- Dr Prashanth Reddy, Managing Director, FunderMax India
A production facility, service partners and design laboratory - FunderMax is all of these. Synonymous with sustainability, the company hails from Austria, with a presence in several countries across the globe, including India. What's more, 2017 is a landmark year for the company as it completes 10 years of successful operations in India. In a market largely dominated by the unorganised segment, the most significant differentiator for the company has been µevolution', according to Dr Prashanth Reddy, Managing Director, FunderMax India. Quick learning and the ability to adapt to the market rapidly have helped the company cope with several challenges.
'We try to convert these challenges into opportunities for us,' he says. Content with the company's 10-year journey in an industry that has been 'quite open and receptive,' Dr Reddy sees potential in years to come as well. He shares more on the company, its factory plan and the Indian market in conversation with SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.
Tell us about your major success stories over the decade in India.
It has been an evolutionary journey that has brought quite a few learnings amid several challenges faced. A major one has been change management - how do we adopt ourselves to a given situation? That said, we have evolved into becoming a profitable company and an established architecturally preferred brand.
With a total estimated size of over 80 million sq m per annum, how do you see the Façade industry evolving in India?
The industry is growing by the day. There is certainly demand for cladding; it can work both aesthetically and functionally. While in the past, it has largely been driven by aesthetics, the functional aspect is taking over now.
Amid this evolution, what is the company's current market share, vision and set strategies?
At present, the market share is big with huge potential for growth but nothing is being offered on the platter. That said, our approach has always been driven by the focus to find and build our market and realise our aim. We are present in 44 cities working with key architects and focused segments, driven more on specifications. To be a complete solution provider, it is extremely important to utilise your resources optimally and stay focused.
What keeps the company ahead of its competitors in terms of services offered?
This largely unorganised market is slowly moving towards getting organised. Moreover, government regulations such as GST are helping the organised sector gain further. In this scenario, companies such as ours have made a difference to the industry by bringing in world-class products. Additionally, to effectively communicate our offerings, we are trying to educate the industry on the advantages of using the products and the inherent value benefits. Further, a large share of the unorganised market involves the unskilled and untrained labour force. We educate and train them, and have established a trained and skilled partner network across the country for installation.
How has the company's business volume growth been; what has been driving this growth?
We have always clocked a profitable, double-digit growth. Our positioning has been extremely critical for our success. Going by our tagline, 'for people who create', we have been trying to emphasise upon the need to bring in a certain character to Façades; there should be an emotional connect. All our awareness and education campaigns are geared around this.
FunderMax has been a leader in energy-efficient Façade materials....
Max Exterior panel from FunderMax - used in conjunction with rear ventilated Façade - is eco-friendly and can help achieve the necessary energy-efficient rating. The wood - raw material for our product - comes from renewable sources that are PEFC and FSC-certified, further contributing to a sustainable environment. Product performance using rear ventilated Façade concept results in energy-efficiency.
Considering the increasing demand for Façade and cladding, and government initiatives such as Make in India, do you have any plans for a manufacturing set-up in India?
We are certainly open to setting up a plant in India. In fact, when we began operations here 10 years ago, we did acquire land to set up the factory. But we did not see the market as big enough for us to start with a factory and build ourselves. So we chose a different approach: First create a market and then the factory. Even today, it is our dream and vision to set up a global factory in India that can cater to Asia and the Asia Pacific as well. However, at this point, we do not have a fixed timeline for the factory set-up.
What is the emphasis laid on R&D, especially for the Indian market?
R&D is more of a global approach and we do not have an R&D centre in India as such.
In India, our approach has been to be a complete solution provider. Although the panels come from Austria, the entire implementation system is being driven from the Indian operations, its tropical conditions, its project and design requirements and the local laws of the land. So R&D in this direction is still happening. Thus, except for the fact that the panels are not made in India, the entire support system is driven from the Indian operations. That said, a sizeable investment goes into our R&D activities, because we believe that until you invest in future innovation, sustainability will remain a challenge.
Tell us about your channel expansion strategies in the market.
We have been touching a scale of an average 1,000 projects every year, and over the past 10 years, we have completed close to 10,000 projects. This growth would not have been possible without the valuable contribution from our business partners, and the credit goes to them, who have been able to scale up their respective business to handle this exponential growth. They carry out most of the pre-sale and post-sale services to our customers and almost 100 per cent of our product installation is handled by them.
Our endeavour is to form sustainable business partnerships with profitable growth, and we are constantly working towards the same.
Going forward, can we expect any announcements?
There is a lot happening on the product development front. Bringing in any new collection requires the effort of four to six years by a team of 20 designers working round the clock. But we try not to overdo it by launching too many products in a market. Introducing too many products might weaken our connect with the market and customers could lose track of products we bring into or take away from the market. So we try to time ourselves to operate to a cycle that when the market says 'What next?' we are already there!
How much of a Façade should be openable?
Sufficient ventilation and the ability to be openable are mandatory in any Façade, says Rajeev Antony, Managing Director, Schueco India. 'As per the National Building Code 2016, openable panels should be provided on each floor and should be spaced not more than 10 m apart to communicate with the exterior environment.' Recognising the role of openables in enhancing safety, some designers prefer to exceed this recommended limit. 'I believe in designing open buildings. Windows need to be openable; this enhances safety,' says Sanjay Puri, Founder, Sanjay Puri Architects.
Advantage: Rear-ventilated Façade
'Most Façades in India are closed systems,' says Dr Prashanth Reddy, Managing Director, FunderMax India. 'These closed systems trap air, create a thermal bridge and allow the condensation of water vapour on the wall surface. To the contrary, FunderMax provides a rain screen Façade system that improves the functional performance of the Façade with respect to heat reduction, noise reduction, better weather protection and improved thermal efficiency through effective design, making it a sustainable building.'
'Rear-ventilated Façade systems are good for walls with high water-absorptive claddings, such as bricks, blocks and renders, so they are suitable for older buildings,' adds Kapil Chikodi, Head-Business Development, Glass Wall Systems.