Established in 1998, Art N Glass Inc. has made a name for itself in the list of top suppliers of glass & glass products in India . Founded by Lokesh pathak , the company has come a long way from its humble beginning to one of the most comprehensive and technologically advanced glass processors in the country, providing complete glass solutions for both interior and exterior applications . The company headquartered in New Delhi, has become a renowned name in almost all vertical related to glass – everything from decorative mirrors to laminated glass , insulated glass, stained glass etc.
In an exclusive interview with window and facade magazine (WFM). partners at ART N Glass Inc., Swapnil Pathak and Satwik Pathak spoke about their family business , state-of-the-art integrated processing facility at kala Amb in Himanchal Pradesh , their products and projects the company’s persistent efforts to improve quality and their future plans .Here are the excerpts from the interview.
Tell us briefly about your company and yourselves?
Swapnil Pathak( Partner, Art N Glass Inc) : I and my brother Satwik Pathak are currently handling the business. My father, Lokesh Pathak, is the Group Chairman and he started this company ( Art N Glass Inc) more than 30 years back in 1986. Now his hard work is being acknowledged and rewarded. I joined the work in 2011.
I am a production engineer from MIT Manipal and did an MBA from SP Jain, Mumbai.
Satwik Pathak (Partner,Art N Glass Inc ): After completing mechanical engineering from MIT, Manipal and Masters in Façades and Fenestration from Germany, I joined Art-N-Glass Inc. in the year 2016.
Swapnil: Art-N-Glass Inc is a very flat family business where our father is the boss. I and Satwik handle different operations and our mother is also actively involved in the business, taking care of accounts and finance. Every breakfast and dinner at home is a board meeting!
You are one of the largest players in the market. That is a great achievement.
Satwik: We are one of the top three players in the glass industry. When it comes to façade, in another 4 or 5 years we aim to reach the top level.
Tell us about some of your major milestones?
Swapnil: We started the business in 1986 as ‘Nangloi Glass’ later renamed as Art-N-Glass. We kept expanding, established a factory in Delhi. We became the biggest in decorative glass and in the specialised interior glass. We started the business of architectural glasses in 2005, producing tempered, laminated, ceramic fritted and insulated glass from our factory in Kala Amb in Himachal. At that time, it was one of the biggest investment in the glass industry. By 2007, we were the biggest in terms of volumes and verticals. Today, with the advancement in technology, Art N Glass Inc has become a renowned name in almost all verticals related to glass – everything from decorative mirrors to insulated glass, bullet proof glasses, automotive glasses, OEMs, and from glass sinks to glass furniture. That was all done during our expansion phase and we have become a company capable of providing complete glass solutions for both interior and exterior applications. We still have our retail presence.
In 2011, we started our uPVC business too. We started another glass factory in 2012 and it is the biggest in India in terms of size. In the factory, we make glasses of huge size, 10ft X 20ft single glasses.
In 2012, we set up our uPVC factory too, partneringn with a German company and bought a complete German set up. For the glass factory, we bought all Italian and Finnish equipments including LiSEC, Tam Glass, Berloni, etc. There are very few Chinese equipments which we have customised according to our liking.
Satwik: We expanded our production capacity to three times in one go in 2012, which was a major milestone. In 2014, we started an aluminium factory with all the machines purchased from Germany-based Alumatic. In 2015, we started our own powder coating plant. It is the only plant in India, which is Qualicoat approved. Whether it is glass, uPVC or aluminium, we tend to take certification from the best in the world. For powder coating, we have certifications from Schueco, AkzsoNobel, Jotun and Qualicoat. Even when we do our own ISO, ERP systems are completely customised in all the verticals. We are hands on with almost all the new technologies. In 2015, we got a new machinery from Holland for glass for heat soaking, which is NRW certified (European certification) – probably the only one in India with this certification.
Swapnil: In 2018, we have developed a lot of in-house systems in aluminium. Earlier, people were importing these from abroad. Retail is a big chunk of our business even now, and a lot of people still prefer aluminium doors and windows. We develop our own systems and we have become a highly R&D focused company.
We have multiple verticals. Art N Glass Inc is the parent company; Green Fenestration – which is our uPVC division, predominantly does retail business, and now entering into projects. Axsys Solutions is an aluminium system solution provider. We are not just fabricators, we do interior aluminium too, like railings. We have our own interior aluminium sliders and doors. For exteriors, we have multiple systems. We have also parted with a German systems, in case client demands for such high-end systems.
In glass, we got three tempering furnaces, two lami lines, two insulation lines, four fritting and four cutting. It is a huge set up for glass. We have a brand of ours.
What is your vision for the future?
Swapnil: We are born into a business family. We have seen its humble beginning and have become one of the top glass companies. That itself is a motivation. Our father is one of the known personalities in the glass industry in India. He is very hardworking and it is inspiring to have someone like him to compete with in running the business. We compete with each other in work within the family and the whole dynamics of the family keeps us going ahead of others. We wish to grow more and expand, and our parents are the real motivation along with many others in our group.
When did you see the real change in the façade industry in terms of technologies and materials?
Swapnil: The change is happening right now! Even while we are talking.
We were selling glass to a lot of fabricators, and all of a sudden the aluminium industry went against credits and was for “cash and carry”. But the glass was still going on a 60-90-120 day credits. Now, with this approach, fabricators business was affected and started shrinking. A lot of big companies had lost their business and took a big hit. This has happened four to five years ago and the impact can be seen even now. We at Art N Glass Inc took a bold decision – not to give credit. Though we lost a little business but we became secure. Then we took a very hard decision to choose our own fabricator with whom we want to work, that too only in advance payment.
Satwik: The transformation in this industry is happening at a very fast pace. We see that none of the glass manufacturer is going to a fabricator, instead, they approach the client directly. Now, these kind of transformations have taken us to the top level.
Looking at the façade industry, most of the big players have lost their game in the past four years. There were none to compete with and we got lucky with our arrival, or we planned it quite rightly. It was a tough two years for us. But the retail being our backbone helped us.
Swapnil: In the case of glass, there were a few other big companies like Tatas, OEMs, which were still buying glass. They had formatted a system and we had to follow the same. Façade business had no streamlined systems earlier. When we started the façade business, everything was a kind of hotchpotch in the industry.
When we look at the façade fabricator’s business in the north, many of them couldn’t do well and vanished in the first few years. Many fabricators from the south and west started working in the north. This was the condition when we entered the aluminium business, and now we have done over 25 projects and have gained trust automatically.
Please tell us about the company facilities?
Swapnil: Right now we have got four factories – two of glass, one of uPVC and one of Aluminium. Aluminium plant basically has two different set up – in one factory, there are two units, a powder coating plant and a PVDF plant. We are planning for an expansion very soon. The factory is in 17 acre land with a built up area of five lakh square feet.
Satwik: We do have the complete setup from glass to glazing, to uPVC, to aluminium and powder coating; there is no need to outsource any work. We provide a complete solution. So when a customer talks about timely delivery, we can give him accurate time for delivery. Impeccable on-time delivery is our forte.
Earlier, customers used to give impossible time lines due to the delay in delivery. But for them, it had always been a nice experience with us and they are more realistic with the timelines now.
What is your company’s contribution in bringing about the current revolution in façade and fenestration industry?
Swapnil: There are very few people in India who have taken very bold step in the glass industry and this has led to a biggest change in the complete fenestration industry. We always think about 5 to 10 years ahead, like – we bought our ceramic digital printing machines 3-4 years back and that time there was no work for those machines. We have foreseen that ceramic digital printing machines will be in demand in the future and now they are getting popular. People rely on us if they need anything related to glass. We are supplying windows to railways and many other real estate projects.
We are not just bound by how the industry works, we try and do lots of different things simultaneously. We mix and match couple of the products to bring a totally innovative product in market. Right now, we are working on bringing 2-3 highly innovative products. R&D and innovation is our strength.
Satwik: We brought a really high spec tempering glass machine in the market at that time when others were predicting it as a wrong decision. We had a very clear vision that we will bring the most complicated glasses like – double silvered and triple silvered glasses in India.
Could you please tell us about some of your projects done with innovative ideas or techniques?
Swapnil: Let me tell you about one of our projects in Mysore. It’s a laminated ceramic digitally printed glass project — a commercial project spread in the area of 1400 Sq m and designed by Ace Group. It has been also awarded as the most innovative façade project. Other than this, there is one project in Goa. This project was also done with the same technique.
We have also done a huge glass project for SBI in Kolkata. Currently, we are doing a new project in Mumbai. This project is very unique because it uses different types of glasses like laminated, bend and tempered glasses.
We are based in Delhi, but are doing lot of projects in Bangladesh, Mysore, Chennai and other parts of India because of our innovative technologies, which no other company is doing. We also cater the needs of the defence sector in India.
How do you help your customers to choose the best products?
Swapnil: We have done decades of business and are one of the top companies. We have a huge knowledge of products. When the architects and the clients have intent and are enthusiastic in achieving their dream designs, we help them a lot in achieving that. We explain them everything about what they need and what they don’t.
Satwik: Earlier, the architects used to get the façade and glass companies on board, but now the clients have started taking us on board from the very initial design stage. Our involvement right from the concept stage gives us the whole outlook and an idea about how the project will look after its completion. We keep on suggesting and helping the clients during the whole process.
How important is the role of glass in the façade system in order to achieve aesthetics, optimum performance, acoustic and thermal insulation?
Swapnil: I think glass is the most important thing, since it covers around 95 to 96 percent of façade system and rest 4-5 percent is covered by aluminium. Façade system and glass are like skeleton and skin, and they both are useless without each other.
Proximity to airports and other noisy areas enquires special kind of glass which has special acoustic characteristics. Do you cater for such projects requiring customised glass?
Swapnil: Of course, yes. We are living in Delhi and the areas closer to the airport, like Dwarka, Gurugram and Vasant Vihar are affected badly. A lot of customers and architects come to us with their demand for the products which can fulfill their need for acoustic. We plan and decide on the most beneficial products with respect to acoustics and combine it with the best glass to achieve the highest acoustic level.
Projects in certain areas of Rajasthan, which experience extreme weather patterns, requires a special kind of glass. Do you cater for such special projects?
Swapnil: Yes, we do provide the special kind of glasses for the projects which require thermal insulation. We have done many projects in areas like where the temperature dips to -5 to -14°C in the winters and in summers it remains 5 to 10°C. For these kind of projects, the products should be of certain U-value because heating causes much more power consumption than cooling.
In Rajasthan, we have done a couple of projects like the R&D Centers in interior Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Jaipur. Even in Delhi, the temperature goes to 45 to 48°C in summers. For these different locations, we design the products in such a way that they suit those weather conditions.
If we choose the right glass it means that 90 per cent of the desired result is already being achieved. Rest also depend upon the kind of system we are choosing. For a few places uPVC works amazingly well, for few we have to go with thermally broken aluminium systems.
Could you please brief our readers on the importance of testing of façade as well as the material goes into it?
Satwik: The products are tested not just once, but many times for different features. The system initially has to be tested in laboratories; we have a few labs in India where this can be done. The basic testings like – water testing, air penetration, wind load testing, etc., can be done on a day to day basis. If it is a bespoke system, then it needs to be tested by an expert before it goes for any project. Now, as the heights are going higher, the sizes are becoming bigger and even the wind loads are also increasing, and to tackle these situations the system needs to have very good performance levels. Only if the system can meet such levels, the buildings can last for 25 to 30 years. The testing has a very big role now.
Who are doing the testing for your façades?
Satwik: There are only two companies which are doing façade testing in India – one is in Mumbai and other one is in Bangalore. The companies are: Winwall and Façade India Testing.
How do you ensure the quality of your glass and aluminium?
Swapnil: We have our own labs for testing the quality of our products. We have a very strict policy, and have a huge set up, where our quality managers check the quality of each and every one of our products.
In India, we haven’t developed any such quality standards, but we follow European standards for the quality check of all our products, as the Europeans stick to stringent standards and are very conscious about their quality.
What are the criteria for choosing a glass for a typical high rise building? What advice do you give to your clients?
Swapnil: It depends on client requirement the four basic needs on which we typically ask clients to pick is: 1. acoustics; 2. safety; 3. energy Efficiency and 4. aesthetics. On these four basic parameters we tend to choose our glass.
Generally people have their budgets and pursuing that budget we try and give them the best possible combination so that both the pocket and the projects are happy.
Once a glass is finalised in terms of these four parameters, then we go into technical requirements -for example, for the panel size, what kind of dead loads and wind loads will be affected on the same, and hence thickness of the glass and the spacer is determined.
Could you please tell us about the challenging façades in case of parametric façades?
Swapnil: A dome project in Punjab, which we completed two years back, was a challenging one. It was on the 7th or 8th floor and was a hollow structure from ground floor to top. In this project, around 500-600 glasses were used and all the glasses were either triangular or hexagonal. Every glass was practically different, and was double-laminated. This skylight project was the one which we designed with some special techniques and it was a very special design for an Indian structure. There were quiet many challenges, but we gave our best to deliver that project.
What are the major hurdles in the Indian construction scenario considering façades?
Swapnil: In India, people want to get a good product in lesser money. There are a lot of companies who can offer good looking product in lesser money, but there will be no assurance of the quality of those products. It is the biggest problem seen in India.
The big companies like L&T are using quality products, but there are few local projects which are using the inferior products in order to minimize the cost and those are the biggest challenges.
How is the competition in the market? Where do you see the industry in next five years?
Swapnil: It is a very different kind of market now. There are a few clients who know from whom they want the product to be purchased or installed, but there are also a few people who cannot differentiate between two companies and their products.
There are cases in which people don’t even know about façade. The market is open for the discussion, some people will quote unitise, while others will quote semi unitise and this leads to a big hassle in the industry.
I think the glass and façade is going into a stage of filtration, clients are understanding this and many of the people might exit from this business.
For the next two years the market position is not expected to be good since people will not exit and it will result in in price crashing and the projects will be half-developed. Such half-done projects will create huge problems as no new person will take the responsibility of completing these projects half done by someone else.
The next 2-3 years will be difficult, but after that the future is good for the industry.
What are your expectations for company in next five years?
Swapnil: We at Art N Glass Inc see ourselves on top in next five years. We want our company(Art N Glass Inc) to be known as a system solution provider – not just as a fenestration company or glass company. We want to do everything on time with best quality. We are already giving our every six months in getting a new product and we will keep this consistency in future also.