Adding those lines of business kept the company growing even during the recent recession, when homebuilding nearly came to a standstill.
“In September of 2008, my two sons and I had a meeting, and we made a rule … to continue to expand,” Shah said. “And it worked. Many companies went out of business [during] that time. The industry shrank by 45% over the next three years, and we grew by 75% between 2008 and 2012.”
Increasing bankruptcies among competitors meant MS International had a bigger pool of potential customers, which also allowed the company to keep its employees and maintain competitive pay.
“We were financially strong,” Shah said. “We did not cut anybody’s wages. We have never laid off a single worker because of lack of work.”
The natural-stone industry is “fragmented,” Shah said, with MS International and competitors such as Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk Industries and Arizona Tile in Tempe, Ariz., among the biggest companies.
“There are a lot [of companies] in the stone business, but the top 20 make up 98% of market share,” he said.
Shah said his knowledge of technology has given the business a competitive advantage since its beginning.
“When we started, we were giving customers fax machines,” Shah said. “With fax machines ... we were able to do a lot of things at a faster pace than most people. Of course, that was the type of computer technology used at that time. Now we use the Internet, smartphones … iPads. Every employee at MSI who comes in contact with customers has an iPad.”
Local students and senior citizens also are beneficiaries of MS International’s affinity for tech gadgets. The company recently donated 35 iPads to Whitney High School in Cerritos for use in its anticipated multimedia center for student and senior-citizen classes. The company also supports Sahara, a helpline agency in Cerritos that aims to help abused South Asian women.
Perhaps it’s the value Shah places on education—and his own experience of facing an arid job market in India as a young university graduate in the 1960s—that has led him to support educational facilities in his home country.
MS International currently is financing the American Indian Education Foundation in its plan to establish five schools to acquaint teenagers with stone processing.
“It will teach kids from 14 to 16 … how to measure, cut straight, polish and package properly,” Shah said. “Each school will produce 250 graduates a year after six to nine months of study. We also help at the children level by helping an organization in India that teaches kids in slum areas … to read and write and do math up to the fourth-grade level. We are very open to helping education.”