‘Infra.Market much more than e-commerce platform’

Technology-enabled, business-to-business, e-commerce platforms are increasingly emerging to bridge the gap between material manufacturers and suppliers on the one hand, and project consultants and operators in the construction, interiors and furniture industries on the other. WoodNews spoke with Mr Shekhar Chandra Sati, Chief Operating Officer of the wood vertical at Infra.Market, to assess the USP of his business. Excerpts:

Both plywood and MDF are being used extensively in interiors (wall panelling) and in decorative products.

You talk of Infra.Market as a one-stop shop for all construction material requirements. Could you elaborate on the range of your products?

We already have a strong presence in the B2B market by owning India’s two strong concrete brands, Infra.Market and RDC concrete. Apart from AAC blocks, we made a strategic acquisition of Shalimar Paints in 2022.

We recently acquire some steel plants. We are venturing into electrical appliances with our own manufacturing set-ups. We have plumbing, tiles, faucets and sanitary ware products.

We have now entered the MDF, plywood, laminates and modular kitchen sector. In many ways we are truly defining the ‘one-stop solutions shop’ concept. You will see Infra.Market and our lifestyle brand, IVAS, acquiring more display spaces in dealers/ retailers shop in the coming days.

Why the need for e-commerce platforms in the construction and interiors businesses? What particular advantage(s) does Infra.Market provide to the supply and demand sides?

Infra.Market is not just an e-commerce platform. Multiple building materials and products from Infra.Market and IVAS will be available for consumers through the already existing retail and wholesale network across the country, as well as at our company- and franchise-owned showrooms.

Having self-owned and self-controlled manufacturing set-ups in multiple product categories, we can provide ease to dealers and distributors to buy from one stop and save their time and money, along with the assurance of quality.

Can you walk us through Infra.Market’s infrastructure across states?

We have our plywood and MDF factories in Yamunanagar and Rudrapur, in which we invested ₹700 crore. Another MDF plant is coming up in Andhra Pradesh, with a capex of ₹400 crore.

For concrete we have our own manufacturing units in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. Our steel plants are coming up in Vidarbha region in Maharashtra.

The tiles, faucet and sanitary ware factories are coming up in Morbi region in Gujarat. Our electrical appliances factory is coming up in Telangana.

We already have a network of dealers, retailers and distributors across India. Of these, 27 self-owned stores are operational now, in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Ludhiana, Pinjore and Hyderabad. We plan to open many more such stores in the coming days.

In a plywood-dominated market, you seem to be very upbeat about MDF. Why?

MDF is one of the fastest moving products in the Indian market, sales of which are growing at 30% year-on-year for the 5 years. MDF’s share of the current panel market is a decent 25%. So, there is decent scope for the entire MDF category to grow.

However, we are equally focused on plywood and are investing in another two plants in a big way. Our focus is to be on the top in every product category we offer.

How big is the domestic demand for plywood and MDF in recent years?

The combined domestic market for MDF and plywood/ particle board is around ₹70,000 crore, out of which MDF is around ₹8,500 crore, which will grow further. The growth of MDF was rapid in the last 5 years, from approximately ₹1,500 crore to ₹8,500 crore now. Plywood will also continue to grow, but its growth will be less as compared to MDF.

In plywood, what are the brands, grades, sizes, certification and warranties that you offer?

We offer all products in plywood, right from MR grade 303 Timba series, BWR grade 710, PU, MUF, and BWP grade marine series, to fire retardant plywood, etc. Each product comes at a reasonable price, in Okume and Gurjan face. We have all offering, sizes and thicknesses that the market needs and demands.

What brand(s) of MDF do you manufacture and where? What are the grades, sizes, certification and warranties that come with it?

In MDF we have all grades: for interior and exterior applications, HDEMR and pre-laminated MDF in all three grades. These are produced by us in Yamunanagar and Rudrapur. In HDEMR, we are only company offering a warranty of 7 years!

We have completed all certifications applicable for our products. Apart from this, we also import good quantities – even here, our supervisors are diligent about quality control.

What can you say about their design and applications in interiors and for furniture?

MDF and plywood are used for furniture making, wardrobes, doors, kitchen cabinets, school and commercial furniture. Both plywood and MDF are being used extensively in interiors (wall panelling) and in decorative products.

If you are able to offer economies of scale on material pricing, how do the customers benefit?

We have opted for a unique pricing model where our focus is to offer value for money to traders as well as end users. We have kept our pricing very competitive and at par with the market, despite our low margins. We are focusing on building the categories by offering genuine products at genuine pricing.

What is your road to market like in terms of manufacturing and quality assurance; inventory and warehousing; distribution and sales?

Our strategy is to have manufacturing facilities close to our targeted markets for MDF and plywood; then build a dealer/ distributor network across India. However, for laminates, we will initially do production from one location and will appoint zone wise distributors to penetrate all markets.

Who are your prominent customers in the woodworking sector?

In the months since our wood vertical launch, we have catered to government and institutional projects, and worked with private builders, contractors, architects and interior designers.

You have more than 26 years’ experience, including as President (Sales & Marketing) with Greenpanel Industries. Can you tell us what you bring to the table for Infra.Market?

Being in this industry for almost 26 years and working with different product categories of building material, I have a decent understanding of what a dealer/ retailer/ architect/ interior designer and end user expects from a brand. I also understand the pain points of end users and what solutions to offer them.

With Infra.Market, which is a young company with innovative ideas, I believe I will be able to develop and create a good consumer, dealer, retailer and market-friendly brand soon.

Can you tell us a bit about the founders, Mr Aaditya Sharda and Mr Souvik Sengupta?

Both of our founders are dynamic young minds in their early 40s, very sharp and having a clear vision about whatever they plan. They believe in running their businesses through knowledgeable and experienced leaders in the respective product categories. Their focus is to understand the buying behaviour of customers, give them the best and bring positive disruption in the building materials market.




Comment here