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We Aim to be India’s Most Trusted, Innovative & Technologically Advanced Building Façade Company
Uniglaze, a Bengaluru-based company, is the first automated plant in the country for manufacturing façade and fenestration products. The plant, which started commercial production in the month of August 2017, is making enormous waves in the façade industry and is literally seeming to touch the sky off lately. In an exclusive interaction with WFM, Aditya Kankaria, who dreams to see his company in the list of top three façade manufacturers in the country in the coming years, discusses about the company’s specialities, strategies for the Indian market and the state of the industry.
Tell us briefly about your company, your journey and the milestones achieved over the years?
Uniglaze has started production in October 2017, our aim is to make Uniglaze India’s most trusted, innovative and technologically- advanced building façade company. We are already executing projects in in Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi and Kolkata.
Prior to starting of Uniglaze, I was in my family business of real estate development and concrete products manufacturing. We were looking at backward integration to manufacture façades and windows for our own projects. But, post studying various factories in Europe and the Middle East, and doing a detailed market survey in south India, we realised that there are a very few players in the market who provide quality façades and windows. Based on this, we set up the first automated plant for façade manufacturing here in Bengaluru.
In less than a year, our company has more than 115 members on our team, The largest project we have done so far is a 32,000 sq m job, the North Gate IT SEZ project for the North Gate Developers, which was completed in a span of four months. We have worked with Olympia Developers, DLF, Brigade & Sattava Group too. The North Gate and Olympia Tekno are our completed projects.
Tell us about your company’s facilities, structures and production capacity?
Our factory is located in a two acre land in an industrial area at Malur, which is about 40 km from Bengaluru. We have 45,000 sq ft of covered space, accommodating an automatic line and the entire supporting machine. We have materials handling equipment, a dedicated conveyor system for glazing, and temperature control room for silicon applications. As a company, we are in the final stages of SAP Implementation that would help us bring in better control to our processes. It is one of the most modern manufacturing facilities.
The installed capacity is between 150,000 to 1600,000 sq m of curtainwall production. If you look at in terms of unitized curtainwall, we can produce up to 130 to 150 sq m unitised panels per day.
What are the product categories offered by Uniglaze?
We are into curtainwalls, both unitized and semi unitized, aluminium composite panels, and windows and door industries. We are also doing claddings like MS Structures, mesh work, canopies, solid aluminium sheet etc., based on the requirement of the project. We provide complete solutions for façades.
Our major work is in the curtainwall category. In window category, we are only doing Olympia Good Wood Residences in Chennai and Myra home in Bengaluru. We are doing only two projects in the category – door and window. But predominantly 80 to 90 percent of our business is façade related.
Where are you sourcing the machinery from?
All our Aluminium processing machines are from Italy and USA. Our metal working machines are from India. The tools and equipment are from multinational makes.
Could you please tell us about the company’s structure?
We have a board of directors comprising of Subhas Chand Kankaria, Ajit Chordia and myself. I look after the daily operations as Managing Director of the company. We have a GM – Operations, and under him each department has managers. The company has 115 people on the payroll. All the department heads have been delegated decision making powers for the smooth functioning of the organization. We encourage them to be proactive in decision making and review the same in weekly structured meetings.
As a façade company, could you please tell us about your specialties, your approach to the business and the products?
Firstly, we work closely with the clients. We help the clients make an informed decision by educating them on the quality and standards of windows and façades, and giving a checklist to check our products, which is as per European standards. Secondly, we are the first company in India with state-of-the-art automated plant which makes us capable of maintaining the level of quality and yet have high production capacities. The machines have been imported from Italy. We have invested heavily in technology and on building the right team, which I feel is very critical.
Please brief about the various steps in executing a project?
Firstly, we submit the documents to the client and our bid for it. Once the project is awarded to us, we sit down with our client and prepare a detailed timeline as what they are looking at and what are the conditions. We do not give any false commitment in terms of timelines. It won’t be practically possible to meet the timeline if it is fictional. The micro schedule is prepared. Even if there is a delay, per se, it is brought into the notice of the customers well in advance. Correctional steps are taken immediately.
What kind of role the architects, façade consultants and the fabricators play in your projects?
In the management side, I am directly in touch with architects, façade consultants, key developers, etc. My team consultants and the General Manager are also being directly in touch with them. Façade consultants play a very important role in every project. They help to bring in the right standards and quality in the project. Earlier, developers were not fully aware of the requirements like standard and quality of façade materials. A façade consultancy is like a structural consultant. The consultants are the people who ensure that the façade meets all the design requirements. Along with other industry members, they bring in quality and standards for the projects. Their involvement has helped to change the face of the façade industry in the last 5 to 10 years, and how India is progressing in the sector.
How well aware do you think are the decision makers in general about the availability of cladding materials, especially glazing products, functionalities, and categories? How do you help them to gauge?
Nowadays, developers are well aware of different types of cladding materials and qualities. We are able to propose to the architects so that they can incorporate it in the upcoming projects. We know that everyday a new product is being introduced in the market. Our responsibility is to educate the architects, developers about the types of products, which are available. Architects are keen to look at different materials, but there are certain materials that are always preferred. Developers look out for alternate materials. It is very interesting as each building is different. Nobody wants to repeat it. So we have designed every building, looking at the design and the best suitable products. There are new challenges ahead with respect to installation techniques, lifespan, performance, etc.
Could you please tell us about the projects you are working on?
Presently, we are executing a few projects including DLF Cyber Parks at Gurugram, Olympia National Tower, Goodwood residence, Brigade Panorama, Brigade Orion Mall, OMR. Brigade Arcade, Salarpuria Sattva Mall, and Express Avenue – Chennai. It’s a humble start for the company. We are looking forward to much greater heights.
You said that some of your projects were very special with innovative technologies and materials, and a lot of R&D going on. Please tell us about those projects?
North Gate and National tower are two such projects where we have given our inputs to improve the end products. Our R&D is an ongoing process because we custom design for each project we take up, in order to minimise the cost of the project.
We are also working in the area of integrating façade lighting. Today in many parts of the world, like Hong Kong or New York, we see beautiful buildings with fabulous façade lighting. Those kind of façade lighting concept and dynamic lighting are still at a very basic stage in India.
Uniglaze has already tied up with a few specialist companies that offer these services. At this moment we may be able to focus only on a few niche products and projects, but in the coming year, I feel façade lighting would be a good part of our business.
Since you are talking about façade lighting, it is one aspect of façade which India has not progressed like the western or southern Asian countries? The media façade which is the craze now, what are you doing in this segment?
We have tied up with specialized companies in Hong Kong and Australia called Illumination Physics. They have done more than 40 custom designed façade lighting projects like HSBC building in Hong Kong also major buildings in Macau, the Middle East, and Australia. What we are doing is lighting integration in façade, where the lighting and fittings are integrated as part of the design. So if any customers who want high quality façade lighting where all the lights are IP 65 and IP 67, which lasts for over 15 years with LEDs having 50,000 hours warranty, we are ready to provide the same. Today, all major light manufacturers provide standard light fittings. We are ready to custom design the light fitting which is required.
We are seeing a lot of iconic projects designed by architects. How easy or tough is it to work with architects and developers who are dreaming to create uniqueness in their projects?
Sometimes, the biggest complaints of the architects are that – “whatever we design, façade contractors tend to say that this design is impossible to achieve”. As a company, from day one of our establishment, we try to provide solutions and to achieve what architects are wanting in their design. As a company, we do not say no to any of the challenges. We spend a lot of time looking for Green solutions and our design team is very strong. We already have 10 member design team and are adding to our strength every month. Our aim is to provide solutions to the architects and not to look at the easy way out. Yes, it takes a lot of time, inputs, and challenges to meet them. We have managed to achieve the requirements of all the architects.
Can you tell us about some of the customised solutions that you have provided?
In one of the school projects in Chennai, the façade had certain concrete elements. While doing the façade engineering, we realised that the customer is going in a wrong direction with concrete products. Though it was not a part of our production or manufacturing scope, we helped to find solutions for the same and we made the entire detailing of how the concrete panels should be made, how it should get reinstalled, etc. We did the calculation behind that. Our team went to the concrete product manufacturing facilities in order to study the requirements and to meet the wind load and dead load criteria. Finally, we got the project done, which was taken over by the client. Though it was not within our scope of work, we got ourselves involved to give a solution to the architects and to the client, in order to achieve the goal of the project.
How important are the selection and the installation of the right cladding material when you look at the conservation of energy, power, and acoustics?
It is very difficult to ascertain the right cladding material because there is always scope for improvement and daily new products are introduced in the marker. Ultimately, considering a developer’s point of view, we have to balance the right material to affordability. To achieve the required range of thermal insulation, there are so many options available. But all of them might not be a viable option. That’s why we do engineering for these products so that we are keeping the cost lower and trying to improve on the acoustics, thermal properties, indoor air quality, etc. For example, the thermal break system is very normal in western countries and the Middle East. But in India, hardly any project has used that, considering its cost. Selection involves a balancing act, considering the cost and quality.
The thermal insulation requirement will vary based on the geographical areas? How do you take care of it?
Progression is happening in the façade industry. In earlier days, only single glazed glass was used for façades. Soon products like triple glazed glass (which is being proposed now), and better thermal insulation products will bring in a drastic change. So definitely it is going to be beneficial for the client by using better insulated products. He will be able to save cost directly, not looking at it as a long-term investment. Developers are ready to go for the certification of façade too. By installing a high performance glass, we are able to save electricity bill. Now we are seeing a more direct reduction in our capital expenditure for air-conditioning and other things which are easily measurable from day one. People are getting more educated about it. Even the hotel industry is using triple glazed glass because the acoustic level comes down; then if the hotel is on the main road, less noise and the comforts are very important. Keeping all these things in mind, the developers have agreed to go ahead with what we are proposing.
What is the emphasis on R & D? Is there any testing centres? And what kinds of testing are done on the products?
For performance tests, we already have two labs – one in Chennai and the other in Mumbai. These labs test the standards for all the major projects today across the country. These performance tests are very critical. Secondly, R&D in terms of sourcing materials, looking at the ways for bringing down the cost, at the same time in more efficient systems. We are working on customised façade lighting and façade system. R&D is also towards integration and execution of projects. Another aspect is definitely towards better performance. For example, we should be sure about the parameters and performance level of curtainwalls under various limits. The reports are important to see whether the building is performing or not. Once the curtainwall is installed, and if the engineering and designing are not properly done, one cannot remove the curtainwall and reinstall it. It’s better to invest some time in testing rather than regretting later on.
How do you see the façade industry evolving in India?
The façade industry in the next five years will become more professional and quality conscious. People will understand that façade is an engineering product and a lot of consolidation will happen. People who are doing quality work would go a long way. Manufacturers who are not following the standards will have to change.
Could you please brief on the main challenges faced by the façade and glazing industry?
Inefficiency is the biggest challenge. It happens at the construction site and in the manufacturing process. The entire cycle is not very efficient and professional till now. This results in the delay of projects, affecting the fundflow of the project.
Could you please tell us about your company’s contribution to the façade industry?
We are still very new in the industry, trying to find our own foothold. People have noticed the technologies that we have brought in. Being the first in the industry, we are keenly observing and seeing how the market evolves around our type of manufacturing.
Is there a major change expected because of the recent regulations in RERA & GST?
Definitely, if the real estate industry is affected, the façade industry will get affected. With the RERA implementation, developers have to provide a five year warranty. AS a result, the quality standards will improve. The requirements of the clients are more in line with international standards. They are looking at indoor air quality, thermal insulation, acoustics, etc. As we keep moving up in the value chain, quality will play a very important part. Companies which follow high standards will do well and others will struggle. Under RERA, timely completion of the project is critical and developers would penalise façade and window manufacturers if they delay the projects. Thus, quality and time will be critical for the façade industry.
Could you please tell us about your company’s expansion plans and strategies for the future market?
Presently we are concentrating on the Indian market. In the long term, we would definitely like to explore the countries in the South Asian region. At the manufacturing level, we already have substantially installed capacities. We are not doing any more capital expenditure for the next year. But definitely, we keep studying and looking at how to bring down the production cost and bringing in more efficiency in production.
We are only an 11 month old company but have done substantial capex. Except for any small capex requirement, major investment will not happen in the next one year.
What are the strategies to keep your company ahead of others?
Our only strategy is to offer quality products which are superior to others. We have invested in the automatic line, right team, right manufacturing processes, and right installation teams on site. Our efficiency should speak for us rather than anything else.
Where do you see your company in 2025 and the façade industry in India by 2025?
By 2025 we definitely wish to see ourselves in the list of top three façade manufacturers in the country. I foresee a great deal of consolidation happening in the façade industry, substantially towards more quality consciousness, better design, and engineering in the next five years.