Welcome to this exclusive interview with the visionary founder of one of the most renowned mat companies in the industry, Sapana Carpet-mats. Nishith Gupta has built an empire with his direction that has revolutionized the way we think about mats and their applications. With a rich history of innovation and a commitment to quality, their company has become synonymous with excellence and has garnered a national reputation for producing exceptional mats.
In this interview, we look into the fascinating journey of Nishith Gupta, their entrepreneurial spirit, the secrets behind their company’s success, and their unwavering dedication to creating top-of-the-line mats that cater to diverse needs.
A small introduction about Mr.Nishith Gupta by himself
I have been a qualified mechanical engineer by education and a second-generation businessman since 1996. Sapana Carpet-Mats was founded by my father, Mr. V B Gupta, in 1984, and I was initiated into the business in ’96. My initial three years were spent with an FMCG product line in the MLM business. I focused on learning how business operations run and acquainted myself with the product development cycle. I also started managing sales for 2-3 regions across the country and had some exposure to operations at the manufacturing plant. Around 2003, I started finding my space and heading the manufacturing processes directly at Sapna Carpet-Mats. I have also built a sizeable export business globally in markets like the US and Europe. My journey has been highly satisfying, and my father has always supported me in experimenting and innovating with products and sales approaches.
How did you get into the mats manufacturing industry?
I joined the family business in 1996 and spent my early years honing some expertise in sales, production, accounts, and retail channel development. After spending the next 7-8 years in the business, I needed to broaden my spectrum of learning and business leadership skills, enrolling for an MBA at the prestigious IIM-Ahmedabad in 2008. However, due to operational challenges at Sapana, I had to give up on my MBA.
It did prove to be a better choice because I took over the daily operations at the company after my return to Mumbai. As the MD, I have spent my last 6-7 years building capacities and brand reputation in overseas markets, especially in the US and Europe.
How long has your company been in operation, and what inspired you to start it?
The company was founded in 1984 by my father, a qualified botanist, who wanted to introduce affordable yet beautiful home décor products for the Indian masses. He realized that the cost concerns associated with products like carpets have typically discouraged an average customer from buying them, and that is what he wanted to change. After identifying that plastic mats would be a much more affordable option, he built a full-fledged formal brand despite the sector being dominated by informal players. I wanted to advance the family legacy and expand my father’s vision in India and foreign lands. Fortunately, I have built a sizeable export business globally in markets like the US and Europe. We have also focused on building our online brand presence in the last few years.
What sets your mats apart from others in the industry?
In addition to being the first ones to bring plastic mats and carpets to the market, what sets us apart is the technology we use. My father imported the technology from Japan to match up with the global standards, keeping in mind the costs involved. His vision was to produce the best quality at the most affordable prices. We democratized Mats and made mats accessible to everyone. Since we were the first to do so, we have the first-mover advantage. We also invest heavily in keeping our products up to date with the latest design and color trends.
What is your company’s philosophy on responsible and sustainable manufacturing?
Since Sapana is my father’s brainchild, I wanted to make sure that I take care of the brand and the environment simultaneously. While I encourage a customer-centric approach to the brand, we also have a solid commitment to our employees and environment. The production facility uses solar energy, and we recycle about 30,000 kgs of plastic scrap every month, enough to free landfill space of approximately 2664 cubic yards.
Can you describe your company’s typical customer?
While we cater to almost every variety of customers, most of our clients are from lower middle-class, middle-class, and upper-middle-class families looking for affordable home décor and carpet options. Our consumers are looking for quality priced right, and we serve them by fulfilling this demand.
How do you ensure the quality of your mats and materials used in production?
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for asking this question because we do have a strict quality management system. As mentioned earlier, Sapana follows a customer-centric approach; hence, our quality is our top priority. We thoroughly screen every supplier we onboard to ensure they can provide per our standards. From raw materials to the finished product, several rounds of screening and approvals are undertaken by our quality team. They have the authority to reject or stop production if they do not find the quality at par with our expectations.
What kind of mats does your company offer, and which are the most popular?
Well, we do have a wide variety of mats in our catalogs. We manufacture polypropylene mats, indoor/outdoor mats, bath mats, and carpets. Of these, I would say that in the Indian markets, our polypropylene mats are the most popular, while the bath mats and carpets are also catching up. Talking about Northern America and Europe, I would say that our outdoor mats are quite a hit there since they are reversible, super easy to maintain, and UV-stabilized.
How do you choose the materials for your mats?
To start with, I would say that while we have to adhere to multiple rules and regulations of different markets before we start manufacturing. Our top priority has always been using environment-friendly materials. Apart from this, we have different regulations, including using certain chemicals, making sure the carpets are anti-inflammatory, etc., for different markets in Indian and overseas.
What kind of testing do you perform on your mats to ensure safety and durability?
As mentioned, our mats and carpets undergo several testing rounds to ensure quality, safety, and durability. We ensure that they pass the Oekotex certification, Reach certification, Prop 65, and others. Mats are also tested for flammability and resistance to weathering so that they perform well outdoors; testing for lead or other heavy metals in our products is also done. They also go through other chemical and physical tests to ensure that they meet the required standards.
What is your company’s policy on employee hiring and working conditions?
Sapana is highly agnostic of any religious group or gender, so we have a very diverse workforce at the office. From our sales to marketing and even manufacturing teams, about 40% of our workforce in leadership positions are women, and we love them all. Merit has always been the sole determinant for hiring each team member we have with us today. Staff who have been here for over 15 years or those who have been with the company even before me assures us that we might be doing something good for them to be a part of our team for that long.
How do you ensure your mats are safe and free from harmful chemicals?
Our mats undergo extensive testing after due diligence is conducted on the suppliers. Later, the mats undergo various tests, including Oekotex, Reach, Prop 65, and others. These ensure that our mats are free from any harmful chemicals.
What is your company’s approach to customer service and support?
We believe that we are responsible for what we produce. We guarantee all our products against manufacturing defects and offer our customers the return of the products within a month of their purchase in case of any defects in exchange for a full cash refund. We take customer feedback very seriously and ensure that our post-purchase services are equally good.
What are your plans for the future of your company?
We plan to become the market-leading and most preferred brand for all customers whenever they think of floor coverings. As we go further, we aim to create products for every customer across different price points and preferences. I foresee a significant need for continuous product development, research, and understanding of our customers. I also aim to focus heavily on expanding the retail network coverage across the length and breadth of India. We want to be present in the vicinity of the customers wherever they are and build e-commerce delivery capabilities so that Sapana remains at the top of customer recall courtesy of visibility and easy access.
As a founder, what did you learn?
Founding a company is just like bringing up a kid. You CANNOT do it alone. Just as it takes up the entire family to look after the kid, you need a good team to grow your company well. Being possessive and extra protective about your ideas and vision is natural. I have learned that having people who can help you turn your dreams into realities is of utmost importance. Secondly, I genuinely believe that a founder is a leader and a creator. It would help if you took the initiative as well as some risks. An idea can only become big when you believe in it and do everything it takes.
One piece of advice to entrepreneurs
While I truly believe that our new generation is smart and they know exactly what they want, all I can tell them is that there are no shortcuts to success. The only mantra is to work hard and work smart. Running a business will never be a cakewalk, and you’ll have good and bad days. What is essential is for you to pick yourself up and run again every time you fall back. Just believe in yourself and your ideas even when it seems like the whole world is against you. Keep going until you finally make it.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to share about your company or the mats manufacturing industry as a whole?
I don’t want to be modest when I say innovation is in Sapana’s DNA. Be it in our product range or our sales techniques; we have always kept our competitors on the edge. Many people find our international demands amusing because they cannot fathom how exactly those clients use our products. I would credit our sales team and our products for getting us such a huge capture in the US and UK markets and making Sapana a need even in foreign countries. Our team assures that our products and services are as per current trends, which is only possible with consistent innovation and our capacity to adapt.
Our interview with Nishith Gupta has offered a captivating glimpse into the remarkable journey behind one of the most esteemed mat companies in the world. Their unwavering commitment to innovation, quality, and meeting the diverse needs of customers has propelled their company to the forefront of the industry. He has demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit that has not only led to the success of their business but has also set new standards for the mat industry as a whole. With a global reputation for excellence, their company continues to inspire and shape the industry landscape. We extend our gratitude to him for sharing their insights and experiences, leaving us with a deeper appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into creating exceptional mats.