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How Century Plyboards successfully passed on the baton to next generation

As per Sajjan Bhajanka, new generation entering the business is a natural process.

Century Plyboards (I) Ltd (CPIL) came into existence in 1986. Today, it is the largest seller of multi-use plywood and decorative veneers in the Indian organised plywood market.

Presently, it has 10 factories in India and markets its products all over the country. The laminates are exported to Singapore, Hong Kong, and even to the US, but that does not form a big revenue share.

The brand is India centric. It has a vast dealer network and directly deals with 1,500 dealers. They cater to another 10,000 who are sub-dealers or retailers. Last year, they crossed Rs 1,300 crore in terms of turnover which includes plywood and laminate businesses.

CPIL has its manufacturing units in Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati, Karnal, Kandla and Burma. CPIL today manufactures the entire range of commercial, marine, shuttering and decorative plywood.

Sajjan Bhajanka is the Managing Director of CIPL and also the Chairman of Cement Manufacturing Company Ltd and Shyam Centuryply Ferrous Ltd. Over the years, CPIL has invested its initial capital in the company and re-invested whatever they earned for expansion. Moreover, the firm has secured investments through some financial institutions. “Whenever we have plans for expansion, we take term loans and 35 per cent comes from financial institutions,” adds Sajjan.

In plywood and laminates, there are two segments – one is unbranded that is around 70 per cent of the market. The organised segment is only 30 per cent. The market size is Rs 15,000 crore. CenturyPly’s share is Rs 4,500 crore, which is almost 25 per cent.

As per Sajjan, new generation entering the business is a natural process. They undergo training under all departments. Commenting on the employees welcoming the new generation, Sajjan says, “Most of the executives in our company have been there for past 20-25 years. They have seen our children growing up. A bond is there, our kids respect them. They have been instrumental in training our children.”

Passing the Baton

Keshav was sure from the start that he wanted to join the family business. As per him, whenever he spoke to someone about his dad’s company, everyone had great regard for it. That was a positive feeling and boosted Keshav’s decision.

He never worked anywhere else before joining his father’s business. Sharing his experience, Keshav says, “Initially, it was not easy, understanding everything was difficult. It calls for a lot of patience. But my father always pointed out my mistakes and showed the ways of improvement. So that helped me a lot.” He is a meritorious graduate of Warwick University, UK, in Bachelors of Accounts and Finance. He also topped Class 12th in 2007 from The Cambridge School, Calcutta (now Kolkata) “It all comes down to how hard you are willing to work and how good your intellect is," asserts Keshav.

Keshav started his career as the Director-in-Charge of Decorative Business, CenturyPly, Kolkata, in 2010. He initiated many new projects of the company which includes Nesta, Exteria and the supply chain management project of the decorative business. He says it’s the number of hours you put in and the strength you put in over the time that pay off.

According to Keshav, his father gave him a free hand and told him not to get distracted or discouraged by mistakes, go ahead – this approach helped him a lot in growing professionally. “I got to experiment, there were a lot of failures but it helped me,” says Keshav.

Commenting on his present designation of Executive Director, he clearly says, “You have to earn it. Your mind, your senses, your timing – everything matters in building it up. You should be thorough from start to finish.”

He is currently focussed on expanding the Nesta Modular Kitchen business by increasing its presence – entering six new cities. For CenturyPly, his aim is to double the capacity of Laminates in India.

The Future

Nesta has adopted the franchise route for expansion. It has 11 franchisees signed up and is looking at Tier 1 and 2 cities and also the Middle East. It is present in Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Patna, Guwahati and Siliguri. Commenting the future of CenturyPly, Keshav concludes, “I think there is going to be a massive surge in the household segment. That’s the focus of entire country right now.”

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