Thursday, March 4, 2021


We want to ensure sustainable products like particleboards and MDF lead to subtraction in the use of timber




Nitin Vaze is an internationally well-known figure in the world of panel products , having been in the business for several decades. His company, Sleek Boards (India) LLP is one of the country’s leaders in marketing a variety of imported panel products, including tubular particle boards from Sauerland Spanplatten. CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES spoke to Nitin Vaze on the growing need to conserve the fast depleting timber population in the country and his ‘eco-friendly’ options for the panel processing trade.



Briefly give us an understanding of your firm and its work in the eco-friendly furniture space? 


We are in the wood panel trade since 1997. We have always promoted products which are only eco-friendly in origin such as particleboards, MDF and the like. We are strong proponents of the habit of the use of engineered boards and have advocated a large scale switch in public consumption of plywood in the industry. We represent many foreign companies for their products to be marketed in India. These include reputed firms from Germany, Finland, Spain, Malaysia, Bangladesh all confined to the wood panel business and all which deal in sustainable products. 



Tell us about the various products offered by your company?


We deal with different materials like hard boards, tubular particle boards, particle boards, MDFs, also agro-based particle boards like jute boards. The application of these products is widespread from furniture to doors. We have two types of boards. One which are low density which go as infills for doors and we have the normal density panels that go into the fabrication of furniture components.



What is the market for these products in India?


It is a multi-billion dollar market. In the last 20 years, the market share of these products has remained around 10-15 percent. While the production and consumption of both have gone up, the market has not switched from plywood segment in any significant way in the sense that it has not yet gone into the mode of substitution of plywood although plywood rates keep going up each year. It is our endeavor to ensure that there is a shift and sustainable products like particleboards and MDF start eating into the plywood market.



Is that shift happening?


We are trying but it is not happening. What we are able to succeed in is to retain the market share. Starting from 1980 particleboards were available in a quality which could be converted into a furniture component. Since then the market has started to grow but it is sustaining itself at the same percentage. Plywood is also going up in square meter and so are particleboards. But the shift of the market from particleboard eating into plywood is not there. There are several reasons. One is the buyer’s mindset. Plywood is significantly expensive but yet they opt for a higher price item and have carpenters to work on their projects for months together. It is more accepted in the industrial front to have machine made furniture like the software companies, they may just place an order to a large furniture manufacturer who does the job on a mass scale. Mass production technologies have been used and then they get to do the jobs faster.



What is it that goes into the making of an engineered door?


In conventional doors all of it is timber filled. The engineered door will have an engineered board inside. This improves the quality of the door performance significantly. It helps it to remain straight, it doesn’t bend or warp and it gives the same impact strength. It is in fact stronger. We are able to guarantee 20 kg per sq cm as the impact bearing for the door. People think the tubes and the holes in the board will make it weak, actually it makes it stronger. Because the tubular are mirror images of the arch of  bridge. An arch of a bridge is one of the very conventional proven principles in civil engineering. You would have noticed that all the bridges done during British times still exist and have relied on very sound engineering principles that were used. So inspite of weight reduction, by using the tubular board inside, you are actually increasing the load bearing or impact properties in the door. Now our products, for example, are made from 100 percent recycled wood. The wastes created in other sawmill industries are recycled to make these boards and when you put it inside the door, you are saving 80 percent of timber stuffing which Indians would otherwise use.



So this is basically stuffing?


Yes. It is a stuffing material for filling in the door. What you have is that all four sides will have a timber frame, a face and a infill board inside. What India puts today is 80 percent timber inside, instead we recommend  is retaining 20 percent timber and avoid 80 percent usage through engineered panels. With this concept you get many advantages in the door industry, like doors don't bend or warp, they have a great amount of climate stability. Further security wise it can withstand 20 kg-force per sq cm. The current mindset is that a heavier door is stronger. Actually it is a misconception: if the thief breaks the lock, the load goes on the hinges, so how does a heavy door give security? For that, you need an engineered door, you need impact strength.



What are the most in demand products from the overseas companies which you market here in India?


The tubular board from Germany and jute particle boards from Bangladesh for the door industry; particle board for the laminating industry from Malaysia and very high quality MDF from Spain are our front runners.



Tell us of your campaign for the subtraction in the use of timber? What is the extent of the danger right now?


It is very obvious from our national statistics that there is no growth in our forest reserves. Indian forest cover is currently around 20 percent or so which is very bad. I believe the minimum forest cover any country should have is around 40 percent. What we currently have is almost half of what we should be having. The requirement of the housing sector in India is approximatly of 20 lakh homes and one crore doors. It is sheer mathematics, and you don’t need a rocket scientist to say that you have to limit the usage of timber. For the eighty percent of timber used in construction activities, we are consuming as many as 12 lakh trees every year. Are we planting that many? How can it be sustainable? These are the main concerns? So there is a need to drive home the message of curbing timber usage in the public mind space but it is a Herculean task.



Can you tell us about R&D?


We have a lot of developmental activities going on in terms of fire retardant doors. We are introducing technologies which use the least minimum amount of materials for low-weight doors and yet make them fire safe for 60 minutes. In India, we have the problem of lack of knowledge. People ask only for door shutters for example. They invest thousands of rupees to install a door leaf or a shutter, not realising that the hinges and the locks and the timber frames which they are installing alongwith the fire rated doors is of such low density that it will cause a burnout within 15-20 minutes. So when you don’t have a frame which will withstand more than 15-20 minutes what is the use of a fire rated door? So we are inculcating these drivers. It is a system which has to withstand. We are talking of temperatures touching > 800-900 degrees in real life fire situations. There are legal liabilities in other countries if a fire door fails to perform but here in India it is not yet prescribed. That needs to change.



What is your future outlook for business?


We are very upbeat. Today everything is in abundance because nobody wants it but I think a 2-3 percent shift in economic growth will see people scrambling. We could again face a huge shortage of timber as soon as economic activity picks up.


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