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American hardwoods embraced by commercial manufacturers in India

American hardwoods embraced by commercial manufacturers in India

Furnicheer, Ebco and RitikaaWood lead the way as ‘exotic’ look of temperate wood species become increasingly popular.

US hardwoods have found another foothold in India as commercial manufacturers have now begun to realise the potential benefits of using sustainable and high-quality American hardwoods, according to the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), the leading international trade association for the American hardwood industry.

Leading the way are established names such as Furnicheer, Ebco and RitikaaWood who are all either trialing or commercially using imported American hardwood species including red and white oak, and tulipwood. Whilst the much-publicized potential offered by India for American hardwood exporters has not yet been realized, these developments prove that the market is at a turning point.

Founded in 2013 as a bespoke manufacturer of solid wood furniture, the story of Furnicheer actually took shape over two decades ago, under the creative-perfectionist hands of interior designer Subhangi Vaidyanathan. After years of experience in interior design, Subhangi took the decision to launch Furnicheer and established the brand’s flagship retail store in Navi Mumbai. Her passion for handicrafts, the need for modular furniture in urban spaces and love for solid wood are the inspiration behind Furnicheer. Positioning itself as a brand of solid wood, modular furniture, and lifestyle accessories, crafted specifically for the Indian home, the company has been primarily manufacturing customized home furniture including beds, wardrobes, chests, study, TV consoles, dining sets, and coffee tables.

According to Vaidyanathan, her initial preference was to create her designs with solid woods, such as locally-sourced sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo) and mango, built in-house by skilled craftspeople on high-tech machinery. Besides being hard-wearing, their shades and textures perfectly complement the sunny tropical climate in India. Working with indigenous species however, posed several challenges. In addition to being CITES-listed (in the case of sheesham), the biggest challenges in working with mango and sheesham were the lack of consistency in quality, in terms of seasoning (kiln-drying) and also resistance to insect attack. Having been introduced to kiln-dried American tulipwood, Vaidyanathan took the decision to order a container of this unique American hardwood species in 2017 and has never looked back.

“Currently, about 50 per cent of our production is in tulipwood. Not only is tulipwood easier to work with, the finish is far superior in comparison to the timbers we were using previously. Testament to our belief in American tulipwood, we have recently started working with Ebco, one of India’s oldest and leading manufacturers in the furniture hardware sector. Previously, Ebco was crafting all of the wooden elements for its accessories using steamed beech. This new agreement means that all wooden accessories for Ebco will now be produced in American tulipwood in our factory in Mumbai. Looking ahead, we’re confident that this will open up a massive opportunity for us and for American hardwoods in India’s booming modular kitchen market,” said Vaidyanathan.

RitikaaWood is India’s premier timber engineering company, specializing in outdoor solid wood products and its extensive applications. An organization embedded to practice sustainability in all aspects of its business, along with ensuring healthy working environments and enhancing the experience of customers and employees, the company offers the widest range of solutions right from cladding, decking, windows, doors and screens made to European standards. In addition, the company sources environmentally friendly raw materials from responsibly-managed forests, and also ensures the durability of its products, reducing the need for maintenance and replacement, thereby further reducing the burden on limited natural resources.

“Our products are the preferred choice of clients and architects who desire the natural elegance and warmth of real wood, but with little to no maintenance. We’ve been primarily working with Accoya and have, to date, completed over 600 installations across more than 50 cities in India,” said Anuj Divanji, Managing Director, RitikaaWood. “We have recently started looking at American red oak as it has a beautiful aesthetic and figure pattern. We do see a good potential for its use in India in the limited market that we are focusing on currently, which includes doors and windows. It’s early days yet and we will evaluate this and observe the performance before moving ahead in a major way.”

India’s appetite for sawn temperate hardwoods has been increasing over the past few years and, according to Trade Data Monitor (which replaced the Global Trade Alas), India imported some 11,000 cubic metres of sawn oak in 2019, with the vast majority coming from Germany and France. At the same time, India’s imports of sawn beech reached around 20,000 cubic metres, with more than three quarters being sourced from Germany.

According to AHEC, the majority of European hardwoods are being used in furniture and joinery production for the domestic market, where the ‘exotic’ look of temperate wood species is becoming increasingly popular.

“Demand for oak in India has also been increasing in recent years and a better understanding of red oak, coupled with lower prices in recent months has allowed it to make some gains over European oak in the market. However, more education is needed to help Indian end-users understand the added value of using kiln-dried hardwood lumber, which requires little to no further processing before use. In addition to Furnicheer, Ebco and RitikaaWood, the potential for American hardwoods in India remains extremely significant.

AHEC is very focused on this opportunity and remains committed to working closely with Indian manufacturers to help them find suitable U.S. hardwood alternatives,” concluded Roderick Wiles, AHEC Regional Director.

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