The Indian Fenestration Industry

Hindalco Industries

The term 'fenestration' is derived from the word 'fenestra' in Latin terminology and is used to refer to facades and openings (typically doors and windows) in buildings and wall envelopes. Although faced with numerous challenges, the Indian fenestration industry has been accepted as an emerging industry looking at the advancement in its size, technology and potential. Today's well travelled customers have started comprehending the actual value of fenestrations rather than treating them as just 'aesthetic elements which act as barriers between the outside and the interior worlds'. Today, there has been no dearth of discussions of energy efficiency in the backdrop of the alarmingly increasing global warming. India, as the highest recipient of solar radiation in the world needs to maximise on the benefits of this renewable power and mitigate the ill-effects in the form of abundant heat gained at places where it is not required. Here, comes the actual value of fenestrations which if designed on ideal principles can aid us in combating such challenges.

The fenestration industry witnessed a leap in the 90s with an incredible growth in the demand of doors and windows with the rising demand of the housing sector. Aluminium windows started in the early 90s while uPVC (unplasticised polyvinyl chloride) windows entered in the late 90s. All thanks to the surge in the construction industry and rapid industrialisation and the modernisation of airports in India, a number of global players especially dealing with aluminium products have stepped into the Indian fenestration industry.

The energy efficiency factor in fenestrations has caught up in an unprecedented manner and it has been accepted globally that windows are the 'single most important area in the envelope or shell of the building for preventing energy loss'. Quality products like double glazed and laminated glass are being considered as serious options by users when it comes to sound efficiency, thermal comfort etc.

Newer technological advancements have not only enhanced the design of fenestrations but have also stepped into the management part of their logistics. The days of excel sheets, faulty quotations which would lead to trouble for the fabricator (leading to problems like raw material wastage, errors in profile calculations etc) are over. The market today has versatile softwares for the fabricators like a Window Maker (founded in UK with regional headquarters in Vadodara) that takes care of all these concerns by providing up-to-date information for analysis and decision making.

Materials for Fenestrations

The materials for fenestrations include aluminium, wood, steel and uPVC. Reports suggest that the traditional materials of aluminium, wood and steel dominate the market with a market share of 45%, 25% and 25% respectively; while the newer material of uPVC (which presently has a low market share of 5%) is the fastest growing material. Steel windows haven't been observed to give much performance and have been bogged down by lack of standardisation while the wooden windows market (with limited availability of wood due to environmental concern) is totally fragmented (with individual or group of carpenters working on site) and only a couple of state-of-the-art industrial manufacturers. The introduction of uPVC has been a steadfast initiative to develop fenestrations best suited to the Indian climate.

There have been ongoing deliberations on the comparisons between uPVC and aluminium in terms of strength, performance, cost–effectiveness and eco-friendliness . While aluminium scores with its numerous advantages of high strength to weight ratio (making feasible light structures with innate stability), design flexibility (its extrusion enabling numerous range of forms) and its durability, alloys of aluminium make it very efficient for light management and are corrosion-resistant and immune to the harmful effects of UV rays. It has an easy maintenance (a mere routine cleaning is required) that leads to lots of cost savings over the product's lifetime. Other advantages with the material are its environment–friendly nature, various colour as well as finishes availability.


Mumbai headquartered Hindalco Industries Limited, the market leader in aluminium offers aluminium extruded profiles used for a wide range of architectural applications like Windows, Doors, Hardwares, Curtain Wallings/Structural Glazing etc. Mr A Jayagopal, Vice President & SBU Head - Extrusions while dwelling on the advantages of aluminium over uPVC says, "Aluminium scores over uPVC in almost all attributes like strength, aesthetics, temperature stability, fire resistance, sound proofing, maintenance and in being endlessly recyclable."

Hindalco has introduced quality aluminium windows under their brand 'Eternia'. This brand contains three sliding and three casement systems from Italy with different typologies (such as external / internal opening, pivot, top hung, tilt and turn etc for casement systems and 2 Track / 3 Track, with fixed frame for sliding systems and mosquito mesh system). Fine quality hardware and accessories (sourced from renowned European companies) ensure effective functioning of the windows.

While uPVC has enjoyed a global popularity over many years, it has recently started getting adequate attention in India. Though with a higher cost as compared to other materials like aluminium and wood, it has some inherent features that are indispensable. It has a heat insulation that has been found to be 2.2 times better than aluminium windows, thus leading to saving of more energy; it gives an excellent sound proofing, is completely self–extinguishing and there is no discolouration when subjected to intense heat and UV exposure. It also prevents condensation. Its multipoint tilt and turn hardware can make the transformation from a sash window to a vertical tilting window easily. As also in the case of aluminium, it doesn't need any special maintenance, is corrosion resistant, has an attractive appearance, is environment–friendly, recyclable and has a high durability. Though achievable at a higher cost, yet uPVC in terms of solar heat gain coefficient and thermal transmittance U values is much superior to aluminium. It is said that the life cycle savings come out to be more incase of uPVC. Its initial challenge of its low aesthetics have also been overcome now, with availability of diverse options in colour and texture; however aesthetically it still can't match the sheer brilliance of aluminium and its joints and corners and the slimmer profiles. It is also suited the best for all weather conditions prevailing throughout India. Its earlier sensitivity to UV rays has also been dealt with technological advancements and by addition of anti-oxidants and stabilisers. The water tightness and sound proofing are also reported to be better in uPVC units due to the difference in the joinery details of both the materials. Incase of aluminium the joints can emerge as areas of weakness as the frame sections can move due to climate expansion and contraction.

New Delhi based Profine India Window Technology Pvt Ltd is a 100% subsidiary of Profine GmbH - the world-wide leading manufacturer of uPVC Window and Door profiles. Under their successful brand Koemmerling, the extrusion of window profiles and PVC sheets was started in 1967. The product range includes casement window and door system (inward / outward open), tilt and turn window system, sliding windows and doors, sliding folding doors, tilt and slide door etc. Komalit Z - a high performance compound used and developed exclusively by Koemmerling is a uPVC blend of the highest impact grade, especially suited for tropical climates. The use of calcium-zinc instead of lead in the uPVC profiles renders them more resistant to the aggressive weather conditions. Mr Farid Khan, CEO of Profine India Window Technology Pvt Ltd dwelling on the advantages of uPVC over aluminium states, "uPVC is dust proof, has a versatile colour range, security, easy care and longevity and is a product for extreme conditions. It scores over aluminium in terms of sound Insulation, Heat reduction and fire resistance. uPVC windows and doors have a greater energy saving potential than any other window material and rank at the top of the league in eco-efficiency analyses. They have the highest thermal insulation property compared to other framing materials like Aluminium, wood etc. Their extrusion process is also relatively energy efficient compared with aluminium. They can be fully recycled and reused for production."

Profine India Window

Pune based Eureka India is a well known manufacturer and supplier of a varied range of PVC and wooden doors. Incase of PVC doors, they have Solid PVC Flush Door, Solid PVC Panel Doors and Solid PVC Laminate Doors. Mr Uttam Khatode, Deputy Manager - production and key accounts of the firm drawing differences between uPVC and aluminium elaborates, "uPVC is a petrochemical product and hence is more eco–friendly than aluminium. Cost wise it is comparable to aluminium since it comes in various grades. The A grade is more costly than the aluminium section but if the grade drops, the cost also drops. Talking about strength, if we speak about doors, uPVC has 100 times more strength than aluminium keeping in mind the utilisation and operation system required in doors which need to be operated atleast 5-6 times in a day. Incase of fixing, since aluminium sections are fixed with a screw, after a certain while they start making noise when the door/windows are opened. In case of uPVC and PVC, the joint is more durable since it is made of using a solvent hence it never becomes loose. PVC panels are put in doors with cement solvents while aluminium sections are fixed with rubber gaskets; hence when the rubber gasket comes out, the middle panel also automatically comes out. While uPVC and PVC doors are made in the factory, aluminium sections are labour and handmade. We can paint PVC doors with regular oil-based paints while aluminium doors can't be painted - they have to be powder coated."

One thus concludes that it is difficult to pinpoint on which of the two materials of aluminium or uPVC is superior. Though aluminium is still preferred by a majority in India, but both aluminium as well as uPVC windows and doors have their own markets which they cater to. Though aluminium being a metal is always costlier than uPVC which is actually a plastic (aluminium of good grade and with thermal break system proves to be costlier than uPVC doors and windows); the aesthetics of aluminium remain more because of it being a hand assembled crafted product whereas uPVC products are mass productions. Aluminium products last longer and are easier to recycle, uPVC scores due to its environmental advantages.

Standards for a Quality Product

Mr Khan while stating that uPVC is a multi-level project which requires extrusion, fabrication and installation, admits that there has been no standardisation such as BIS so far, which hampers the marketing of these products in India. Currently, the uPVC doors and windows are still being made as per international standards however reports suggest that the uPVC Windows & Doors Manufacturers Association (UWDMA) is in the process of submitting an India centric draft standard to BIS.

In the absence of any industry standards, the aluminium windows market has its share of problems too. "It is a heavily fragmented segment, and in the absence of any regulatory body and industry standards, there is much left to be desired in the quality of aluminium windows. The concept of branded aluminium windows is not as strong in India like in the US, UK and Europe where there are several established brands. However now branded aluminium windows have started entering the Indian market and when branded products are available, one is certain that some science has gone into designing and developing these window systems and that there is consistency in quality. On the other hand uPVC windows have emerged quickly to capture 3-4% of the windows market, aided by heavy advertising," explains Mr Jayagopal.

Challenges for Marketing

As much as is the growing popularity of these products, there exist significant challenges that the suppliers are facing while marketing these products in India. Lack of awareness of the quality and the benefits of uPVC, and the lack of awareness of energy conservation are the challenges for marketing of uPVC in India. "The unorganised manner in which the industry runs, the high cost of uPVC as compared to conventional products, and workmanship are some of the other challenges. We still find well entrenched low priced traditional materials being used like aluminium in urban areas, wood in semi-urban and rural areas, MS in government buildings. We notice that there is a competition on price and not on quality," adds Mr Khan. However, Mr Khatode feels that since uPVC doors are already a hit with people and builders (for whom aluminium extrusion doors are outdated), their marketing is not a problem at all.