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Artificial grass is a low-maintenance, hassle-free replacement to its natural counterpart. It provides for an effective alternative in sports grounds, lawns, and rooftops.

Four years back, FieldTurf, a company manufacturing artificial grass, had become popular in the US. Artificial grass was increasingly being used in school playgrounds, sports grounds, and even in homes.

At that time, a 35-year-old man left a lucrative job in the US to take up the entrepreneurial route in India. Sensing the opportunity, Anil Kumar bought the exclusive license of FieldTurf in India and started FieldTurf Tarkett India.

Artificial or synthetic turf came into being in the 1960s with a product called Astroturf. It was manufactured from synthetic material that looked like grass and was used on sports grounds. One may recall that not too long ago there were long debates about laying Astroturf for India’s hockey team.

Artificial grass is today used on rooftops, residential lawns, children’s playing areas, golf courses, and just about anywhere that natural grass is used.

Product: Artificial grass
Advantages: Maintenance-free, no-watering, eco-friendly
Challenges: Price, acceptance
Competition: Natural grass
Market drivers: Lack of water and time

In the last four years FieldTurf India has come a long way. The firm now boasts an impressive list of clients with more than 1,000 installations and 5.5 lakh square feet installed in the country. The company has done the first FIFA standard football ground in Pune, a 90,000 square feet stadium. In fact, FIFA has approved dozens of artificial grass fields, to the extent that various international matches are played on artificial grass.

Marketing the grass
It has been difficult for Kumar to convince people to buy artificial grass, thanks to the misconception that it is not as soft as natural grass. “We make sure that 80 percent of our marketing is focused on trade shows, where people can touch the grass themselves and walk on it. We also supplement it with a lot of advertising in interior decoration magazines,” says Kumar. As part of its marketing strategy, he reached out to architects who were quick to lap up the product. This in turn made it easier to tap customers.

The marketing strategy seemed to have worked. So far, FieldTurf India has done installations in 80 cities and towns. It has distributors in 12 states. However, with a product like this, setting up the distribution channel has not been an easy task.

Business (FieldTurf India)
Average project: 400 square feet
Number of square feet done: 5.5 lakh
Number of clients: 1,000
Price per square feet: Rs 195 to 395 (depending upon quality)
World demand for artificial turf: 20 percent (Association of Artificial and Synthetic Grass Installers

Steps to install artificial grass
Sub-base preparation
To provide a firm and flat surface for the installation of turf. The porous nature of the sub-base allows for rainwater to drain into the ground.
Turf Preparation
The loose fibers are bunched together. They are brushed (fibrillation) to split them and also make them stand up.
Joints are made underneath the turf, using cloth-paper/seaming tape and industrial strength glue.
An infill of silica sand and rubber granules is brushed between the fibers. This provides support to the fibers and gives a cushioning effect similar to soft earth.

Popular uses of artificial grass
Football fields
Hockey fields
Golf courses
Cricket grounds
Indoors or outdoors: rooftops and balconies
Hotels and resorts
Children’s play areas

Quality and Warranty
FieldTurf India has a professionally trained team of workers for installations. After installation, it is by and large maintenance-free. Light brushing is needed in heavy foot traffic areas. “We give seven years warranty and have a 0 percent warranty claim so far. The only instances we had to go back to the customer were when someone had to do small renovations and so we had to take out the turf. We are very strict in terms of how we install the turf and that by itself takes care of the quality. On a large ground, there is a fairly elaborate preparation that is done.”

Pros and Cons
The maintenance-free, hassle-free, no-watering characteristics of artificial grass are its biggest strengths. One of its characteristics is that it is environment-friendly (made from recycled plastic or old tyres, eliminating the use of water and fertilizers). So much so, that FieldTurf claims to have saved 23 billion gallons of water since 1996.

We give seven years warranty and have a 0 percent warranty claim so far.

Anil Kumar
FieldTurf Tarkett India

On the flip side, the biggest issue with artificial grass is its high price. It ranges from Rs 195 to 395 per square feet, depending on quality. But experts believe that it is cost-effective in the long run, especially when it comes to growing natural grass on rooftops and cold areas. No wonder rooftops and balconies make up 95 percent of FieldTurf’s installations. “A lot of apartment owners who have 100 to 200 square feet balconies wish to have a lawn. The hassles of growing grass on rooftop are huge,” says Kumar. This is where artificial grass comes in handy. “The cost of laying grass on 100 square feet is less than Rs 20,000. If one maintains a lawn using natural grass over a period of 20 years, it will certainly cost far more,” he adds.

Opportunities in distribution and manufacturing of artificial grass beckon entrepreneurs, given the demand for the product is on the rise. This is due to a host of reasons, the biggest being water scarcity. As artificial grass requires zero maintenance, it is preferred at commercial complexes such as hotels and offices.

Quality and price can sway business in one’s favor. Providing warranty for a product that one is not sure of could damage one’s reputation in the market. One has to price the product competitively to get an edge.

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Namrita, March 05, 2009
Excellent product. Looks very natural. Because it does not need any water, it saves a precious resource. However, it is expensive.
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written by Kirthana, March 05, 2009
I have seen this artificial grass at a school in Bangalore, in midst of summer the area was green, over 200 small kids were playing, rolling on it and you could even see the teachers and helpers sitting on the grass and monitoring the children. I think this is a great concept where you cannot maintain natural grass. Initially I was thinking it to be same as hockey turf but this one is like real grass. See it to believe it.
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written by IBRAHIM, February 26, 2009
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