firm should have a separate team for façade only. The penetration of the products in the market has improved. With the ACP or aluminium cladding, the building looks like a seamless building.
With the government focus on infrastructure and users focus on best of façade, we see a lot of opportunity for us. large amount and time on façades. Earlier, this was of the last priority. Every company is fighting for a good and innovative façade for their building. I feel that every firm should have a separate team for façade only.
The penetration of the products in the market has improved. With the ACP or aluminium cladding, the building looks like a seamless building. With the government focus on infrastructure and users focus on best of façade, we see a lot of opportunity for us.
Nikhil Arora, Virgo Group of Companies
Nikhil Arora, Director, Virgo Group is a hands-on marketing leader and a technology adopter, helming the Virgo group and driving its aggressive growth targets. He gets it done by leading multi-faceted teams across the organisation and establishing strong collaborations with multiple stakeholders. A result-oriented motivational leader, he inspires his teams to embrace the company’s vision and operate at peak performance, driving meaningful actions that produce measurable outcomes. The Virgo Group of Companies is one of the largest multinational manufacturer, marketer and distributor of aluminium rolled products, ACPs, laminates and plywood, with more than a million square feet of manufacturing space and over 3000+ employees - delivering tons of units to market every week. Nikhil Arora explains his company’s business, production facilities, products, policies and the market for the exterior cladding products like aluminium sheets, ACPs, laminates and plywood in India and worldwide. Here are the excerpts from the interesting interview.