The vision of Finolex Industries is to transform plumbing into a viable lifetime profession for artisans. The company is leaving no stone unturned in its effort to
In the last 3-4 years, a strategic shift has taken place at Finolex Industries. There is renewed focus on optimising the product mix to serve the consumers better. The company has used its resin production capacity to feed growth in the PVC pipes business and has moved up the value chain with PVC fittings. From 47% in 2012, the share of the pipes segment in the company’s revenue has reached about 73% in FY16. Prakash Chhabria was instrumental in bringing in this transformation after taking over the reins of the business as executive chairman from the late Prahlad Chhabria, founder and chairman of the company, in 2012.
In an interaction with Sourcing Hardware, Chhabria’s trusted lieutenant Nitin Kulkarni, president, sales & marketing, Finolex Industries shares, “In the last couple of years, we have given thrust on building the non-agri or the construction segment while maintaining our focus on the agri products. Agri products still bring in the lion’s share of the company’s revenue – about 70% at present – and now the added focus is on increasing the sale of non-agri/construction-related pipes too, considering the potential in the market.”
In the construction segment, recommendation from the plumber continues to play a major role in the consumer’s decision making process. Naturally, the communication is focused on the plumber community. “We also felt the need of creating a pool of skilled plumbers for installation and maintenance of high quality products.” This vision has multifarious connotations for the stakeholders. On one hand, plumbers are benefited by the skill upgradation programme and the resultant increase in their earning potential. On the other hand Finolex gains trust of the community.
This is particularly important as often plumbers form the first line of sale. “For us it is very important to remain in touch with plumbers and contractors since they are our end users. Training them is our top priority, as skilled and quality labour is a key influencer in the purchase of pipes. Our strategy is to influence the influencer,” opines Kulkarni.
The move assumes significance as there is a huge shortage of quality plumbers in India. As per industry estimates, about 90% of the plumbing industry in India lacks professional training, putting the construction activity at a major disadvantage. Trained and quality plumbers are thus at a premium not only for the construction industry but also for Finolex Pipes.
Partnering Skill India
Kulkarni acknowledges that lack of skilled manpower is indeed a major concern within the construction industry. “The absence of proper training programmes has kept many plumbers from progressing in their profession, and the lack of a defined career path has thwarted their aspirations.”
He adds, “We take our responsibility as a leader very seriously. We have partnered with Kushal (a partnership project between CREDAI Pune Metro and National Skill Development Corporation) to improve skills of the building services workforce by imparting training in the area of plumbing. This programme will help plumbers to learn technical skills faster, which in turn will help them gain personal growth and higher incomes.”
After successfully conducting a pilot in July last year, Finolex kick-started the first leg of the training programme on the occasion of World Plumbing Day on March 11 this year. The company conducted 60 plumber meets across 58 cities in 26 states, to generate awareness about the programme and the importance of skill development. As part of the first leg of the programme, Finolex will train a batch of 500 plumbers and has an aim of training one lakh plumbers in the next 5-7 years.
Kulkarni informs, “Finolex Pipes has also launched a plumbing trade film video which will be an integral part of the training programme. The 20-minute video module will teach construction workers and unskilled plumbers the basic dos and don’ts of plumbing; provide information on plumbing essentials like safety guidelines, sewerage systems, drainage systems, septic tanks and the know-how of this industry. A textbook (Handbook for Plumbers and Trainers) has also been released.”
He further informs, “Following our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Skill India mission, we are aiming to train one lakh plumbers across the country and provide them all required skills, which may cost us more than Rs 20 crore.”
Taking the ambit of skilling initiatives one step further, Finolex has signed an MoU with ITI Patiala this April. Under the MoU, Finolex Pipes will provide course literature and material for efficient training of the students registered for the plumbing and sanitation course. “Finolex aims to provide ITI Patiala with best-in-class knowledge by providing them aspects such as classroom/practical training by industry experts and senior company employees, product training using Finolex manufactured products, and product literature in the form of catalogues, leaflets and description boards.”
On the company’s overall vision, Kulkarni states, “Finolex Pipes is strongly committed to the cause of skill development in the country. We are glad to be imparting quality training through the ITI. Efficient training and skill development is the need of the hour. With the focus of the government towards agriculture and development of smart cities, the need for superior plumbing and sanitation solutions is expected to grow considerably. We wish to prepare the future workforce in a manner where they are ready for the modern workplace.”
While Finolex Industries is investing significant resources in these initiatives, it has been able to interlink the same with its business as well. The motto is that any CSR activity, if done in correlation to the business the company is in, becomes sustainable. Besides these skill development initiatives, Finolex Industries is involving the plumber community through various innovative marketing campaigns.
Be it the ‘Finolex Plumber – Ek Number’ campaign or the CupShup campaign, the aim is to attain top-of-the-mind recall with the plumbing community, and to create a sense of closed community between the company and plumbers. “They are our first line of sale. Through this activity we wish to make them our brand custodians who push the Finolex cause to the end consumers.”