Alpha Industries’ persistent pursuit of growth opportunities
2022 Feb 17
Investing in people and technology amidst the pandemic, diversifying into allied businesses, keeping a breast of evolving consumer needs and global trends, and building binding relationships with international brands secure Alpha Industries ‘ perch at the top of the furniture market. Safraz Careem, Director and Chief Executive Officer at Alpha Industries, explains.
For over 50 years, Alpha Industries has maintained its market leadership status in the security safes and office furniture space. What was, and continues to be, challenging about that?
Alpha Industries began its journey five decades ago as a steel-furniture manufacturer.
Alpha expanded from “steel-only” to engineered and solid wood furniture and, today we are a total interior solution provider, with auxiliary service segments including project management and consultancy. Transforming the business, any business for that matter, is never easy, and the challenges are many. We thoughtfully developed a people strategy because people come first, committed investments in technology and enhanced our capabilities to keep abreast with consumer tastes and global furniture industry standards.
We have invested in manufacturing plants and technology and built a team of efficient and skilled craftsmen and top interior designers.
This plays a crucial role in the transformation and success of Alpha Industries. We built strong relationships with top global brands like Haworth, Chubbs, Godrej Interiors and Bristol to represent them in Sri Lanka. Working with these brands helped us build expertise, enabling us to cater to the demands of a growing clientele including multinationals operating in the country.
We continue to grapple with the perennial challenges of finding and retaining skilled labour and securing the supply of raw materials. Sri Lanka does not have the raw materials we require, so we source these from India or China. Relying on imports necessitated building deep relationships with suppliers for a robust yet agile supply chain. On top of those, we had to be on our toes to keep abreast with changing consumer behaviour, global standards and designs, and evolving technology.
Right now, the currency crisis has thrown our supply chains in disarray. We cannot open an LC or make payments to our suppliers because of the forex controls. We forecasted the ongoing currency crisis early and managed to build enough inventory. It is increasingly challenging to run a manufacturing business these days, but we remain determined and focused on finding solutions as hard as it may be.
How did the company perform in 2021, or consider the last two years?
The onset of the pandemic was disastrous for Alpha Industries. The lockdowns halted production, and when we resumed once the lockdown lifted, we found the market had shrunk and the supplier network even more so. The restrictions on imports proved to be a blessing in disguise. As a local manufacturer, we reported considerable growth as sales rocketed due to the lack of supplies in the market. We achieved considerable growth in the last six months of 2021.
Talking about strategy, how do you maintain your market-leading status and grow during a global economic crisis?
We remain market leaders for safes, and our diversification strategy into allied businesses is paying rich dividends and helping us navigate the unfolding economic challenges.
Earlier, a client would get one company to design an office, contract another company to supply or manufacture the furniture and fittings and engage another for installations and maintenance. There was a need for a one-stop solution in the market, and we ventured into filling this gap. Our partnerships with global brands helped us develop total turnkey solutions and brought us immense benefits. From a strategic point of view, it is a great value proposition that we have and it is an advantage over our competitors. We are now expanding our corporate solutions to include carpeting, ceilings, lighting, and everything else under one roof.
Post-pandemic, everyone is concerned about health, safety and wellbeing, and demand for ergonomic furniture is growing, opening new opportunities for us. We are gearing to expand our offerings of ergonomic furniture, including height-adjustable electronic tables. Consumers care about their posture when they work at a desk, and they have evolved sophisticated demands centred around wellbeing. Our ability to identify these needs and cater to them has been another reason we continue to enjoy market recognition for over five decades.
I believe Covid itself has evolved. People are treating it more like the common flu. The work environment has changed from workfrom-home to a hybrid model, and now back to the office with the hybrid elements still at play. Driving efficiency improvements and investing in technology have emerged as solutions for a quick recovery from the ill effects of Covid-19.
We have invested more in the past 12 months than in the last decade. To some, this may sound crazy, but it was the best time to invest. The pandemic will not last forever. We are preparing for when the floodgates open once the economy recovers and projects in the Colombo Port City begin to materialise. Focusing on the future during a crisis is critical for any business.