Vertical integration in India

August 1, 2003
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In 1991, Pokarna Granites Limited was established as a partnership firm quarrying Black Galaxy granite in India. Since that time, the company has grown to a major quarrier and fabricator of stones from India and around the world, and it has changed its name to Pokarna Limited to reflect its diverse role in the stone industry.

Shortly after being established, Pokarna acquired quarries in more colors in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. As a measure of forward progress, the company began processing granite into slabs and tiles with state-of-the-art equipment from Italy. "From the very beginning, we believed in vertical integration," the company reports. "We begin with the finest raw material, invariably from our very own quarries -- assuring consistent, high-quality supplies."

Quarrying operations

Pokarna's quarries are equipped with modern machinery from Italy, including products for diamond wire saw cutting, automatic channelling and drilling. Additionally, the quarries utilize high-capacity extractors with derrick cranes and heavy dumpers, and high-quality chemicals are used to split the blocks. To ensure the proper extraction methods, a Quarry Master from Italy was sent to each site to train Pokarna's personnel in the latest quarrying techniques.

Today, Pokarna quarries some of the industry's most sought-after materials, including Absolute Black, Black Galaxy, Sapphire Brown, Tan Brown, Black Pearl, Silver Pearl, Vizag Blue and Mystic White. New colors include Pokarna Green and Flash Blue.

All of the quarries work around the clock, producing more than 2,000 cubic meters of rough blocks every month. As a result of Pokarna's efforts for quality control, the Black Galaxy quarry at Chimakurthy was presented with the Model Granite Quarry Award for "best mechanized quarry" (Award Instituted by FIMI-AIGSA) for 2001-2002.

Fabrication

Pokarna now has two manufacturing complexes with state-of-the-art equipment imported from some of the world's leading suppliers. Both factories are located about 18 miles from Hyderabad City in India.

For slab production, blocks are first processed on gangsaws from Italy, including units from Breton and Giorgini Maggi. Blocks that need trimming are also cut on a stationary diamond wire saw from Pellegrini of Italy. After being cut into raw slabs, the slabs are processed on computer-controlled polishing lines designed by Breton, including the Levibreton KG 2000. Breton has used computer-aided technology to engineer this unit, which can hold 19 spindles.

A computerized reading system placed at the entrance of the machine, memorizes the slab profile without making contact with the material. This allows the machine to automatically control the raise-lower of the honing heads during the slab honing and polishing. Moreover; the system guarantees the self-adjustment of the spindle bridge travel with respect to the width of the slabs to be polished -- maximizing the unit's speed and efficiency.

Slabs are cut in the minimum standard export size of 8.5 x 4.5 feet in 2- or 3-cm thicknesses as well as larger sizes as needed. Each slab goes through a strict three-step quality inspection process to ensure impeccable quality. In addition to slabs from India, Pokarna processes granite from around the world, including varieties from Norway, Turkey, the Middle East and more.

The company also has a new tile manufacturing unit. For tile processing, blocks are first cut on a Pedrini blockcutter with 28 cutting discs, which represents the latest technology from the company. Once the blockcutter creates stone strips, they are polished and cut on a complete Pedrini tile line, which ensures a perfectly calibrated size and finish. Finally, experienced quality inspectors personally ensure that the finished tile meet the company's standards.

Choice of finishes include polished, flamed, honed, sandblasted and bushhammered.

In addition to slabs and tiles, Pokarna offers custom-fabricated granite products such as vanities, kitchen countertops, tabletops and other items. Pokarna also creates a complete range of monuments as well as custom designs.

The quarries and fabricating shops operate three shifts to meet deadlines, and they also own the trucks that move products.

For block processors, Pokarana sells a range of block sizes, including large-sized blocks suitable for gangsaw and blockcutter machines. It exports rough blocks to leading granite processors in Italy, Spain and the Far East. Rough block varieties include Black Galaxy, Sapphire Brown, Srikakulam Blue, Silver Pearl and Black Pearl.

Strategy

Pokarna has a total of 400 employees in its quarries and factories, with a 40-strong workforce at the headquarters to deal with customers, track orders and ensure smooth deliveries. Pokarna's philosophy is to recruit high-quality employees and continue training them as technology evolves. "Our ability to retain people by giving them space for upward mobility is our strength," the company reports.

The company's head office in Hyderabad is well equipped with all communication devices, including high-speed Internet connections and state-of-the-art computers. Key Man-agement personnel pay frequent visits to each of the places of work and take stock of the situation to gain an exact idea of the progress on various fronts. An internal audit department closely monitors all accounts.

The main quarries and the factories are all computerized and connected to the main server at the head office, enabling quick and accurate transfer of data.

In addition to its award for quarrying, Pokarna received the "Special Export Award" from the trade organization Capexil for the past five years. It has also received the "Export Performance Award" from EPZ, the Government of India, Ministry of Commerce, as well as the "Best Export Effort Award" from FAPCII.

The company has supplied material for projects within India and around the world. Some of the projects in India have included: Tidel Park, a prestigious software development project in Chennai; IIIT in Hyderabad; Viceroy Hotel in Hyderabad; and the National Games village.

After putting its business plan in place, Pokarna began aggressively marketing within the U.S., visiting some of the largest names in the industry. Ultimately, it made inroads into the American market, and Pokarna increased its capacity by purchasing an older fabrication plant and upgrading it into a state-of-the-art facility with the latest technology.

Increased capacity meant increased effort to market the product, and frequent trips were made to meet buyers and potential buyers to service them continuously. Pokarna also started participating in international exhibitions to display their existing and new products. This gave Pokarna a global presence and several new contacts, which were converted into regular customers.

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