We should accelerate our production to make a deep impact on whole industry, says Milan Thakkar, CEO, Walplast
Anushruti Singh June 21, 2020
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The infrastructure and construction material industry is a prominent driver of Indian economy. But, it is bad hit lately due to shortage of raw material and labour workforce. Despite that, leaders of this arena are very firm that demand will increase and there would be more buying once things start to gain momentum. Milan Thakkar, CEO, Walplast, in conversation with SME Futures talks about methods to increase production while keeping in mind the safety norms prescribed by respective state and central government.
COVID-19 has affected every sector in our country. How this ongoing crisis has impacted infrastructure and construction material manufacturing in India?
Covid-19 crisis has impacted the infrastructure and construction material manufacturing industry in two ways. Firstly, there has been delay in getting raw material due to logistical constraints. Secondly, the whole industry is facing acute labour shortage since most of the labourers are going back to their hometown. Owing to these two major issues, construction material manufacturing industry is badly affected which is turn is delaying construction projects.
What is the current industry value of loss when compared with demand and how well Walplast is faring with the current situation?
We already had predicted a bad hit on the demand because of three months’ lockdown and deceleration in economy. This will not only impact the demand value for short term but will also decrease the requirement in long term. Despite that, we are very firm that demand will increase and there would be more buying once things start to gain momentum. We opened our manufacturing plants once we got the permission from government after understanding the situation clearly.
We also made sure our manufacturing plants serve needs of our customers while adhering to new safety norms provided by the government stringently. Apart from that, we figured out the lacunas of our industry and have come up with an innovative product BuildWell RMP Spray. This requires less time and labour to plaster walls. This product will be of huge assistance in compensating the time lost due to lockdown for completing projects.
Manufacturing plants are resuming operations under Unlock 1.0. What major changes Walplast has brought into its shop-floors?
Our manufacturing units have resumed its operations and we are taking utmost care with respect to the safety norms issued by central and respective state governments. Thermal screening and safety kit for the workforce along with other sanitation measures are facilitated on every shop-floor. Training with respect to social distancing is also provided at regular intervals since the safety and security of our workforce is of utmost importance to us.
India is facing acute labour shortage but in order to ramp up the production, return of labourers is important. What is your strategy to facilitate their return?
The work culture prevailing in production areas and shop-floors play an important role in this. Therefore, we have designed a return to manufacturing playbook which elaborates all safety measures that should be taken for the workforce. These are explained to them in detail through training which will help them in believing that there is no risk if all necessary precautions are taken.
Lately, the self-reliance wave is prevailing in the country. Do you foresee self-reliant manufacturing units in India? What is your opinion on the integration of automation on shop-floors?
There is a quote I would like to add here, ‘In middle of every difficulty lie an opportunity.’ I believe India now has an opportunity to be self-reliant in manufacturing units across all sectors. We completely believe that automation is a useful concept to achieve optimisation of the output and should be practiced in India on a large scale. However, we also believe that a proper balance between implementation of technology and manpower helps an organisation to grow.
In view of import and export restrictions, how is Walplast managing on sourcing of material which was earlier imported?
We get ninety to ninety-five percent of raw materials required for our finished products from domestic businesses. Only five to ten percent of specialised polymers is imported from European countries. Our specialised polymer which we import from Europe was on ports, while the whole country was in lockdown. Hence, it didn’t affect our production at all. Once the lockdown was lifted, the import and export restrictions didn’t have much of an impact since all ports were operational.
Business strategies are being redesigned in the aftermath of COVID-19 crisis. What kind of roadmap Walplast has designed for itself?
As far as our strategic decisions are concerned, we believe it is important to stand tall despite the impact of crisis. We should accelerate our production to make a deep impact on whole industry. For this, we are focusing on creating innovative products that will save time and labour.
Our marketing team is very active on all social media and digital platforms to ensure that we serve our customers in every situation. For impact, our sales and marketing team need to function holistically through three-pronged strategy namely facing the current situation, taking steps for sanitation, and implementing them effectively to sail through the crisis.
Can we say that the pandemic was learning in disguise for industry? What are some of the major lessons learnt?
The pandemic definitely has many takeaways for us. This includes encouraging employees to work from home as much as possible, increasing productivity by usage of automation, re-establishing ourselves by emphasising the fact that our product is safe, moderation of employee engagement strategies, making production localised, creating innovative products that requires less time and labour, focusing on digital platforms to remain connected with customers at any point of time, and redesigning strategic decisions.
Can India become a manufacturing hub?
As I said earlier, this is the best time to ride on the wave of self-reliance and India is ready for it. It is a great initiative and there is a strong sentiment in market that the products that were not manufactured here earlier can be produced now. However, it is a gradual process and the key is to produce the same products at less or equal price while maintaining the quality of imported goods. But, we can become a leading exporter all across the world once we are successful in establishing our country as a manufacturing hub.