Shreyas Kulkarni

CenturyPly promises to kill 99.99% viruses, but clarifies that it’s "not in a position to claim protection against COVID"

The plywood company enters the hot '99% virus kill' space with a new ad. It states that though its 'Virokill' tech won't kill the Coronavirus, it is deadly against other viruses, bacteria and fungi.

On most days, disinfectants or soaps would make the '99% virus kill' claim. But, these are unprecedented times. We're in the middle of a pandemic (Coronavirus), where words like 'hygiene' and 'immunity' are more of a lens through which we observe the world and then decide our next course of action, big or small.

Recently, several brands across categories have claimed '99% germ (virus) kill efficacy', and the latest entrant to this newly minted club is CenturyPly, one of India's leading plywood companies.

The brand has just released a 30-second ad made by Wunderman Thompson featuring a young couple, who’re exploring a newly built house. As the wife, who’s pregnant, moves towards the custom-built cradle, she hesitates to touch it. But the husband reassurers her that all the furniture is made of Century Laminates and Ply. The nanotechnology used in making the furniture, called 'Virokill', destroys viruses coming in contact with it.

Keshav Bhajanka
Keshav Bhajanka

It's interesting to see an 'anti-virus' claim from a plywood company. So, we reached out to Keshav Bhajanka, ED, CenturyPly.

Edited excerpts:

How were things for your sector in April and May, and how is it doing now?

April and May weren't great, but June was better than the previous two months and also for our expectations. July was better than June. I think month-on-month, things are improving, looking up and I am pretty confident that the worst is behind us.

I am not talking about the pandemic itself, I am saying the fear of the virus is behind us. So, business will be on a more stable front and we're seeing the numbers go up.

The '99.99% virus kill' space is owned by disinfectants or soaps. So, what made you (CenturyPly) enter this space?

We've always been a customer-focused company, and we always try to find and solve the main issues they're facing. For instance, in 1996-97, we were the first ply company to introduce anti-porous and anti-termite slides because they were the consumers' main fear at that time.

When the Coronavirus cases started rising around February, we got to the drawing board and thought of coming up with a product that can provide a sense of security to our customers. This is how 'Virokill' came about. After rigorous testing, we can now claim that all our manufactured products are 99.99% anti-viral.

This 99.99% claim doesn't apply to the Coronavirus...

We can't say something we don't have the proof for. At this point in time, there's no such test available for COVID. We've tested against a positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus whose composition is quite similar to COVID.

Also, we use certified nanoparticles that can help against a variety of viruses. But, since there's no test against COVID, we won't specifically claim against the Coronavirus. Once the test comes, I am 100% sure that our product will pass the test with flying colours. We're claiming what we have a certification that is 99% anti-viral.

Is this offering ('Virokill') a new way to bolster demand as people are unlikely to move to new homes, or get new furniture made?

We're not an opportunistic company. The price premium we're charging on this product ('Virokill') is zero. Since we're giving this additional level of safety to our consumers, the demand for our products will be better than earlier. That, overall, is going to help the company, in terms of topline and bottom line. But, what exact effect it will have... is something nobody's in a position to tell you.

Having said that, we're a company that plays the long-term game. The consumer, through this offering, will realise (they may already do) that we offer the best-in-class products. That's a trend we've started since inception... Whatever the challenges, we will try to develop products that will help our consumers.

Carpenters are the ones who will buy plywood, or laminates. People may now feel hesitant to allow them inside their homes. Is your ad, with the young couple, missing the right TG?

If you look at the properties (plywood and laminate), the carpenters and contractors face most risk because they're in frequent contact with the items. Their interest will peak when they see the ad because of the anti-viral properties on offer...

The ad isn't directed towards the carpenters or contractors. Everyone has a great affinity to their safety right now. If somebody contributes to that, then I think our entire TG will take it, along with them.

CenturyPly isn't the only one

We (afaqs!), last week, came across an ad from Greenlam Laminates. It showcased its anti-bacterial laminates which are highly effective in retarding the growth of common bacteria by up to 99.99%.

This is different from CenturyPly, whose 'Virokill technology kills 99.99% virus, and is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. It is available on its plywood, blackboards, laminates, and veneers right now.