- Centuryply has undertaken the brownfield expansion of its MDF board unit in Hoshiarpur (Punjab), which will be on stream in Q2 FY23
- Centuryply has become a net debt-free company in FY22
- By FY26, the company expects to reach a revenue size of ₹5,000 Cr
- The company expects to cross the exports of ₹200 Cr by the end of FY24
- The company’s greenfield expansion unit in Andhra Pradesh at a CAPEX of ₹600 Cr is likely to be operating by H2 of FY24
Indian Plywood Industry
- Valued at ₹19,580 Cr in FY22
- Centuryply & Greenply leads the industry with a market share of 25% each, accompanied by Greenpanel, Archidply, Kitply, and others who capture the remaining organized sector
- The Indian real estate sector and the spending habit of consumers are on the rise, which is the primary growth driver for the industry
- The Asia-Pacific area dominates the plywood market with ~40% market share
Pioneering for 36 Years in the Plywood Industry
Century Plyboards (NSE: CENTURYPLY) is a pioneer in the highly competitive plywood industry. The leading player is a manufacturer, seller, and exporter of an extensive range of products, including plywood, laminates, veneers, doors, and much more. Moreover, the company provides logistics and container freight station services. It emerges as the largest seller of multi-use plywood and decorative veneers in the organized plywood sector and ranks third among the top laminate producers in India. The company possesses multiple manufacturing facilities strategically located in India and abroad. In addition, it also has India’s largest privately-owned container freight station situated near the Kolkata port. The country’s leading plywood manufacturer enjoys a market share of 25% and ₹15,916 Cr market capitalization as on March 31, 2022. With a solid global presence, Century Plyboard caters to distinct premium foreign markets such as the USA, Mexico, Canada, and many more.
Sanjay Agarwal, the Managing Director of Century Ply Boards India, grew up in a joint family where he heard everyone around him talking about business. Later he encountered Sajjan Bhajanka, the present Chairman of Century Ply Boards, who had been in the plywood industry for years. In 1985, Sanjay and the man with the expertise ventured into a small second-hand press and set up a petite plywood unit on his land. The duo used to import veneer, press it, and sell plywood.
The company was incorporated in 1986, and the brand Century Ply came into existence in 1996. The company initially introduced Borer-Proof Plywood to India in 1997. Later in 2002, the company launched Flexoply, India’s only flexible plywood. The company commenced the operation of its laminates plant in 2004. The company merged its cement and ferroalloy businesses in 2006 and the merger of Sharon veneers & wood industries and Century panels in 2007 into the company. In 2009, the company commissioned the Guwahati plywood plant and its first privately held Container Freight Station (CFS) at Kolkata port. The company launched a new product line, Century Doors, and commissioned its commercial veneer unit in Laos in 2015. The company launched new-age products like wood polymer composite and Fiber Cement Board. Also, it commenced operations of its particle board unit in Chennai in 2016 and commissioned its MDF unit operations in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, the following year.
In 2020, the company launched the Virokill feature across the plywood and laminate segment and engaged with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to enhance operational efficiency and cost management. The following year the company introduced the Firewall technology and commenced Century Gabon SUARL production of commercial veneers. In 2022, the company introduced the Century Promise app, which enables customers to verify their purchased products.
Indian Plywood Market
The Indian Plywood Industry is valued at ₹19,580 Cr in FY22 and includes Centuryply, Greenlam, Kitply, Greenply, and others. In India, the significant market share of the plywood business is captured by unorganized players ~75%, and organized players cater to the remaining ~25%.
Wood-based industries are crucial and plays a vital role in the Indian economy. The skyrocketed tariff rates restrain India from importing plywood, resulting in insignificant volumes compared to other importing nations. Properties like resistance to cracking, splitting, and shrinkage makes plywood appealing to consumers. The key drivers of this product are the expanding construction industry coupled with escalating urbanization levels. In addition, plywood has gained popularity among its consumers for several constructions and structural purposes following the stability and versatility of the product. There has been a shift in consumers’ buying behavior from being price sensitive to chasing quality-driven products. Numerous initiatives introduced by the Indian government, such as the NTR Housing Scheme, DDA Housing Scheme, and many more, promote the development of housing projects in the country and fuel the demand for wood products. Unorganized players dominate the Indian Plywood sector accounting for 75% of the total wood market. The bulk purchasers and traders in this industry, who have a higher purchasing power, prefer the unbranded segment. In contrast, the branded part is in a comfortable zone with stagnant profitability and mediocre business. In FY22, the wood imported to India amounted to ₹2,986 Cr, a significant decline from the previous year.
Century Plyboard Limited embarked on its journey with a single product, plywood, which attracted a significant source of revenue. Later, the company decided not to put all its eggs in one basket and thus expanded its portfolio to various other segments such as laminates, decorative doors, PV boards, and much more. The company successfully reduced its dependence on plywood which accounted for 71.3% of its total revenue, to 53.13% in FY21. Other products, including laminates and MDF, contributed 20% and 17% to the company’s total revenue. Century Plyboards currently retains a comprehensive product portfolio with more than 18,000 SKUs and a solid and robust distribution network of 2,200 dealers.
- The company keeps up with the customers’ growing needs and catalyzes the opportunity by launching new products in the market. For instance, they introduced the Virokill feature in the plywood product, which enhanced the company’s market share. In addition, Century Ply launched other products like Sainik and Bond 710 that catered to the demand of its target group, including the construction, furniture, and different segments that outsourced a significant stream of cashflows for it.
- The value-accretive business model of the plywood pioneer can be classified into two segments: the Newly Built Homes and the Renovation Domain, which encompasses excellent potential. Controlled growth, appealing scale-up complemented by high margins, and broad-based multi-product revenues are some other factors that mark the company’s business model.
- It has experienced numerous improvements to enhance its offering by switching from traditional manufacturing techniques to automation, investments in high-productivity machinery, auto core compressors, sales force automation, and supply chain digitization.
- The “Work-From-Home” phenomenon that prevailed during the Covid-19 era boosted the sales of its products, as the working individuals sought to accommodate a small workplace in their houses, resulting in a kickstart to the interior infrastructure segment.
- The company expects this trend to accelerate further in the future. The company observed a gradual shift in its consumers’ behavior from ‘Sasta Sundar tikaoo’ to ‘Kuch achcha ho to dikhaiyye!’. The customers are no longer prioritizing the price and longevity of the product; instead, they are looking for quality-driven and value-added products in the plywood market. The brand has been abiding by its promise, “Raho Befikar,” and assuring superior product quality to the customers without any price swings.
The company has 11 and 3 step-down subsidiaries, from Century Panels to Century MDF Ltd, each offering various products and services. In alliance with the traditional model of approaching customers through shops, Century Ply has adopted a modern way of engaging with them via its online platform, Century Infotech. The platform has attracted more customers mainly due to its convenience and has created an additional revenue stream for the company. In FY22, the company increased its shareholding in its overseas subsidiary, Century Ply Singapore, from 90.60% to 90.65% due to the further allotment of shares to it.
Strong brand recognition and market leadership position:
- Century Ply enjoys an organized market leadership position following the philosophy of product innovation and consistently addressing the evolving needs of its target audience.
- Prominent brand recognition in the market allows the company to charge a premium compared to its competitors. The market leadership has propelled the success of its new products in the industry.
Wide global presence
- Along with a significant global presence, the plywood company experiences a growing presence in India. Century Ply possesses an extensive network of dealers that assists it in delivering efficient services to customers and managing competitive challenges in the wood industry.
Diverse product mix
- The extensive and diverse range of product offerings has assisted the company in penetrating and catering to different market segments. Providing an exhaustive product mix to its customers through online and offline stores has enabled the company to diversify its revenue streams. A deep and wide distribution channel helps Century Ply ensure consistent product availability.
- Having acquired a significant position in the wood industry, Century Ply faces intense rivalry from unorganized players in the lower-priced segment. To manage this situation, an objective assessment of the present value propositions of the company’s various products seems viable.
Low investments in customer-oriented services
- Customer-oriented services are an integral part of a business that the company should focus on. This way, competitors will gain the upper hand in attracting customers. Therefore, to retain and extract value from customers, Century Ply Limited needs to boost investment in R&D, especially for customer-oriented services.
Increasing customer base in lower segments
- Customers in the lower segments migrate from the unorganized operators in the Capital Goods industry to licensed players. Century Ply Limited can capitalize on their attention to penetrate the entry-level market with a no-frill offering.
Catalyze new and advanced technological innovations
- Century Ply can utilize the advancing technologies to enhance productivity, reduce time frames, improve product quality and venture into adjacent products.
Shortage of raw materials
- The unavailability of key raw materials has been a significant issue in the industry, posing a major threat to the company’s margins. Moreover, timber-rich countries have been consistently reluctant to permit material export without value addition.
Saturation in urban markets and stagnation in rural markets
- This emerging trend is an ongoing challenge for Century Ply in the Construction Supplies & Fixtures segment due to the slow adoption of products in the rural market. In addition, it is exorbitant for the company to serve rural customers more than urban customers, given the enormous distances and lack of infrastructure.
- The consuming pattern of the customer is evolving as the generations are changing. Unfollowing the traditional approach, young people seek experimentation and are less brand loyal. This purchasing behavior can yield profits for Century Ply in the short run but might not remain the same in the distant future.
- Century Plyboard embarked on its digital journey while the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in FY20. Digitalization allows consumers to browse different categories of wood from anywhere at any time, giving Century Ply a competitive edge. It intends to confer a wide range of products to consumers at their convenience. Customers are frequently deceived into purchasing clone products from offline markets. This move will help resolve the authenticity and quality issues prevailing in offline stores and act as a great mechanism to lure customers and secure their trust in the brand.
Firm on product innovation
- The company goes by the slogan ‘Raho Befikar’ and ensures that the products and services curated through digital innovation combined with human insight provide the exact feeling to their consumers. The wood pioneer has launched an exceptional application named CenturyPromise app. It has resolved the issue of validating the authenticity of plywood that the buyers frequently used to struggle with. The app aids the problem of undergoing tedious verification methods and has come up with the simple ideology of scanning the QR code placed on the Century Ply product. This way, the consumers can ensure the product’s novelty and confine themselves from fraudulent items.
Tracking customer leads via SFA
- The Sales Force Automation (SFA) approach has entirely transformed the sales function of the plywood pioneer by organizing the sales data and building a comprehensive and transparent structure of who will buy what, when, and why. With the help of SFA, the company has established a go-to-market approach that has combined a large pool of credible data to be analyzed, classified, and measured. This will help the sales professionals to focus on demand generation rather than spending a significant time on relationship-building with retailers. Century Ply has witnessed positive results in the entire sales process post the transition of approach, like converting a customer suspect into a prospect.
- The company has been engaged with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to reduce its cost. In line with this, BCG has identified possibilities of cost reduction of up to ₹30 Cr annually by shifting to the new tax regime from the old tax regime. The company is working on more such possibilities, improving the margin expansion.
- The company has been operating its Gabon (Africa) veneer unit since Feb 2021, with a 200 CBM per day capacity. The addition of the brownfield MDF Board unit in Hoshiarpur (Punjab) is in progress and will be on stream from October 2022, and the current capacity of 600 CBM will increase to 1000 CBM per day. The company is also adding a greenfield laminate unit in Andhra Pradesh, with a total capacity of 700 CBM per day, coming up in two phases. The first phase will be operational in H2 FY24.
Michael Porter 5 Force Analysis
1. Bargaining power of buyers
- The nature of plywood consumption has experienced a significant transition in the last two decades. Previously 50% of interior investments went toward plywood; however, today, only 10% of interior investments go toward plywood.
- The buyers’ bargaining power for plywood and laminates is moderate to low due to decreasing buyer concentration, growing brand awareness, and a lack of market replacements.
2. Bargaining power of suppliers
- In the past years, the wood industry has been experiencing a shortage of vital raw materials, mainly fueled by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and other geographical events. To make things worse, the prices of major components such as wood, timber, and foam are in high demand, which has led its rates to skyrocket, affecting the pockets of the wood manufacturers.
- Supply chain issues are another critical issue for the market, which stresses and elongates the final good’s production. These indicate a high bargaining power of suppliers.
3. Threat of substitutes
- There are alternatives for plywood that are present in the market. Polyurethane is made of plastic and has a smooth surface, giving it an advantage over plywood. Other attributes that set polyurethane apart are agility, inexpensiveness, and not being prone to water damage like plywood.
- As for laminates and decorative veneers, there are no adequate substitutes in the industry. Hence, the threat of substitutes for Century Ply is considered to be moderate.
4. Barriers to entry
- The plywood industry is neither capital-intensive nor technology-intensive, making barriers for new entrants low. However, Indian plywood is restricted by government licensing. Additionally, the business is protected by the entry of new players due to the lengthy break-even period, the scarcity of face veneer, the significant investment in branding, and the narrow margins.
- On the other hand, laminate is capital intensive as it requires the setting up of a plant.
The established organized players in the laminate sector have strong brand recognition, which is challenging to overcome. This showcases barriers to entry at a high level.
5. Rivalry among competitors
- The unorganized segment constituting 75% of the entire plywood industry, is highly fragmented and has a competitive advantage in excise waivers and other benefits attributed to their small-scale industries. Hence, competitive intensity is high among the existing market players.
Khushiyon Ka Rangmanch
- Century Ply had come up with an enthralling advertising campaign outlined by the phrase ‘Khushiyon Ka Rangmanch’ to revamp its brand identity. The strategy behind this move was to consolidate the benefits of its signature offerings, namely Century Ply, Century Laminates, and Century Veneers, in the product portfolio and translate it into one key advantage that emphasizes the aesthetic value powered by the functionality of the plywood brand. Instead of following the product/attribute communication, the campaign conveyed the product by taking an emotional route. The advertisement portrays the daily life of consumers and stems from the insight that Century Ply-produced surfaces are a witness to their everyday joy and happiness. Hence, the commercial justified the tagline, “Khushiyon Ka Rangmanch.”
- The plywood company passionately abided by the philosophy of “Raho Befikar,” which transformed the success of its product line in the blink of an eye. It was not just another tagline, but it depicted the customers’ trust that the company had earned over the years. The launch of the CenturyPromise app, which allowed customers to scan the QR code on the company’s products and validate their authenticity and integrity, took the “Raho Befikar” assurance to a higher level.
- A nano-technology-induced treatment on plywood and laminates that kills viruses. The success is reflected by the fact that this launch came from the House of Centuryply and was taken with credibility. This represented a powerful extension of the ‘Raho befikar’ assurance, communicating that at a time of global health vulnerability, Centuryply’s researched product would protect consumers.
- EBITDA Margin – Century Ply reported a consolidated EBITDA of ₹553.92 Cr in FY22. Higher demand and acceptance from domestic markets, rise in retail consumers’ spending patterns, and price increases by the company that was passed on to end consumers are all factors that contributed to the margin gain. The market share increased due to marketing and advertising, reduced raw material costs than the previous year, and different cost-controlling activities, which were some reasons behind the improved company’s margin. The company’s exports saw a significant rise of 38% YOY, amounting to ₹126 Cr.
2. Debt to Equity Ratio – The Company’s debt increased to ₹196.37 Cr in FY22 against ₹124.53 Cr in FY21 due to the company’s rapid expansion plans. The management does not expect a further jump in debt despite CAPEX estimated to be ₹800 Cr 2023-25. The major funding of the CAPEX will be via internal accruals of the company. The company worked with significantly less or no debt on its books.
3. Return on Capital Employed (ROCE) – The company’s return on capital saw a jump in FY22 compared to the previous year due to the increase in demand, the lower employee cost, and other lower expenses coupled with higher demand in the domestic market. Moreover, the price hikes had pushed the EBIT to greater heights which, in contrast, spiked the ROCE of the Company. The EPS also stood at ₹14.09, compared to ₹8.62 in FY21.
4. Net Profit – The net profit in FY22 stood at ₹312.35 Cr compared to ₹185.35 Cr in FY21, an increase of 69.35%, which was due to higher acceptance in the domestic market, and an increase in retail spending back with the revival of Indian real estate market of both residential and commercial space. The company had a firm margin status on its products, which also helped it to maintain and increase its net profit for the current financial year. The company was sitting on ₹261.03 Cr liquid cash in FY22.
Environmental, Social, and Governance
A vision of carbon-free India
The company has made considerable investments in moderating its carbon footprint and extending beyond the regulatory requirements of the day. The company anticipates deriving 25% of its electricity requirements from renewable energy by FY23.
Vision to achieve more with less
Century Ply has invested in environment-friendly processes that consume optimized resources (materials, space, talent, fuels, and energy) to achieve more with less. The company operates DG sets with a DG synchronizing panel, which distributes load uniformly and controls DG utility capacity as per requirement, conserving diesel. The company replaced three legacy transformers with two new 1000 kVA 11kV/415V transformers in the Kolkata plant to enhance energy efficiency.
Century Ply is working on reducing its water footprint by promoting rainwater harvesting, which helped the company save 1700 cubic meters of water per day. The company recycled wastewater in its sewage treatment plant, which was later used in gardening. The company also installed rainwater harvesting stations and solar photovoltaic modules. The company distributed plant saplings to workers, encouraging them to plant in their areas of influence to promote planting trees.
The company believes in lasting impact towards a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. The Company’s CSR initiatives focus on education, healthcare, disaster management, animal welfare, women’s sports, and environmental sustainability.
The company supported the development and maintenance of cremation ghats and provided farmers with eucalyptus clones under the Century Plantation Project 2017. This pan-India organization works with government hospitals across the spectrum of childhood cancer (0-19 years of age). The company provided medical and COVID kits to patients under the Home away from home scheme. The company’s primary objective is to encourage the education of Vedas, Vedangas, and Sanskrit.
In compliance with the Listing Regulations and the Companies Act 2013, the board comprises sixteen members as of March 31, 2022, with four managing directors, four executive directors, and eight independent directors, one of whom is a woman. Following the Companies Act 2013, Mamta Binani ceased to be an Independent Director of CenturyPly Limited at the Annual General Meeting. Ms. Ratnabali Kakkar has been appointed as an Additional Independent Director from April 1, 2022.
The shareholding pattern of Century Ply Limited witnessed a change in FY22. The Foreign Institutional Investor’s holding rose to 6.87% from 4.80%. Mutual Funds reduced their holdings from 12.35% to 11.18% in March 2022. Retail investors also reduced their holding in the company from 6.40% in the last fiscal to 5.41% in this fiscal year.
In FY22, Century Plyboards continued to enhance its risk management system to quickly identify risks and their materiality and take measures to reduce their likelihood and losses. Risk management was applied across all management levels and functional areas.
Experience in managing areas of major risk to the organization; understanding of significant issues faced by the industry and the organization; changing technology and emerging risk areas; overseeing compliance with applicable laws; and understanding an individual Director’s legal duties and responsibilities.
- Liquidity risk: The rising inflation and raw material prices may hurt the company’s liquidity and gearing. It may, in turn, affect the company’s credit rating and its capacity for low-cost resource mobilization for future investment. Due to more significant investment requirements, the balance sheet may be stretched.
- Safety risk: The Company has invested extensively in mechanization and automation to enhance physical safety. The Covid-19 pandemic has made the health & safety of the workforce more prominent.
- Forex fluctuation risk: Given that a sizable portion of the company’s revenue comes from export, any volatility in currency valuations could affect the bottom line. The business also imports its goods and services from other nations, which may impact the profit margin.
- Geopolitical risk: Current government policies may need to be reevaluated, which could impact the futures of all participants. The geopolitical disruptions between China and Taiwan threaten the company’s export and the imposition of significant sanctions.
- Real estate risk: The company’s expansion is related to expanding the residential and commercial real estate industries in domestic and international markets. The Chinese property sector crisis of Evergrande group may also negatively affect the company as China is an importing country of plywood. Any slowdown might hurt the company’s growth.
- Global warming: Global environmental threats are posed by rising global warming. The source of raw materials may be considerably impacted by rigorous regulations that limit deforestation.
Impact of COVID-19
Despite the continued cyclical upswings and downswings of the pandemic, the company managed to post a record revenue & profit in this fiscal year. Demand was disrupted during the second wave of Covid-19. The pandemic also had an unprecedented impact on the transportation sector; this caused disarray in the market and supply of containers across various ports. Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy continues to be plagued by uncertainty, with resurgent waves of mutant variants, supply-chain disruptions, and a return of inflation in both advanced and emerging economies. COVID –19 has affected all spheres of life in the country and the world at large; rising capital expenditure by the government on infrastructure and an uptick in the housing cycle had a resilient effect on the Indian real estate sector in FY22. This has allowed the demand for the company’s products to revert to pre-COVID levels and surpass the same. The company provides customized digital solutions (telesales, digital catalog, e-commerce, and e-gallery for small natural veneer selection). The company also expanded its physical presence in the market post-pandemic.
The plywood industry is a highly competitive market in India. Centuryply being the market leader in the organized market, allows it to experiment with new products as it already has a customer base. The rising inflation in the country is increasing the cost of raw materials, and also putting pressures on margins. As of this financial year, the company was able to pass the price rise on to the customers but is worried whether they can continue to do the same in future. Centuryply has plans of expanding and strengthening its footprints in India and outside both organically and inorganically.
Keeping these factors in mind, will Century Ply be able to maintain its leadership in the Indian plywood industry ?
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