Pioneer quartz manufacturer enters a new era | Sunday Observer
Crystal Stone demonstrates recipe for international success

Pioneer quartz manufacturer enters a new era

30 August, 2020
Some of the products
Some of the products

Most developed countries have reached their present level of progress by increasing the value of their mineral resources.  Although Sri Lanka has no oil she is blessed with a variety of minerals including sand, graphite, lime, crystal stone, and clay used for producing ceramic.

Above all, this island has been famous since ancient times for its precious stones. The country was known as the Island of Gems. If we maximise the use of all these resources the country would have already been developed.

From Middle Eastern oil to iron in Great Britain, rich natural resources have been an essential precursor to wealth and economic growth worldwide. Considering this, it is unfortunate to see Sri Lanka’s massive wasted potential. This island is truly blessed with a wealth of precious minerals that we have failed to effectively monetise on the global market, greatly hampering our capacity for economic development.

 Looking from this perspective, quartz is undoubtedly one of Sri Lanka’s most important minerals. With diverse uses ranging from flooring to kitchen and bathroom countertops, its popularity on the global market by interior designers is unmatched.

The global market for quartz countertops is currently valued at over $89 billion, with growth expected to be $110 billion by 2027. With Sri Lanka’s enormous natural supply of quartz, one would imagine that we are placed to strategically exploit this huge market. Instead, Sri Lanka continues to import a majority of its quartz. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of Sri Lanka’s quartz is exported in the form of quartz powder which is then converted into proper slabs in countries such as India and China, then sold to the global market including Sri Lanka at an inflated price. The export of quartz powder reduces the amount of value addition in Sri Lanka and creates much fewer jobs. It also effects Sri Lanka’s external balance by sending a high proportion of profits to overseas giants.

 Seeing the calamitous wasted potential, Ruhunu Lanka Minerals became the first Sri Lankan company to launch the manufacture of quartz slabs locally, under the brand ‘Crystal Stone’.

Ruhunu Lanka Minerals is affiliated to the Hansagiri Group of Companies and is known for other nationally renowned businesses such as  Ruhunu Lanka Cement and Thilakma City.

Crystal Stone was founded with the dream of sparking a globally competitive quartz manufacturing industry in Sri Lanka to tackle exploitation by global giants. Crystal Stone currently has customers ranging from the United States of America to Australia, with massive growth in only two years of activity.

Managing Director of Ruhunu Lanka Minerals, Buddhika Kariyawasam, said,  “Sri Lankan quartz powder is currently exported for a measly Rs.30 while our finished Crystal Stone slabs easily command over Rs.150 on the world market”.

This is a value addition of over 400%. Crystal Stone directly employs over a hundred workers and has created hundreds of jobs in indirect employment locally. This directly improves living standards in the community and doesn’t waste the potential of Sri Lanka’s skilled labour.

 Kariyawasam also stressed the importance of solidifying Sri Lanka’s position in the global market by exploiting the rampant trade wars and diplomatic flares between the West and China.

He said, “Trump’s trade war with China has left many US importers of quartz products without their usual suppliers, and they are looking for alternatives. Sri Lanka’s stable diplomatic relations mean that we have a massive advantage when trading with the West as they can be assured of stable prices”.

With this huge opportunity, Kariyawasam reminds that it is crucial for Sri Lankan manufacturing industries to weather the storm of Covid-19 so that it can reap huge economic rewards once global markets fully reopen.

 Among the ains of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision of a prosperous Sri Lanka is to boost local industries and make us a stronger global competitor. For this vision to be realised, local industries must be supported.

 Currently, Crystal Stone’s primary issue is significant foreign competition in the local market. While Crystal Stone slabs are of equal or better quality than foreign competition, the infrastructure advantage that Chinese and Indian manufacturers enjoy is significant.

Kariyawasam said, “While we have invested in the best quality European machinery and highly trained workers, we are currently unable to enjoy the economies of scale that Chinese manufacturers enjoy after decades of protection and subsidisation from the Chinese government.”

“Importers also exploit Sri Lankan value-based duties by significantly undervaluing their stock and also importing extremely low-quality products into the Sri Lankan market with unacceptable durability,” he said.

It is sad to see anti-competitive behaviour of this nature taking place in the Sri Lankan market.

Kariyawasam said that a per-kilo cess would be much more effective to reduce the effects of undervaluing goods. Crystal Stone also calls for a temporary ban on the import of quartz slabs to help establish the industry firmly in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan countertop market is currently heavily dependent on granite, a far inferior product to quartz in terms of quality. Crystal Stone slabs are waterproof, heat resistant, scratch and stain-resistant, and far more durable and easy to clean than granite. This is due to the engineered nature of the surface and the quality Sri Lankan 99.9 per cent pure crystal quartz.

Kariyawasam said many Chinese manufacturers use very low-quality quartz powder to reduce costs, creating a far inferior product. Ultimately, the global shift towards products such as Crystal Stone is clear, with 87% of interior designers in a US survey opting for quartz countertops over granite. Crystal Stone products have a sleek, modern aesthetic and come in a range of colours and styles to suit everyone’s tastes.

 Crystal Stone is at heart a community-focused company. It’s primary factory is on a 22-acre plot of land in Ranthotuvila, Elpitiya, in the Southern Province.

Painstaking efforts have been taken to build the factory in the midst of a large rubber plantation to ensure it causes no sound pollution and dust pollution to nearby communities.

A complex rainwater recycling system also ensures that over 100,000 litres of water daily is recycled and reused in the production process. In sourcing pure quartz, Crystal Stone employs small scale methods where the crystal is mined by hand, significantly minimising damage to the environment. “Chinese and Indian quartz miners use large machinery that destroys the landscape and does irreversible damage to the environment,” said Kariyawasam. “Our method ensures that we run an environmentally sustainable operation”.

The crystal powder that is a by-product of the Crystal Stone slabs is also used to make pebbles, known for their popularity as a home decoration. Crystal Stone employees are also exclusively hired by from local rural community and are given world-class training to ensure efficiency. Kariyawasam said that a motivated workforce is the keystone to a successful firm and strives to consistently improve staff welfare.

 Crystal Stone has demonstrated that it holds the recipe for international success, a high-quality product, sustainable manufacturing processes and access to a vast network of skilled labour and precious raw materials. It’s a call to action is that the government impose a six-month ban on quartz slab imports to help it weather the Covid-19 storm, allowing it to emerge a more serious global competitor with local market support in the near future.

If Sri Lanka is to enjoy true economic prosperity, supporting local industries is essential and Crystal Stone embodies the spirited Sri Lankan innovation that must be embraced.