Taking a chance on the Indian stone industry

The success of Tab India Co. and its U.S. operation -- Amsum & Ash -- is due to the partnership of two brothers, Amit and Sumit Gupta. Starting out with limited funds and little experience, the two young men were driven by persistence and optimism. For almost 10 years now, the Gupta brothers have steadily expanded their business in India and the U.S., with the most recent addition to the company being a state-of-the-art fabricating facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, India -- approximately 45 minutes south of Bangalore.

“I came to the U.S. from India in 1991 at the age of 17 to attend school,” said Amit Gupta, president. “The liberalization of the economic/fiscal policies under IMF and World Bank pressure prompted the Indian government to liberalize its policies and open India's economy to the world. This is when India started to see a boom; it started to become a manufacturing and service super power. Our own country's people had its first taste of a consumer economy. This was all very exciting. I knew from the get-go that I needed to be a part of this. In 1995, after I finished school, Tab India and Amsum & Ash were born.”

Gupta remained in the U.S. to handle sales, marketing and distribution. This leg of the operation is Amsum & Ash. His younger brother, Sumit, lives in India and is chief executive of Tab India -- running all operations from procurement of blocks, operating quarries and ensuring that Tab India's processing facilities are keeping up with its exponential growth.

“We were looking for something to do,” explained Gupta. “We came across stone, and decided to go for it. We integrated backwards -- initially purchasing from other manufacturers. We grew very quickly, and within 12 to 16 months we found ourselves establishing a complex infrastructure of units all over India -- company-owned or arrangements -- to process virtually all stones in all finishes. We leased closed granite plants from banks to bring struggling factories to life. In the next seven to eight years, we became one of the largest natural stone processor/exporters out of India.

“We were very aggressive in our sales and marketing, with limited resources but very honorable in our approach,” said Gupta. “We did what we said we will. We always hunted for ideas, innovative products and processes -- and not just new colors -- to really bring new life to a commodity struck industry. We constantly work on developing our niches and innovate methods to differentiate ourselves from the competition. Whether it was the range of products we provided -- as opposed to just granite or slate -- our idea of having back-up warehouses, a U.S. sales office or other service that no one else could fathom doing, it worked for us.”

State-of-the-art processing

With plans to consolidate the company's granite slab processing into one location, the Gupta brothers took on a long planned task to build a state-of-the-art facility in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, India. This new-generation plant is equipped with four Jumbo gangsaws, and an additional six are intended to be installed by December 2004. The gangsaws are manufactured by Breton and Gaspari Menotti.

Additionally, the facility houses a fully automated Breton resin plant with 100-slot resin ovens, and a Levibreton KG 3000 Breton slab polishing line. “Since the blocks are getting larger and larger in India, we have a newly designed 60-ton gantry crane to move blocks,” said Gupta. “There are [also] four wire saws to trim blocks from all sides, and by the end of 2004, our production capacity should be to process over 250 granite slab containers per month. The land is 30 acres, which is large enough to continue future growth and expansion.”

Tab India also operates several other facilities scattered throughout India. “For our slate, quartzite, sandstone and limestone production from North Indian quarries, the main processing plant is located in Jhothwara Industrial Area in Jaipur, Rajasthan,” said Gupta. “There is also an export warehouse in Sitapura and a facility for cut-to-size sandstone in Mansarovar, both near Jaipur. [When] dealing with over 100 quarries for our various slate, quartzite, sandstone and limestone products, these three locations serve as final finishing, packaging, shipping and gauging. We have a network of smaller processing units in various quarries to reduce costs. These small units do the preliminary work of sorting the raw material and minor processing to get ready for the factories in Jaipur.”

The company also maintains a plant for marble tile and slab production in the Vishwakarma industrial area of Jaipur. This facility, which Tab India had acquired, is equipped with Giorgini Maggi gangsaws and a Pedrini tile line. For South India slates, the processing is done in Markapur, Andhra Pradesh. Granite slabs and tiles are processed in three locations around Bangalore, Karnatatka -- apart from the new facility in Hosur Tamil Nadu. “The idea is to consolidate the rampant expansion over the years into one single factory for better control,” said Gupta.

Tab India is comprised of approximately 1,000 employees, of which 250 are stationed at the new fabricating facility. Additionally, Amsum & Ash employs 35 workers. The U.S. is the company's primary market, with 70% of the revenue coming from distributor sales and the other 30% being commercial construction. A recent project supplied by Amsum & Ash was the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at The University of California at Davis, where a total of 90,000 square feet of Indian sandstone was used in a combination of both cleft and honed finishes for exterior and interior cladding. In 2003, more than 500,000 square feet of Tab India's sandstones were employed as cladding on Pfizer's La Jolla Laboratories, a complex of buildings in San Diego, CA, for IDEC Labs and Cancer Research Center.

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