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Sustainability: A Way of Life for Gyproc says Venkat Subramanian, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain India Gyproc Business

Sustainability is a way of life for Gyproc, says Venkat Subramanian, Managing Director, Saint-Gobain India - Gyproc Business.

Source: EPC World

Date: 25 August 2020

With strict guidelines, the government has allowed organisations to restart their business. What are the operational strategies you have adopted to commence your business taking into consideration safety concern of the employees as well growth of the organisation?

Government’s decision to unlock the geographies in a phased manner was done with the intention to get the economy back on track. When the lockdown was announced our primary concern was employee health and safety. So work from home was implemented with necessary safety protocols and guidelines in place for employees. Each and every employee of the organization was provided with a safety kit which had essentials like masks, face-shields, sanitizers, etc. Simultaneously, we started engaging with the communities in the vicinity of our plants and proactively started an awareness campaign along with sanitization initiatives. Stringent health and safety protocols were implemented in our plants keeping in mind the health of our frontline workers with monitoring done by our Leadership team on a regular basis. The sanitization protocols, social distancing guidelines, disinfection processes are now a part of the daily lives of our plant employees.

As the markets opened up we supported our entire network of channel partners with Safety Kits and shared necessary safety protocols to keep their workplaces safe. Our Home Solution partners were educated and a checklist is mandatorily followed whenever they go for customer meetings. This continuous process of education and implementation significantly improved the trust of our customers on brand Gyproc.

What is the total market share of false-ceiling and home décor elements? How much market share do you command? What are your plans to increase your market share?
As a pioneer of Gypsum plasterboards in India, Saint-Gobain Gyproc enjoys a high market share in plasterboard category. We are significantly larger than our nearest competitor in terms of market share. Gypsum false ceilings is still a relatively nascent and a fast emerging category in the home décor space.Our consistent efforts over the last decade in Marketing Communications, Brand Building and Category creation has made us one of the Top 10 categories in the home décor space.

Gyproc has always focused on category creation. As an organization our growth comes from the largescale adoption of false-ceilings as a category. Designer false ceilings are now an integral part of home décor. We continuously invest in market research to understand our customers, drive awareness through effective use of digital and traditional media and create business models to service them efficiently.

Our second lever of growth is Drywalls. Today, drywalls are the preferred choice in most Commercial construction. The shortage of water and sand along with other environmental concerns necessitate the adoption of sustainable technologies like gypsum based Drywalls which are lightweight yet robust, faster to construct, require less labour and environment-friendly on account of minimal water consumption. Besides drywalls are very versatile, in terms of ease of installation, good acoustic and fire insulation benefits, flexibility in design, aesthetically appealing and offering multiple shapes and finishing options. Unlike in the West the adoption of drywalls in homes is still at a very early stage and we are keen to offer this technology to the homes of tomorrow. Since gypsum penetration in India is still low compared to developed nations our endeavor has always been category creation instead of running after market share.

Which are the sectors you are looking for to increase your market share?
Every space has varied design and performance and such spaces demand diverse nature of the solutions that accentuates the two. Gyproc India provides False Ceiling and Drywall solutions for every type of application and caters to different spaces, right from office spaces and shopping malls to Airports, Hotels, Hospitals or Industrial establishments.

According to the World Health Organisation, medical infrastructure in India is facing a strong demand supply gap. In a country of more than 1.3 bn population, there is 0.6 beds per 1000 people against a WHO mandate of 5 beds per 1000. This results in a strong need for hospital infrastructure ramp up across the country in the fastest time possible to meet the growing demand. We are seeing excellent opportunities in this space, wherein there is an urgent need to ramp up infrastructure – drywalls support faster project deliveries, flexibility in construction and also drives savings in terms of overall cost.

With e-commerce expecting to grow three fold in the next decade there will be a spike in the Warehousing space and lot of such infrastructure will come up in T2/T3 markets closer to the customer base. India is also aiming to be a manufacturing hub and hence we anticipate good traction from the Industrial sector. Our key sectors like office spaces with a large scale adoption of drywall is already showing signs of revival and the slump in global economy is expected to increase outsourcing to India thereby driving up office space demand. Residential is the biggest opportunity and once the consumer sentiment recovers we will surely bounce back thanks to our brand equity.

What is the USP of your products and services compared to your competitors?
Saint-Gobain Gyproc has been a pioneer in introducing light weight construction practices in the Indian building material industry. In fact, Gyproc enjoys a top of mind recall in the minds of customers when they think of ceiling, drywall partition and plastering as it offers the widest and complete range of plaster boards, ceiling tiles, metal framing and accessories, plasters. We constantly keep pushing the boundaries with new innovations. Our next generation plasterboards provide a variety of benefits starting from Fire Safety, Acoustics, Impact Resistance to Loading, Cladding, Moisture and Mold Resistance. Gypsum plasters allow for higher coverage and hence better productivity with negligible water usage. Our Ecophon range of ceiling products deliver superior acoustics performance on account of high NRC whereas Rigitone range of perforated tiles blend aesthetics with acoustics.

We believe in creating great living spaces through our vast portfolio and improve the daily life by amalgamating comfort – performance, safety, adaptability, accessibility, beauty and sustainability - better mobility, resource efficiency, demographic growth, and climate change, further enhancing the wellbeing of the people and their surroundings. We have the largest distribution network in the category and a significant part of our business comes from non-Metro markets. Our four plants with a combined capacity of over 80 million square meters are strategically located across the country and allows us to reach any corner of the country in optimal time and cost.

How are you integrating sustainability in your products?
Sustainability is a way of life for Gyproc. Our Plasterboards are EPD verified which represents the highest standard of sustainability. In addition to that our portfolio is also GreenPro certified. We are committed to Sustainability and regularly drive the environmental agenda through thought leadership in collaboration with Green Building Councils of India. We play an active role in policy making and also contribute towards the development of building standards and norms in the country.

India being a price-sensitive nation and your products being niche, how challenging it is to market false-ceiling and home décor elements in India?
Designer false ceilings as a category is now an integral part of home décor and is a reflection of the aspiration and stature of the customer. Every ceiling installation is unique in terms of design, color, lighting and so on. As a brand, Gyproc does not sell products. We handhold the customer during the entire journey from category consideration, design selection, choice of material to execution. Our Digital channels and tools proactively educate and engage the customers, guide them with the right advice. This is followed up by installation at the ground level for which we have a trained Home Solutions team. Gyproc has created an entire eco-system to fulfill the dream of a customer. Customer pays a premium for the entire experience.

What is the skill nurturing programmes you conduct?
Skill development is a critical focus area for us as we have always believed in creating and shaping the gypsum category in India. It may be easy to find a carpenter or plumber, but not so a drywall or falseceiling specialist. We diligently worked to set up skill development schools in UP, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Our first skill-building school was introduced in UP in 2013. With the help of local panchayats school dropouts and youths from BPL families are identified and encouraged to engage in this occupation. We are offering them a 3 months long theory-cum-practical residential course on the false ceiling and drywall installation and helping them to get employment with our Contractor partners. Gyproc is working with many Contractor firms across the country, who in turn recruit the students trained in our schools. Our students can earn anywhere between Rs 10,000 and Rs 50,000 a month and around 20 of them have become entrepreneurs as well. No wonder our retention percentage of more than 50% is the best in the industry. It has now been over 6 years since we introduced this initiative and have skilled a large number of students who are well placed in different companies in India as well as in places like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Middle-East. This initiative is helping us create livelihoods along withbuilding an ecosystem of skilled workforce in the country.

Please take us through your R&D vertical? Can you throw some light on innovations?
Saint-Gobain Gyproc approaches innovation from two angles – understanding customer requirements in terms of functional needs and comfort parameters and secondly, designing solutions keeping in mind market requirements. The insights pertaining to functional needs like strength, durability and comfort parameters like acoustics, air quality, are generated through market research and shared with R&D. Our R&D center Saint-Gobain Research in Chennai then translate these needs into solutions. Currently they are working on a lot of interesting innovations ideal for a hot and humid climate. Innovations in metal frames, seismic ceilings and exterior solutions are worth mentioning. From a building sciences perspective we have taken fairly good strides in terms of acoustic modelling and auralization which not only helps us with product innovation but also addresses issues at site level.

What are your growth plans for Saint-Gobain Gyproc for the next three years? Is there a manufacturing plant or office or new innovation in the offing?
In the coming years we will keep investing in category creation as penetration of gypsum based materials in construction is still low in a country like India. I reiterate our constant endeavor will be to grow the market through brand and marketing communications, new products tailor-made for the Indian market, increased distribution footprint, while simultaneously working with influencers and policy makers to drive rapid adoption of gypsum based products. In 2020, we are increasing our manufacturing footprint in Plasters with a plant in Chennai. Our new Ceiling Tiles plant in Jhagadia will be operational soon and will manufacture a wide range of PVC Laminated and Perforated Tiles. With these investments we will reinforce our commitment to “Make in India”.