An Interview With Mr. Ashok Agarwal, MD, Vidya Ply and Board Pvt Ltd

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Industry Should Focus More on Quality and Stop Providing Fake 710 and PF Marked Plywood. 

Uttar Pradesh based Vidya Ply and Board Pvt Ltd is known for making good quality plywood products. They produce high quality Flush Doors, which is approved in many government projects. They have recently started manufacturing Calibrated Plywood and Laminated Doors. Mr. Ashok Agarwal, Managing Director of the company is a social man, and incumbent President of UP Plywood Manufacturers Welfare Association and Vice President of AIPMA. In one2one interaction with The Ply Reporter, he talked about the scenario of timber availability and future of plywood. His son and Director of the company Mr. Ankit Singhal also accompanied with him during the interaction, and as in - charge of Sale and Marketing, he replied on some questions. Excerpts.

Q. What are your views regarding present timber availability in North? 

A. There is a shortage of Poplar wood in the market. The industries have shifted majorly to Eucalyptus. Some small industries are using Semal and Aru timbers. The shortage of Poplar timber will prevail for the next 3 - 4 years at least. Due to very low prices of timber in the past 2 years, farmers restricted themselves from plantation of Poplar timber. They found viability in other crops.

Q. In Uttar Pradesh, lots of new licenses have been issued. Do you think all units will start on these allotted licenses in Uttar Pradesh in coming future?

A. In accordance to the number of licenses allotted by the state government, it is very difficult to install so many units in Uttar Pradesh. In the current sluggish market scenario, very few new players are thinking of setting up a plywood industry, where as the existing manufacturers are installing new presses and increasing their production. Under the new licenses, new peeling machines and band saw machines will work.

Q. Do you think the licensing process can be cancelled?

A. The licensing process has been challenged by an NGO at the NGT (National Green Tribunal). So it is under the preview of only the NGT to take a decision in this matter. No one else can comment on it.

Q. What is the status of licenses of MDF and Particle Board?

A. The U.P Government is backing the people who have acquired licenses for MDF and Particle Board. Currently Greenply and Centuryply are amongst the big names which are planning to install MDF or PB lines. Greenply has acquired land in Sandila whereas Centuryply has acquired near Sitapur.

The new players are coming up with new technology, method and practices. We should also adapt new techniques for sustainability. As soon as the demand will come to its course, the increase in prices will be accepted by the market. 

Melia Dubia is a fast growing species and has a bright future and a replacement for Poplar in the next 4 - 5 years. The people of Yamunanagar should encourage the farmers in Haryana to plant more and more trees and get in collaboration with the government to educate the farmers the benefits of new species of timber 'Melia Dubia'.

Q. Dealing with mango wood is cheaper and its wood is being accepted these days, what do you say?

A. It is not so ! The mango wood is not cheap. The acceptance of Mango wood is not there with the end consumers. Pine timber has more acceptances. But I wish to point out that Mango timber is a hard wood and has better properties than that of Pine to be used in Doors, Stiles and Rails. Moreover Pine is not even acceptable as per BIS standards to be used in Door Frames, Stiles and Lock Rail as it being soft wood. The mango wood due to its strength and grain texture is witnessing increased usage in Furniture Industry.

Q. What about the price of Safeda and how is its plantation and other crops and how is the status of mango wood in UP?

A. Due to sudden shift from Poplar to Eucalyptus, there is pressure on eucalyptus prices also but not as much that on Poplar. There is a gradual increase in the prices of Eucalyptus
timber and it will continue to be so. The availability of Eucalyptus will sustain the demand of the market. The mango wood is under restricted species of timber which is made available only after requisite permissions from the department.

Q. What is the condition of Melia Dubia plantation in UP?

A. I being a member of that committee for plantation, have submitted its recommendation to the government of UP. In future, more and more plantation of Melia Dubia is going to be in the state, which will benefit the farmers and Plywood Industries. The government is also promoting the plantation projects. Melia Dubia is a fast growing species and has a bright future and a replacement for Poplar in the next 4 - 5 years. A new type of plantation project is also underway. We want the government to provide all the benefits for its implementation.

Q. At such situation when timber availability is very low and there are old and good players in the market, what should they do?

A. This is a time when there is a major shift is taking place. Old players should be very careful and ready to change with time. With increase in raw material prices, which are not in our hands, we should focus on cost cutting and reduce the overhead costs in manufacturing. Where as we should focus on brand building and market presence for long term sustainability. The new players are coming up with new technology, method and practices. We should also adapt new techniques for sustainability. As soon as the demand will come to its course, the increase in prices will be accepted by the market.

Q. Do you think the industry people will remain un-affected from the increasing flow of Particle Board and MDF?

A. No, definitely not ! It is evident that, thirty years before, 3mm and 4mm were in great demand but today its manufacturing is not in existence. In the past four to five years 6mm demand has reduced. And this market has been shifted to MDF. As I said earlier these products are eating the market share of low cost commercial plywood. Industry people should focus more on quality and stop providing fake 710 and PF marked plywood. Such products will eventually make the product loose credibility in the customers' eyes. Like what happened in WPC, it is in our hands to what extent we let it impact our industry.

Q. As an owner of a company producing brand like ‘Kanchan Ply’, how do you prevent the future from the impact of MDF & PB spread?

A. We can not be blind to the fact that there are many products in the current market which are replacing the plywood in conventional application. But still India lags behind a lot from
China with per person consumption of plywood.

 The pros that MDF and Particle Board have over plywood is that it is calibrated and has even surface. We are also now manufacturing calibrated plywood. In India, people still favour
plywood over MDF and Particle Board for their furniture due to durability and long lasting applications. MDF and PB are taking the share of commercial low cost plywood.

Due to sudden shift from Poplar to Eucalyptus, there is pressure on eucalyptus prices also but not as much that on Poplar. There is a gradual increase in the prices of Eucalyptus timber and it will continue to be so. The availability of Eucalyptus will sustain the demand of the market.

Q. What do you think about the Yamunanagar industry scenario?

A. There are considerable changes happening in the industry and Yamunanagar has been setting example for the trade over the years. But, as they don't have the raw material to sustain their demands, there are tough times ahead. I feel Haryana Plywood Manufacturers should be united and think in this direction to continue having an edge in the industry over the others.

Q. Under current circumstances what initiatives should be taken by the people of Yamunanagar? You may also advise being AIPMA Vice - President?

A. The people of Yamunanagar should encourage the farmers in Haryana to plant more and more trees and get in collaboration with the government to educate the farmers the benefits of new species of timber 'Melia Dubia'. Yamunanagar is currently dependent on U.P and Punjab for its raw material demand. Being such a big industrial hub it should strive towards backward integration in making the state sustainable for its own raw material demand.

At present, when the demand of finished products is sluggish and raw material prices are increasing day by day, business houses of Yamunanagar and elsewhere also need to work in very focused manner and in proper way. The industry should not focus on maximum production from the plants. We should not manufacture in excess and then dump the material in the market, thus increase our credit in the market.

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