If Luck doesn’t knock, build a door!

Among the offshoots of the Vagh Group in Mysuru is Pyramid Timber Associates, the seed of which was sown by Mr MohammediVagh in 1987. Dhananjay Sardeshpande chronicles the company’s humble beginnings, and finds out how its scions, Mr Ali AsgarVagh and Mr HussainVagh (left), have made it a trusted supplier of high-quality veneers and pre-hung door sets to residential, office and commercial projects across India.

Pyramid Timber has the advantage of sourcing and treatment of timber, slicing and sawing it, and finishing furniture components on the same premises.

The factory of Pyramid Timber Associates spans 1,60,000 square feet of built-up area, including the kilns, on a 7-acre industrial plot on the outskirts of Mysuru. It was launched as a specialist in veneers and continues to do so; but today it has added a vast and loyal clientele in India for its pre-hung doors concept and business.

At any given time today, the factory has an inventory of over 40 species housed in a spacious showroom on the premises which uses a state-of-the-art modern stacking system. The logs for these veneers come mainly from African countries, Brazil, Canada, the US and parts of Europe.

Its CEO, Mr. Ali AsgarVagh, states that apart from slicing veneer, the company made it big by exporting high-quality finger-jointed boards for kitchen countertops to Denmark, France, Italy, Spain and the UK. These were made from Asian teak, African walnut and other exotic species.

Blessing in disguise

However, the crash of the housing industry in the West after 2008 affected this lucrative business, and Ali and his brother (Pyramid Timber COO), Mr HussainVagh, had to re-evaluate their business strategies.

The brothers started out by making custom doors and windows for individual homes. The first few attempts resulted in a steep learning curve. The big break came in 2011, when Pyramid won a project to supply 24,000 pre-hung doors to a private builder.

Today, Pyramid Timber simultaneously caters to more than 50 projects spanning commercial and residential ventures.

Pre-hung door sets are factory-machined, pre-polished doors and frames ready to be assembled on site only a few days before the builder hands over possession to his customers.

The business of pre-hung doors calls for an end-to-end solution for residential projects; from the builder’s approval of wood, hardware and door sizes to their manufacture and final installation. Pyramid Timber pre-machines the lock and hinge receptacles in the doors and frames as per the hardware specifications of the builder for easy on-site installation.

“In typical building projects, carpenters work on timber on-site and install the doors and door frames; but the constant thoroughfare by other contractors on site often damages the doors,” Hussain informs. These damaged doors and frames then need to be repaired and re-polished before handover to the customer.

Raw material

So what exactly goes into making of a good door? Ali believes thorough knowledge of the raw material is Paramount: the physical properties of wood species, their strengths and weaknesses, and their ability to be machined for interior and exterior uses.

Until recently solid wood teak doors were the “in” thing in India, with teak and rosewood taking pride of place. The high price, scarcity of good wood and need for constant and costly maintenance has given way to flush and skin doors, and even engineered doors.

“Solid wood doors are a high-liability product for builders in large projects because of maintenance issues,” Ali notes.

Pyramid’s production break-up is 80% for flush doors, 15% for engineered doors and the remaining for solid wood doors. Ali and Hussain endorse engineered doors or those with composite construction – stile and rail in solid wood, along with infill panels in plywood or high density fibre boards. They assert these are better options and good value at low cost.

The brothers are also one in endorsing finger-jointed door frames which are dimensionally superior, and the process ensures that all quality parameters are under their control.

A majority of the timber is sourced from areas that have been certified as sustainable and harvested from scientifically managed plantation. Pyramid is looking for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) also.

The company has another card up its sleeve: a profile-wrapping line whereby they are competing directly against European imports which were perceived to be of better quality when compared to Indian manufacturing.

They have successfully proven that the product manufactured by Pyramid is superior, more durable and cost efficient when compared to the imports from Europe. Their understanding of the Indian builder/ market has enabled this. 

Today, Pyramid Timber Associates ranks amongst the top importers of raw materials for pre-hung doors and frames, which makes them a large supplier in the B2B space.

Machinery & equipment

According to Hussain, this is the foundation of any company’s product range. But choosing the technology and hardware depends on your need for quality, scales of production, and consistency in delivering both together.

That is why the company has never shied away from making the right investments. “We can build a museum of old and new machines we’ve deployed since the company’s inception,” beams Hussain, “But not all of them can be refurbished or re-sold because they were custom-made for our requirements.”

New technology and machinery is incorporated whenever a new challenge crops up. But the advantage with Pyramid is its integration: from sourcing and treatment of timber to slicing/sawing it, from machining to finishing furniture components on the same premises.

Hussain remarks that the company has had a “near-100% hit” with the technology it adopts and the machinery it buys. That is on account of the fact that the brothers go through their options with a microscope, keeping in mind their requirements (listed above).

There are the on-site vacuum pressure treatment plants (to prevent infestation) and four kilns from Tritherm (Singapore) with a combined capacity of 15,000 cubic feet per month; Cremona (Italy) and Fezer (Brazil) horizontal veneer splicers; glue and cross-feed splicers from Germany (Fisher+Ruckle and Kuper); a Paoletti vertical press (reduced footprint); and an high-frequency Italle press.

For doors and door-frames, which now account for 70% of the company’s business, there are Grecon’sProfiJoint line for wood joinery, thicknesser-planers from Weinig, sanding machines from Viet Italia, Karl Heeseman, Costa and Buttfering, two UV coating lines, a wood staining line from Italy, and three CNC routers (from Biesse and Homag), two profile wrapping lines and three automatic door polish spraying lines from Italy.

The centralised dust-collection system was installed by the Bengaluru-based ApconEquipments. Vacuum lifters and automated material handling systems have been added, and the latest acquisition is an entire packing line from Edda (Turkey) to cater to the safe despatches of doors sets each day.

The most critical equipment – such as the glue spreader, scissor lifts and pallet trucks – are manufactured by the group’s own engineering firm, Ferro Foundries, which ensures the best application of glue to give the best quality.

Business philosophy

“Our elders told us not to cringe on technology, equipment or consumables best suited to our products,” says Ali. They told their younger generations: ‘Buy the best so that quality is never compromised, scalability is achievable and delivery timelines can be met’.

The focus at Pyramid has always been on process-based systems and automation to reduce dependence on errors and labour. “Ten minds (people) can lead to a lot of confusion; automation does the work of 10 workers without errors or inconsistency,” remarks Ali.

After-sales service is an important pillar in Pyramid’s business philosophy – sometimes for as long as 5 years after the door sets have been installed in projects.  That acts to the company’s advantage: builders rely on Pyramid to address complaints and trust it with repeat orders, while Pyramid manages to increase its sphere of trust within the construction industry!

Transparency is another benchmark that is adhered to. Clients are free to conduct their own audits of Pyramid’s business dealings, test raw material, or inspect stocks and factory functioning.

The Vagh youngsters are happy with the repercussions of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). “It has shut down illegal ‘fronts’ put up by unscrupulous businesses in the unorganised sector, reduced the chances of under-invoicing of products, and forced people in the industry to come above board,” notes Ali.

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