Executive director Nikita Bansal says that at Century Plyboards, they are unfazed by the roil caused by the pandemic. In fact they are using this period to transform faster than what they had earlier planned. This article is a part of Bansal’s expansive conversation with Sourcing Hardware’s managing editor Deepak Gupta for the magazine’s #BPHILeadershipSeries.
State of Industry
In my view the domestic wood panel industry has been hurt badly by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our estimate is that the organised players experienced an absolute whitewash in business in April, and barely realised 30% sales in the following months of May and June. However, Century Plyboards has performed better than other players during this period. I foresee our sales returning to pre-Covid levels by the end of quarter three of the financial year.
Interestingly, the pandemic has offered us the opportunity to reflect on the ways we conduct business, and one of our recent steps towards achieving operational efficiency is paying off now. We had implemented the principles of Theory of Constraints for our supply chain management just a year and a half back. The outcome of this restructuring is that we have been able to achieve a reduction of 30% in inventories within our supply chain, while maintaining the same levels of availability across our distribution network. In these challenging times such freeing up of working capital means a lot.
Demand in Covid-19 Era
Talking about demand generation in the backdrop of Covid-19, I would like to contextualise the issue thus. People who are planning to renovate or undertake replacement activity in their homes are facing difficulties, as housing societies are restricting the entry of carpenters and other service professionals. On the other hand, those who can are rushing into completing the ongoing construction and fabrication of their houses. This urgency is the cause of uptick in demand for building products amidst the pandemic.
My other observation with respect to demand is that, interestingly, consumers in towns with one lakh population are ordering products such as PVC boards online. This could be due to the convenience factor or the need to minimisephysical contact. Today’s youth is quite comfortable searching for and buying products online, and I firmly believe that they will form the chunk of the online customer base when they become decision-makers in the next five years.
Innovation is always a challenge and more so in the panel industry, but we must remain resolute about R&D. Centuryply has been a frontrunner in terms of innovation. We were the first to launch borer and termite-proof products in 1996. And amidst the ongoing pandemic we have brought another breakthrough innovation – plywood and laminate products based on Virokill technology that kills 99.99% of the viruses the surface comes in contact with! Virokill technology ensures that nanoparticles in the panel physically rupture and kill viruses on the surface.
Our panels have undergone the Antiviral Efficacy test as per ISO 21702:2019 at Biotech Testing Services (BTS) Mumbai, which allows us to confidently declare an efficiency of 99.99% in killing viruses. This means that furniture made from Virokill-based panels is safe throughout its lifetime. We’ve already started offering this technology in most of our plywoods, block boards, laminates and veneers.
Century Plyboards had embarked on a digital transformation journey two-yearsago.We started by introducing dedicated software in our HR, purchases, and logistics departments to ensure transparency, reduce cost, and raise efficiency. We have shifted to the RTGS payment system for dealing with our trade partners, and we expect to switch to digital payment completely within the next two years. We have also mapped our retailer base across the country, and set up a WhatsApp desk through which trade partners can remain connected with our head office 24/7and resolve their problems within 48 hours. We are in the process of setting up similar desks for other stakeholders, including employees, customers and contractors.
During the pandemic we also launched the CenturyPly e-shop to enable consumers browse and buy plywood, doors, laminates, Stark PVC, and MDF from the company website. We have also tied up with e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart to sell our products in select cities. This I believe is another first, of branded plywood being sold online.
On the digital marketing front our goals are clear. We are gunning for lead generation and SEO ranking of our websites. We use Twitter for reputation management and resolving queries and complaints, Facebook for lead generation and advertising, and YouTube for disseminating knowledge about the quality and application of laminates, plywood and veneers.