How a 19-year-old trader built a Rs 500Cr revenue marble business
Amit Shah started Classic Marble Company in 1994 when he was just 19 years old. Today, it is a 900-employee marble and granite business, exporting to over 66 countries.
In the early 90s, a young and budding entrepreneur in Mumbai mulled over a business decision.
Nineteen-year-old Amit Shah’s family was into the textile business. But Amit had also seen great potential in the marble industry.
Amit was not sure which path to take. He felt India lacked organised players in the stone and marble industry.
“I was naturally inclined to be an entrepreneur and wanted to be quick to latch on to this opportunity in the stone and marble industry,” Amit tells SMBStory.
Amit took the plunge in 1994 and entered the marble industry and started off as a trader. He began trading exotic marble varieties and sold it to wealthy buyers. Thus began the early days of Classic Marble Company (CMC). Amit spent the next few years building expertise in the domain.
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There were several challenges along the way, such as working in an unorganised sector, unfavourable manufacturing policies, difficulty in procuring raw materials, etc.
The bootstrapped company was looking to manufacture marble products and export to a global marble market worth $50 billion (according to a MarketWatch study). Amit was working in a highly fragmented industry where the top 10 producers of marble accounted for just 3.76 percent of the market, the same study shows.
There was an opportunity in adversity, and Amit and his co-founder KM Swamy overcame the odds to build CMC into a Rs 500 crore revenue company with close to 900 employees across the country.
In an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, Amit explains how he built CMC into one of India’s largest suppliers of natural marble and granite.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
SMBStory (SMBS): What were the initial challenges in running the business?
Amit Shah (AS): Early on, I had to build my network from scratch. It took time to get a natural flair for building relationships in my business. Another challenge was the procurement of raw materials. Tie ups had to be made with quarries across the world to source the best natural stone.
Also, being in an unorganised sector, there were no readily available market research documents. We had to put in a lot of work to understand the industry. Indian policies were also not in favour of such manufacturing. There was heavy taxation since marble varieties were considered luxury products.
Further, when we started manufacturing the products under our KalingaStone brand, we were the first plant in India to start composite marble production in 2009. Procuring raw material, getting the right resources, and doing R&D for KalingaStone was one of the most challenging phases for the company. Also, creating market acceptability and pitching the product in the same segment as natural marble was a challenge.
SMBS: What made CMC stand out from the rest?
AS: We became front-runners in the industry and solved our challenges through importing high quality and exclusive raw materials, which made us stand out from the others. Our indigenous brand KalingaStone made an impact locally as well as internationally.
It is now being exported to over 66 countries, and is counted among the best in terms of technology and innovation. It is curated with different styles, designs, and colours based on the country it is exported to.
CMC has also built a wide dealer and distribution network across the globe, which helps us market our products. In addition, the sales team is well trained to explain the various technical nuances of the products.
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SMBS: Where and how does the manufacturing happen?
AS: CMC has one of the biggest production plants for stones in the country. It is spread over five lakh square metres in Silvassa, Gujarat. It houses four separate factories for natural marble, engineered marble, and quartz.
With a capacity to manufacture 30 million square feet of marble and limestone per annum, the plant can stock up to 30,000 metric tons of raw blocks and five lakh square metres of finished marble.
This plant has one of the world’s finest polishing machines from SIMEC, Italy, with 36 polishing heads. It can impart the desired glossiness to the finished product. CMC is also the only company in India that deploys vacuumised resin filling to ensure that even minute pores in marble are filled, which adds strength to the finished marble.
SMBS: How did the company diversify into different product categories?
AS: The diversification was strategised based on demands from the customers. While the market base for marble and other stones continued to grow steadily, the discerning customer was also looking for premium quality surface covers in other materials, mostly ceramics.
We wanted to give our customers the choice of all designs under one roof. Today, other than in natural and engineered stones, we offer a wide range in large size porcelain slabs.
We recently launched ‘9th Avenue’, a limited edition collection of rare and beautiful natural stones. We also entered into an exclusive tie-up with Turkey’s oldest and world’s most renowned ceramic tiles manufacturers, Kalesinterflex, to market its ultra large sized tiles.
Kalesinterflex is known for being one of the most flexible, lightweight, and manoeuvrable tiles.
SMBS: Who is the target audience/clients?
AS: CMC has something for everyone. The 9th Avenue gallery is one of our most prestigious collections, featuring rare natural stones. The portfolio is limited and is targeted at the distinguished and the affluent.
The natural stone segment also has a large collection, with over 700 products in all colours, textures, and designs. Marble by itself is a timeless and rich stone, which is a default choice for many discerning homeowners and C-suite offices.
In KalingaStone, CMC offers over 200 products across marble and quartz and these are the most preferred products in most grand scale projects by realtors. The products offer style and convenience, and are also economical. The Kalesinterflex is a unique porcelain slab, with its unique ability to flex on curved surfaces, and is a favoured choice in commercial buildings.
SMBS: How is the company using digital platforms?
AS: CMC is yet to fully explore this dimension, but we are present on all the popular social media platforms. The company communicates and interacts with customers through the digital medium to offer customer service and support. However, leveraging marketing or sales through this medium has not been attempted. We intend to utilise these channels better to enhance customer experience.
SMBS: What is the current market in your sector like and what are your future plans?
AS: There are not many companies in India which have the infrastructure and technical support as far as the composite marble division goes. Soon, we are planning to aggressively promote KalingaStone through our dealer distributor network. Currently, we have opened over 20 KalingaStone showrooms through our dealers – Kalinga Shoppe. We plan to take this number to 150 in the next financial year.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)
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