Technical fabric is a vital aspect of the papermaking mechanism, as it is the birthplace of paper. The erstwhile leader of technical fabric, Wires and Fabriks has served every paper mill in India, and as an allied company, has given great value to the paper industry.
Wires and Fabriks recently undertook an expansion of over 40 crores. Paper Mart interviewed Mr. Basant Khaitan, CMD, Wires and Fabriks (S.A. Ltd.) at their Jaipur facility. We present the perspective of a supplier to the paper industry, and a man who foresees rapid growth.
What key innovations have Wires and Fabriks pioneered, and what kind of infrastructure do you have for R&D? And further, what innovations can we expect in the future?
We have always introduced India to new products. We have introduced three generations of synthetic fabrics to the industry. Though we had been doing triple weft, since last year we have been supplying the true triple layer fabric, a new generation fabric. We are the only ones to do so. Since paper is born on our fabric, it influences the paper quality to a large extent. This is why we focus so much on innovation. In our quality policy, we have stated our commitment to an environment of teamwork, which fosters innovation, leadership and constant improvement, thus creating a strong technological base. We usually invest 3% of our turnover in R&D.
What were your initial products and how your product palette been increased?
Initially we started with metal wire, i.e. bronze wire mesh used for the formation of paper. But since the 1970s, this has been converted to synthetic, and we marketed this product in India after introducing it in 1989. Our product palette has increased considerably over the years. Besides forming fabrics, we have added stainless steel mesh, pulp fabrics, dryer screens and sludge presses.
Can you tell us about your market share and market penetration (including exports)?
We have supplied to every mill in India. Regarding exports, we have to target certain export markets, because of our limited capacity. At the moment we are targeting the Middle East and the Far East. In the Indian market, we have neared about 55 % market share in forming fabrics and a substantial share in dryers.
Being an integral part of the Indian paper industry as a supplier, comment on its growth?
The paper industry has no way to go, except up. And not just inching up, it will be a leap in terms of technology, capacity and quality. If 3 small countries, Finland, Sweden and Indonesia, can control over 35 % of the world’s pulp production, if Japan can be the world’s 3rd largest paper producer, and source 90% of its pulp requirement from outside, and, if China in 20 years can increase production from 5 million tons to 65 million tons, then by 2020, I can also see India amongst the top 5 paper producing countries, with a per capita consumption close to Asia’s average of 35 kg per person, with integrated paper mills of over 1 million TPA.
Considering the scarcity of pulp that India faces, if the world is a global market for sellers, then why not for buyers? Why does something have to be produced in India in order to be used in India? We can buy pulp or create pulp mills overseas, like BILT has strategically done. That is how all Indian industries who want to grow, will act. By becoming consolidated, they will bring in scales of economy and feed the market with products required in terms of quality, cost and other logistics.
What are your views on future practices in the paper industry?
After the next 5-10 years, nobody will think about small or secondhand machines. This concept will be outdated, as modern technology is the only way to cut costs. There is tremendous cost and compromise in trying to revamp and then run a secondhand machine. Presently, it is a good way. The economic environment and infrastructure has to be suitable for larger capacities and new machines.
Considering the recession, what do you think are the challenges ahead for the paper industry?
I think this ‘recession’, is rather a cycle which was bound to happen. We tend to add capacity when things are great. Due to speculations of further market highs before this lull period, the dip in the economy comparatively seemed like a major crisis. Recently, new capacities are being added, which will create pressure on prices for the industry.
Do you think the Indian paper industry has important aspects which need immediate attention?
It is of immediate concern for the Indian paper industry to have qualified people. Without them, there can be no innovators or ideas. However, I am sure the industry is creating an environment conducive to recruiting dynamic professionals. Moreover, I feel that the big players are keen on catalyzing the industry’s growth. With regard to new technology, paper mill owners are very much aware of it, and soon they have to adopt it, without which they will not be able to survive.
How does Wires and Fabriks add value to their customer’s experience?
Our success depends on what can we do different for the customer. Cutting price, faster delivery, quality are now expected norms of business. We provide a lot of technical services, help customers use our products better, find out how to optimize their processes, and encourage them to share their information. Our vast library of technical data and documentation has received huge appreciation from our customer base. Our monthly newsletter Snippets is an additional effort to make our customers’ experience a cherished one.
Can you tell us about Wires and Fabriks’ CSR?
We fully sponsor DISHA, a resource centre for mentally challenged children. Our employees are encouraged to give personal time to the institution. We have created awareness in our state government about their plight.
Can you comment on your expansion, especially about the acquisition of your new loom?
We have invested dramatically to expand our capacity. Recently, we purchased a new Jäger loom from Germany. This loom will enable us to develop new designs and products. It runs at 115 picks a minute, which is 30% higher than the fastest machine until now. This is the only loom of its kind in the world. We have made a total investment of about 40 crores.
What is your mission and vision?
Our mission is to make this company global, not necessarily in terms of size, but definitely in international standards of quality. We are passionate about this, and our vision is to create it.