In Conversation with Deepesh Kedia, Director of Century Steel Industries, he discusses the journey of Century Steel Industries from core fabrics to venturing into the Pet Industry and rooting their work in imports.

What is the primary focus of Century Steel Industries?

Our core business centers around the production of multi-filament yarns and narrow woven fabrics. Notably, we hold the distinction of being the largest exporters of narrow woven fabrics in India. Our clientele includes prominent names such as Tardus and Samsung, for whom we serve as dedicated suppliers across the South Asian region. Our commitment lies in making a tangible difference for our valued customers.

Recognising a void within the market, we recently diversified into the realm of dog accessories. The driving force behind this expansion was the observation that existing products were often polarized, the premium offerings were prohibitively expensive, while the more affordable options compromised on quality. This imbalance presented an opportunity to fill the void in the market, particularly within the mid-tier segment. Our foray into this domain was not solely driven by price considerations, but rather our aspiration to offer an optimal blend of quality and affordability.

What role does your company play in the self-sufficiency of Indian Pet Brands that the industry has been adapting to?

We handle every aspect of production in-house, from crafting the yarn and sheathing to manufacturing the plastic fittings. This level of integration enables us to internally produce 99% of the components needed for our products. Our company boasts a dedicated weaving unit along with an injection unit, ensuring that every stage of the production process is streamlined within our facilities. This self-sufficiency is a cornerstone of our operations, allowing us to maintain a high level of authenticity and control over the quality of our products.

What was the inspiration behind starting this unit?

The shift towards local suppliers was underway, yet a noticeable gap existed in the market. This prompted our initiation, driven by the core objective of providing a viable import substitute. The aim was to offer an alternative to the dependency on Chinese supplies. Our project’s inception coincided with the onset of the COVID pandemic. While we began the work during this challenging period, we chose to launch post-COVID. Our primary domain was predominantly in the luggage sector, an industry that faced considerable setbacks during the pandemic’s peak. This pause in our luggage operations led us to explore untapped markets and strategize for new opportunities. It was during this exploration that we were drawn to the Pet Market. The surge in pet adoption and the nurturing environment that emerged from becoming pet parents during the pandemic resonated with us. Coupled with our team’s genuine fondness for animals, we were inclined to contribute to this sector. With our expertise in fabrics, we aimed to offer a product that not only met the highest standards of quality for their sensitive skin but also boasted an aesthetic appeal.

How has your company’s trajectory been so far? How long have you been into the business?

The company boasts a four-decade legacy. However, our venture into the Pet Industry is relatively fresh, spanning a year’s time. The India International Pet Trade Fair (IIPTF) has proven to be an invaluable platform for us, offering a remarkable opportunity to not only expand our market presence but also delve into the nuances of the industry. Our participation in Bombay last year, during which we showcased our offerings, facilitated an insightful exploration of the Maharashtrian market landscape.

How is the Pet Industry different from other spaces that you have worked in?

The industry is currently quite compact in size. There exists a close-knit community where mutual familiarity prevails among participants. The landscape is one of shared platforms and interconnected relationships. Our exploration led us to engage with various resellers, smaller sellers, and even parents active on Instagram. In our quest to gather insights, we interacted with approximately 250 pet parents. Offering them samples sans branding, we encouraged them to test the product first-hand. Their valuable feedback served as a pivotal guide during the product’s development phase. Armed with their input, we initiated the production of the actual offerings. This journey revealed a diverse spectrum of outcomes, some products met expectations admirably, some necessitated refinement, and others were deemed unfit and subsequently discontinued.

How do you plan on expanding your brand in the future?

We are transparent about our intentions to venture into exports. The main impetus behind this decision is our strategic approach to product development and establishing a robust market reputation. Our future trajectory is firmly set towards the export market due to the strength of our manufacturing capabilities. Candidly speaking, numerous customers and renowned brands across the U.S. and Brazil currently rely heavily on China for their supplies. Despite their inclination to diversify sources, the absence of a viable alternative has hindered their efforts. Herein lies our purpose, to present them with that much-needed second option. Our entrance into the equation is aimed at addressing this gap and providing a feasible alternative. On the business front, I have a comprehensive grasp of the entire scenario.

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