When Satya Tiwari became president of his family company in 2004, Surya Inc. had built a respectable $2.7 million in sales.
A decade later, revenues for the provider of rugs and home furnishings have rocketed to $80 million per year, earning Surya a spot in Inc. magazine’s list of fastest-growing private companies for three years running.
The rapid rise is paying dividends for Georgia, as the Calhoun-based firm recently announced that it would put an additional $33 million office and distribution center in Cartersville that will create 200 jobs by when completed. If Mr. Tiwari has his way, the company won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Founded in 1976 by Surya Tiwari in Ugapur, India, the company started out selling simple hand-knotted rugs in one or two colors made by villagers to The Federated Group (now Macy’s). A decade later Surya opened a small office in New York before eventually relocating to Georgia. In 2004, the elder Tiwari named Satya, his son, president of the U.S. division.
The last few years in northwest Georgia have been far from rosy, but the company has built on its long-term vision and made aggressive moves even amid the uncertainty.
“It takes courage to succeed in a downturn,” he said. “You have to have the right plan, discipline, fortitude that you can excel in any condition and the vision. We are excited about the industry and being in this state. We don’t believe the world is doomed. We have vision, courage and a belief in the fundamentals.”
Mr. Tiwari’s vision includes a balance of focusing on the all-important U.S. market even while staying open to new opportunities overseas.
Likening the home accessories market to the film industry, he noted that no other country can compete with Hollywood and that if a film is successful in the U.S., it will almost by definition be a hit just by the sheer size of the U.S. market.
“It is the same with us,” he said. “The U.S. is 50 percent of our market.”
Coupled with domestic growth due to its expanding product lines and distribution outlets, Surya is looking internationally to augment its plans.
Currently Surya exports less than 10 percent of its rugs and home accessories, but in five years, the company expects that figure to be at least 25 percent.
Canada and Mexico are the company’s largest international markets, with France, Ecuador, Peru, Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Nigeria and New Zealand rounding out the top list of countries.
“We shipped to 45 countries last year, which is quite a lot. It surprised me,” Mr. Tiwari said. “Sometimes you don’t realize it until you analyze it.”
To aid in the international growth, the company has hired an international sales manager who will work with export authorities and build an independent sales team in each market. Trade shows, particularly the ones in High Point, N.C., and Las Vegas, attract significant overseas retailers, distributors and designers. Priority regions are Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Lissa Wyman, editor and publisher of Rugnews.com in New York, said Surya is on the fast track.
Mr. Tiwari has “made no secret of his ambition to be the largest rug and home accent importer in the U.S.,” she said. “Under Tiwari’s guidance, Surya has been a leader in developing home accents products that complement its rugs and has focused on home accents and Internet distribution channels. In fact, he has often said that Surya is not a rug company but a home accents company.”
Indeed, from a company that initially made simple rugs, Surya now has more than 6,000 retail, design and e-commerce accounts for its 30,000-product catalog, which includes rugs, pillows, throws, accent furniture, wall decor, lighting, decorative accents and bedding. Although Mr. Tiwari would like to increase the percentage of products made domestically, he noted that his company sells products from more than 100 factories in 15 countries.
That said, being based in the U.S. yields extra caché overseas.
“The world does want to follow us (the United States) in a big way,” he said. “They look to us for ideas.”
American companies’ ability to deliver a high level of service and know-how are also selling points to foreign buyers.
“When you travel, you see McDonald’s, Domino’s, Subway and you know they have fine-tuned their business. They know the business and the model keeps improving. We provide such a high level of service, a variety of products, price, assortment, color, style, convenience. We have that know-how,” he said.
The company is also expanding its showrooms, recently building a 26,056-square-foot anchor showroom in the vital High Point, N.C., market, a 5,000-square-foot showroom in Tupelo, Miss., and a 15,000-square-foot showroom in AmericasMart. The Tupelo showroom is targeted to Surya’s value segment line and focuses on products that will retail at $499 or less. The company also has showrooms in Las Vegas and New York.
But perhaps no better sign of the strength of the company and its plans for growth is the $33 million new corporate office and distribution facility being built in Cartersville. The expansion will allow the company to consolidate shipping and distribution, creating a more efficient logistics base and increasing operational flexibility. Groundbreaking should occur in August.
Staying in the state was important, with Mr. Tiwari citing the convenience of Savannah’s port, its closeness to a major trade market (AmericasMart) and a North Georgia workforce with “carpet know-how.”
Acknowledging that the city and county offered tax credits to opening the facility in Cartersville, Mr. Tiwari said the closer proximity to Atlanta was a deciding factor over expanding again in Calhoun.
“It is easier for us to acquire talent. Dalton’s [employment market] is saturated. From Midtown to Calhoun is an hour, which is not ideal for everyone. Forty minutes is somewhat more manageable,” he said.
Some who watch Mr. Tiwari say he knows a thing or two about talent.
“Satya Tiwari’s ambition and energy has no boundaries. He is totally focused on the task at hand. As long as he keeps this focus, and barring any unforeseen events, Surya’s growth will probably continue to out-strip the industry average,” said Ms. Wyman of Rugnews.
Mr. Tiwari is up for an award this fall from accounting giant EY. Mr. Surya has been named a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 Award in the Southeast region.