Meet one of the leading producers of advanced and high-performance polymers in India and around the world: Covestro India, with its diversified range, offers innovative developments in polyurethanes, polycarbonates, coating, adhesive and specialty raw materials as well as thermoplastic polyurethane elastomers.
Ajay Durrani, Managing Director-Indian Subcontinent, and Dr Kumar Iyer, Head-Commercial Operations, CAS, India Subcontinent, Covestro (India), share more on the ideal offerings in the current Indian scenario in conversation with SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN.
The smart cities mission has been on the government's agenda for over two years now. How do you view its success and how is Covestro supporting the mission?
Durrani: We have been part of the smart cities initiative.There is a notion of smart cities being all about new construction. However, in India, we need to retrofit and smarten existing infrastructure. And, in this area, we aim to bring all our solutions to the forefront; for instance, polyurethane for making buildings more efficient. Normally, wetalk of saving electricity to the level of 70 per cent in eco commercial buildings. This area is catching up.
What are the challenges faced by companies such as yours in the current scenario?
Durrani: At Covestro, we come up with several solutions; for instance, what one needs to make the walls of a building more energy efficient. What type of insulation would you require in a wall to improve its energy-efficiency or reducing the electricity load? Then comes another part: The kind of coatings one would like to use to provide robust insulation thereby enhancing energy-efficiency and performance.
Iyer: The company is looking at participating with various business models. For instance, when a building is constructed, the biggest challenge is waterproofing. So how do we attack the problem of waterproofing and how do we make the structure impermeable? Corrosion is another big issue. Then you have ceilings that are required to fill in the gaps. At Covestro, we try to localise the solutions in the country using our raw material in the technology. Moisture cure waterproofing is a new concept in India and is going to pick up now. As a chance to participate in smart cities, you can talk about energy-efficiency and smart building and smart mobility, which is going to commence; everything is going to come under the smart programme. We are talking about e-vehicles too.
How do your solutions help combat corrosion?
Durrani: Corrosion is largely related to the metals and pipelines used today. Through our technology, we are trying to promote systems that can inhibit corrosion to a large extent. Corrosion largely happens because the way in which metal is treated is not adequate enough. While there are good technologies, adaptation is also a challenge in India. In polyurethane, Covestro offers two solutions: One is on the moisture side and one on the polyurethane dispersion side, which is a high-end technology. Such technologies are still in its nascent stage in developing countries such as India, as purchase decisions are majorly driven by cost, and has a natural churning cycle that goes into maintenance. We have a fitment to technology, which is to be understood. For waterproofing, especially new constructions that come with podium gardens, etc, the requirement is at its highest level. Our solutions are dispersions that are water-based, which are at a high level in terms of the waterproofing applications or functional requirement. This is how we approach the subject. On the other side, being a material supplier, we need somebody to formulate it before it goes to the end-user. Speaking of smart cities, there are architects and contractors, various associations involved. It is actually a longer chain for us to go through.
One of the key areas in smart cities is smart mobility. Tell us about the role Covestro plays in this area.
Durrani: Smart mobility is bringing about a huge change in terms of fuel requirements, which means we are moving from conventional petrol and diesel fuel to electrical. Today, OEMs in India are looking at a particular unit that travels more distance with the same level of battery charge; this is only possible when the unit is made lightweight.
So metal can be replaced with fibre composites. You can make the whole weight of that particular object or particle by one-third of the conventional solution. You start looking at various objects within this whole unit and can use a lot of lightweight solutions.
What opportunities do you see as part of the government's smart cities mission?
Durrani: We do see opportunities and are optimistic. The only thing is that we need to create an environment that supports smart cities. The announcement of smart cities is one thing but putting the projects in place will require support from the government in terms of financing. But I am confident that eventually, in coming years, we will see more and more activity in this area. There is always a planning part and then the execution bit; we are approaching the execution part soon.
From a growth perspective, what do you envisage for the company?
Durrani: We are far above GDP and industry growth rates because we operate in several industries.
If you talk about auto, the normal growth rate would be 10-12 per cent and we exceed it. In construction as well, we exceed the normal growth rate as we try to replace the conventional way of how materials are being used and there is always an opportunity to grow more than the industry. So, for the industry segments, we are far above the industry growth rates. And, as the industry also has a lot of unorganised sectors, calculating the real growth rate is difficult.
Iyer: This year, there was a lot of opportunities for technology to penetrate further. The advantage is that we are trying to replace existing technologies with better technologies and that's why our growth rates are higher than the conventional growth rates in the market. Also, being a company with a diversified portfolio gives us an advantage. We talk about flexible packaging and footwear, which are consumer-driven segments. Then, we talk about macroeconomic segments like automotive and construction.
So there is a balance across all segments, which really helps us maintain our growth.