Hari Stones Limited
Few importers can hold a light to the selection found at Hari Stones Limited. The family-owned and –operated stone importer based in Burnaby, British Columbia, has been providing architects, contractors, designers, homeowners and fabricators with high-quality semiprecious stone for floor tile, cladding and countertops since 1999.
Alok Kansal, president of Hari Stones, came to Canada from northern India in 1989 and worked as a car salesman before establishing his importing company with his brother, Atul Kansal and their business partner, Krishan Shrama. Neither Alok nor his brother had previous experience with construction or stonework, but luck was on the partners’ side and Krishan had a background in renovations.
The partners opened their first location in 2000, with only 2,000 square feet of warehouse space. Hari Stones has grown significantly since and now operates from three locations. The largest, the company’s headquarters in Barnaby, British Columbia – just outside of Vancouver – offers 52,000 square-feet of warehousing on 7 acres of land. Just opened in early 2015, this new location complements sales locations in Kelowna, British Columbia, and Edmonton, Alberta.
The Hari Stones difference
The new location with expansive warehouse space accommodates between 600 and 700 stone products at any given time. “We bring in product from all over the world,” explains Alok. “We sell in tile form for interior floors and for cladding purposes outside of the house as well as a vast selection of countertops for kitchens and commercial offices. Our inventory includes granite, marble quartz soapstone, onyx, slate, limestone, travertine and sandstone.”
What sets Hari Stones apart from competitors is the customized experience that Alok and his colleagues provide. “We let people purchase stone the way they want to use it in their houses or buildings,” he explains. “Here if they say they want a kitchen counter, once we get the order they can select any slab they want. If there is big pattern in center of a big slab, they can select that piece.”
Allowing designers, architects, contractors, homeowners and other customers hand-select stone products has paid off. These customers exhibit significant loyalty due to 100 percent customer satisfaction – larger commercial clients come back time and again for the service and high-quality products. Because of a high referral rate, the business rarely advertises.
These long-term customer relationships have led to some big projects for the business. While Hari Stones does not perform any installation work, the company has supplied a number of high-profile projects throughout Western Canada. Contracts can range in revenue from $1,000 to $11 million. Recent work includes the Harbor Green in Vancouver, Westminster City Hall, Surrey City Hall, the new Nordstrom in downtown Vancouver and the Fairmont Pacific Rim, one of the most prestigious projects in Vancouver over the last decade.
Rock solid inventory
While Hari Stones’ broad selection is one of the main reasons for the company’s success over the years, maintaining inventory can also be a major challenge. “We carry $15 million in inventory between all three of our locations,” Alok explains. “It can be a challenge to rotate it. In this business, we sell products because people can see them and feel them. People don’t want to look through a catalog, so we need to carry what we sell. It can take three months for a product to reach here after we order it and anything can happen in that time to the value. As an importer, we carry a big risk but it is worth it for us.”
Maintaining a high quality inventory is a delicate balancing act – but one that Alok and his leadership team have mastered. Hari Stones maintains longstanding relationships with a number of suppliers all over the world, ensuring that the company is connected to resources and able to bring in any product a designer, contractor or homeowner needs. This worldwide network of close connections has been significantly beneficial to the company’s growth, which continues as Hari Stones reaches out to new customers and takes on new challenges.
The business saw yearly growth as high at 40 percent up until 2011. Now, Alok says the market has settled down a bit. “We have made adjustments and we are settling in well,” he explains. “We continue to go where the market takes us in terms of products and contracts.”
Over the coming years, Alok says the company plans to maintain steady growth. He anticipates expansion, but not immediately. “We may open a store in Calgary over the coming years, but we have no solid plans for that yet,” he speculates.
No matter where in the world the business finds itself and its partners, some things remain consistent. Hari Stones Limited will continue to provide leading service and a diverse inventory to a range of customers throughout Western Canada.