A reduction in GST for building material products can uplift the industry
The real-estate market is recovering and showing signs of positive growth. According to a Reuters poll report, house prices will grow on an average of 15 per cent across India in 2021. More than 50 per cent of Indians in metros believe the festival season, typically the last quarter of the year, is appropriate for investing in real estate. Good initiatives from the government concerning interest subsidies and affordable housing loans are encouraging prospective customers. “We have witnessed an increase in demand especially after the second wave and most building material companies are also geared up for the ongoing festival season in the current quarter,” says Dr Prashanth Reddy, Managing Director, Fundermax India, as he shares his insights on the industry, the rising input costs of building materials, and more, with SERAPHINA D’SOUZA.
The real-estate market is recovering and showing signs of positive growth. According to a Reuters poll report, house prices will grow on an average of 15 per cent across India in 2021. More than 50 per cent of Indians in metros believe the festival season, typically the last quarter of the year, is appropriate for investing in real estate. Good initiatives from the government concerning interest subsidies and affordable housing loans are encouraging prospective customers. “We have witnessed an increase in demand especially after the second wave and most building material companies are also geared up for the ongoing festival season in the current quarter,” says Dr Prashanth Reddy, Managing Director, Fundermax India, as he shares his insights on the industry, the rising input costs of building materials, and more, with SERAPHINA D’SOUZA. Did COVID impact the company’s business in any way – demand, supply, manufacturing, exports? How did you strategise to overcome the challenges brought in by the pandemic? Owing to Covid, there were delays in import shipments because of container shortages. On the business front, we have undertaken the right investments to ensure the availability of material, so that it does not affect our turnaround time for projects. One of the key priorities was the safety of employees during this period, and we extended work from home. We operated the ‘Lean’ concept to keep costs under control. To better connect with our stakeholders internally and externally, we started using digital platforms. We also fine-tuned our website during the pandemic to provide relevant information to our prospects and to enable them to reach us seamlessly. At the warehouse level, we provided accommodation to our staff. Construction workers onsite was another big concern. Our partners played an important role to address this by providing food and shelter to workers. The fundamental objective was to prevent them from migrating back and stop the spread of the Coronavirus. The rising input costs of building materials is a huge challenge faced by the industry. Public-sector contracts, too, are affected by rising building material costs. Building material prices are expected to remain high until the middle of next year. How do you see this impacting the real-estate and construction industry? Increase in raw material prices is resulting in a price increase of building materials by almost 15-20 per cent in the past few months. On the other hand, rising freight costs in the domestic market because of the increase in fuel cost and rising ocean freight for imported products further added to the increase in the price of building materials. Despite all these odds, there was an increase in sales because of pent-up demand, especially after the second wave of Covid-19, and the trend is continuing. A reduction in GST for building material products in the slab of 18 per cent and 28 per cent to 12 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, may uplift the industry. Additionally, there should be a reduction in import duty and stamp duty. All these will have a cascading effect that can lead to the revival of the real-estate and construction industry. Changing climatic conditions is another important factor to be considered while manufacturing building systems. How are Fundermax’s systems designed keeping in mind India’s climatic conditions, among other factors to be considered for the built environment? The revolutionary rear-ventilated façade system from Fundermax maintains a gap between the building envelope and cladding and between cladding elements. This ensures sufficient flow of air behind the cladding. This ensures continuous air movement and the building is able to sustain a comfortable temperature. It also has a positive impact on the overall air-conditioning load of the building. Also, the panels are easy to maintain and hence do not incur any periodic maintenance costs. Right manufacturing is one part but right installation is another crucial aspect. What is the emphasis laid by the company on installation support and training? Fundermax is a complete solution provider, supplying not only Max exterior and interior panels but also Fundermax-developed installation systems. A network of trained and experienced ‘Fundermax authorised Business Partners’ across the country supports the installation of a complete system at site. The installers receive mandatory training from the Fundermax head office at Bengaluru. Any recent innovations to ensure sustainability in building solutions? Sustainability is the trending phenomenon in modern-day façades. To this end, Fundermax provides a rain screen façade system that improves building protection by enhancing the functionality of the façade with respect to heat and noise reduction and better weather protection. It acts as an external skin or envelope to the building, protecting it from heat, rain and other extremes. We can increase the thermal efficiency of the building with effective design. A well-designed sustainable façade reduces thermal bridges and condensation of water vapour, and protects the building. A tropical climate can sometimes be uncomfortable and, therefore, it is important to use the right façade system to optimise temperature levels inside a building. The primary objective is to keep the heat at bay. In terms of customising offerings and solutions, how is Fundermax working to meet user demand? Homeowners mostly look at buying factors like aesthetics, sustainability and easy maintenance. In a few cases, they also look at uniqueness as buying criteria. In such private and residential projects, the use of Fundermax extends beyond exterior wall cladding to gates, louvers based on the sun path and other applications like pergolas and exterior furniture for landscape and roof gardens too. We offer customised systems suitable for the application that customers seek. In the case of bigger projects, the stakeholders want sustainability as an important feature. They seek certified products and prefer green-rated buildings with innovative designs. They are willing to explore and experiment to learn about newer cladding systems. Sun-path analysis, wind-loading patterns, dynamic sun shading and thermally efficient materials are some of the factors computed to achieve the best functional output from a façade. Fundermax has the inhouse capability to offer technical support for such demands. Any significant upcoming projects or offerings by the company you would like to mention? One of the latest system offerings from Fundermax is the Max Lato series. It aims to provide better visual comfort to occupants. These shading systems come in different sizes and configurations and can be used to mitigate the effects of glare and heat ingress in different kinds of buildings located across the country. Max Lato is an effective way to reduce air-conditioning loads. It also offers designers an opportunity to create a distinctive architectural impact. This new-age shading system has slats made of Max Exterior panels of Fundermax that can be fixed at any position according to the building location. Another new system is the rivet-less soffit system from Fundermax, FS01. The objective is to achieve a seamless and unhindered view with smaller strips (width of panels) and closed grooves. The application engineering team at Fundermax has developed this after intensive design analysis and trials. This seamless soffit cladding system is sure to give buildings character while enhancing the aesthetics. What are your plans for the coming fiscal? Any big announcements or launches planned? We are the market leader in exterior segment and we are going to expand in the interior segment by the end of this year. Some segments we are going to expand include: Max Interior panels suitable for durable partition system for restrooms, cubicles and internal wall claddingsMFC (melamine-faced chipboards) and MDF for interior furniture and kitchensMax Resistance2, a niche offering specifically used for laboratory tabletops.