19 Dec 2020 14:13 IST

Century Plywood: Building a culture of innovation over decades

Among India’s leading plywood manufacturers, the company has successfully created a niche with its novel products

The Covid-19 pandemic has almost affected every industry in the country, including plywood manufacturing. The industry's annual turnover, said to be around ₹34,000 crore (organised and unorganised), has taken a tremendous hit. But the sector has survived as, apart from selling wood and timber, it has been supplying packaging material to essential sectors such as pharma and FMCG companies.

The company with India’s highest timber peeling capacity (210,000 cubic metres) — Century Plyboards (India) Ltd (CPIL) — has not remained idle. It has converted a global economic disaster into an opportunity, launching 'Virokill’ — reportedly India’s first anti-viral laminate and ply.



Source: centuryply.com



With this new form of nano-technology, it claims to have created a virus-free space for the CNBC-TV18 news channel.



First steps

CPIL is a plywood and decorative veneer manufacturer, incorporated in 1986, by Sajjan Bhajanka and Sanjay Agarwal. It is head-quartered in Kolkata. It began as a small unit, employing just 50 people in the first year of operations. It became a listed company in 1997, and in the same year, an important breakthrough catapulted it into the limelight — it became the first company in India to introduce borer-proof plywood.

As borers were pests that caused damage in the range of thousands of crore, this was a very welcome innovation. The company claims that since then, no Century Ply product has had a borer or termite problem. In 2002, it introduced Flexoply, a flexible plywood variety. The Century Laminates plant became operational in 2004.

Other innovations such as Boiling Water Resistant (BWR) Decorative Veneers and Laminates, seven-year powder-proof guaranteed plywood and non-leachable fire-safe plywood followed. In 2005, CPIL began manufacturing hi-pressure laminates, pre-laminated particle boards, and Medium Density Fibre (MDF) board.

Today, it manufactures plywood, blockboards, laminates, veneers, doors, fibre cement boards, planks and adhesives for different surfaces. It is said to be the largest seller of multi-use plywood and decorative veneers in the organised plywood market and is among the top three laminate producers in India. CPIL has India’s largest privately-owned container freight station near Kolkata port, covering an area of 100,000 sqm, and capable of handling 160,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) annually.

The company has six manufacturing facilities in India, in Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati, Karnal, Kandla and Roorkee, and two overseas in Myanmar and Laos. CPIL was the first company to get the ISO 9002 certification for quality management (veneer and plywood). It also holds the ISO 14001 certification from Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a certifying company accredited to UKAS Environmental Management. It has a loyal network of dealers — most of whom have been with the company since inception. Several of them are shareholders of the company.

Education through films, social media

CPIL is said to spend almost four per cent of its annual revenue on brand development, which includes exhaustive research into improving existing products and developing new ones. The company’s products are exported to about 20 countries including France, the UK, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, China, Taiwan, Hongkong, Singapore, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh.

CPIL’s turnover for 2019-20 is reported as over ₹2,300 crore; of this, plywood and veneer accounted for about 74 per cent, laminates close to ten 10 per cent, and MDF around seven per cent.

The advertising and promotional campaigns of Century Ply focus on ‘creating platforms of joy'. Its 2014 campaign, Khushiyon ka rangmanch was extremely successful, followed by a laminates TV commercial with the tagline ‘My design, my style.’





The Sab sahe, mast rahe campaign highlighted quality and durability, albeit in a humorous manner. Audio-visual films that educate the consumer, telephonic outreach programmes, and effective use of social media platforms contribute to its top-of-the-mind recall value among consumers. Campaigns such as #hardcorehappysoul launched on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram encourage fitness.

Social responsibility

Century Ply has demonstrated its commitment to society by going beyond the government’s suggestion of setting aside two per cent of the profits for CSR and investing more than ten per cent of its profit for the same. Its ‘education for all’ initiative reaches out to children of its employees and for those living near its factory premises, providing free schooling. Its ‘friends of tribal society’ benefits more than 30,000 students every year. Apart from this, it is associated with several hospitals and charitable organisations. It also acknowledges the contribution of the carpenter community with its campaign ‘Century Ply Heroes.’

The company is conscious of its role in sustaining the environment and has planted a thousand trees in the Sundarbans mangroves of West Bengal, in collaboration with ‘Grow Trees’.

The business journal Construction World picked Century Ply as the fastest growing company with the highest turnover five times in a row since 2003. The company also won the India NGO award in 2009, the User’s Tool award and the Cool Tool award (from EdTech Digest), Network Marketing award and Alumni Achievement award in 2012. Century Ply was selected as one of the Top 500 Super Brands in India in 2015 and made it to the Top 100 list of Dun & Bradstreet in 2014-15. It was ranked one of India’s Most Valuable Brands and won the European Excellence award.