Growing Demand For Smart And Cost-Effective Furniture Will Boost India’s Plywood Industry
Jitendra Kejriwal, a Delhi-based businessman and founder of the Sonear Group can be credited for many firsts in the sector, including the first one to introduce decorative veneer in the country, the first one to use plantation timber for making plywood instead of forest timber to maintain ecological balance, the first one to use PCT technology for manufacturing plywood, the first one to use melafilm technology for making veneer and laminate, among others.
When and how did you get into the plywood business, and how has been the journey so far?
My journey dates back to 1985, when I was in Class XI. My family was into plywood trading and we were always struggling to meet our customers’ demand. I remember going to our shop in Paharganj whenever I found time from studies. In fact, I developed a liking for it at a very early stage. Back then, the business was growing steadily. One day, it occurred to my family that we could do a lot better if we got into manufacturing plywood. The idea led to our first manufacturing facility, which was started in Bihar in 1988.
How did you get attracted to the family business, and do you have any memories from those days?
Within a few weeks of visiting our shop, I told myself that I had to build a career in the plywood industry. The business was booming and there was a lot of movement all around us. I volunteered to join the family venture and even before I knew, I was deeply involved in everyday operations. I remember spending days away from home at our factory in Bihar. From sourcing of material, gathering labor to taking the finished product to the market, I learnt the tricks of the trade early in my professional journey.
How did the Covid pandemic impact your business and the industry?
The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted our business and the overall industry. Things came to a standstill and one didn’t know how long would the virus and the restrictions last. Even though the government was proactively introducing measures to keep MSMEs alive, the losses kept multiplying as there was hardly any demand. I can’t quote a figure, but we lost crores in those two years. Thankfully, the recovery was quick and so businesses like ours were able to not only survive but record strong growth.
In a fiercely competitive market, what’s been your business strategy to ensure continued growth for Sonear Industries?
Our unwavering focus on quality and price both on the demand and supply side has helped us grow in the last decade. We endeavor to get the best raw materials at competitive rates and directly reach out to customers with high quality products that are reasonably priced. This strategy has helped us create a reputation of being an uncompromising and customer-friendly company.
Can you tell us about your business expansion plans?
This isn’t the right time to talk about expansion plans as we have several projects in the works. However, to answer your question, we have plans to set up MDF, plywood and laminate plants across India in the near future. The plywood and construction industry is going to witness double digit growth soon and we want to be a part of that growth story.
Do you have any specific advice for young entrepreneurs?
I am not good at giving advice but there are three mantras to success that I would like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs and businesspersons: be clear, stay focused, and be patient.
What keeps you busy when you aren’t working?
Not many people believe it but I am a family man at heart. You will find me spending time with my wife, children or close family friends whenever I am not working. I also love watching movies, especially since I have friends in Bollywood. I watch something new every now and then.
Can you tell us about the challenges you have faced so far?
Being highly ambitious is my biggest strength. It’s also my biggest challenge. At one point in time, I was in a rush of sorts to take my business to the next level. So, I took multiple loans from banks and couldn’t timely repay them. However, before I knew it, banks had filed a complaint with the CBI and the agency began probing me for loan default and fraud. Perhaps there was a fear that like several others, I would go absconding with the public money. But that’s not who I am. Despite the CBI cases and the scrutiny, I made it a point to settle all dues and obtained ‘No Dues’ certificates from the lending banks. It was a challenging period, but I got through it with the support of my family. Even today, I sometimes get impatient. Thankfully, I have people around me to caution and guide me.