What are the salient trends in the construction chemicals industry? Has the market seen any new product launches in recent days? Is there scope for more globally used construction chemicals to enter the Indian market? Charu Bahri has some answers.
The Indian construction chemicals market is fast expanding on the back of major investments in infrastructure and rising demand for real estate. Frost & Sullivan describes the market as very consolidated as the top 10 market participants contribute more than 70 per cent. However, low entry-barriers make it an easy market to enter and, as a result, local players jostle larger brands. The unorganised segment caters to the lower end of the demand spectrum.
According to Frost & Sullivan, visible trends suggest that admixtures, waterproofing, and repair and rehabilitation products are key growth areas. What do vendors have to say about this? “Zydex counts Zycosil, Zycoprime and Elastobar as its best-selling products,” says Himanshu Agarwal, Vice President – Marketing, Zydex Industries. “These help protect structures in the long term using a combination of Zycosil organo silane nanotechnology, 100 per cent acrylic co-polymers as bonding agents and elastomeric membrane coatings. With waterproofing becoming integral to construction, the market will continue to grow. Zydex expects a healthy growth in the coming fiscal.”
According to Dr SK Manjrekar, Chairman & Managing Director, Sunanda Speciality Coatings Pvt Ltd, “Chemicals used for waterproofing and to help repair structures are the most in demand. These include Sunanda’s Polyalk WP, a polymeric waterproofing coating, and Polyalk EP, a high-performance acrylic polymer for mortar modification used in repairs.”
“In recent times, our new product launches that have enjoyed a runaway success include Dr Fixit Newcoat, heavy duty roof waterproofing for existing roofs; Dr Fixit Raincoat, another elastic waterproof coating for walls that is twice the thickness for walls, and Dr Fixit Heatshield, our answer to efficiently reduce the effect of high temperatures in homes and industries – it helps reduce electricity bills to a large extent,” says Sushil Luniya, President, CC Division, Pidilite Industries. “Our latex repair products, integral waterproofing compounds, -fillers for plasters and concrete, and roofing membranes are some other fast-moving categories.”
Builders and developers are becoming more environmentally aware and responsible, as is evident from the increasing uptake of chemicals aimed at helping reduce HVAC loads, energy costs, and the carbon footprint of buildings. “Sunext-8, Sunanda’s 100 per cent acrylic, heat-insulating, anti-fungal, waterproofing exterior coating is popular,” says Dr Manjrekar. According to him, flyash compatible concrete admixtures are also being enthusiastically appreciated by the industry as they allow for reduced use of cement, a non-renewable resource that releases almost an equal amount of greenhouse gas for every kilogramme manufactured.
While Hack Aid Plast, a bonding agent, is also in demand, Sunanda’s custom bonding agent Hack Aid Plast-G for gypsum plaster is another addition to its range of eco-friendly chemicals. “It avoids bond losses and facilitates the use of gypsum plaster, a waste material that would otherwise have been dumped into landfills,” adds Dr Manjrekar.
Intense competition and increasing product awareness make product innovations the key to success in the Indian construction chemical market. At Sunanda, recent R&D has emphasised the formulation of products that help create structures with a longer life and cost-effective chemicals that are easier to use. “Our recent developments include Polyalk CP 293, a migratory corrosion inhibiting admixture. With time, the active components in the admixture migrate towards the reinforcing steel and form a protective layer around it thus preventing corrosion losses and extending the service life of structures, in other words making them more sustainable,” says Dr Manjrekar.
R&D is also following the high-growth sectors of the construction industry. “The industry is coming up with solutions to suit industry trends,” observes Ajit Patil, Head, Business Monitoring, Ashoka Buildcon Ltd. For instance, the construction of mega structures like malls and multiplexes has led to a range of specialised chemicals suited for the purpose. Zydex offers Terrasil and Zycosoil nanotechnologies; both are used to protect soil bases, foundations and internal roads of mega construction projects. These chemicals also help eliminate the de-bonding of asphalt from aggregate by chemically modifying the aggregates in asphalt pavements.
Polyurethane flooring systems, which may be applied on floors of car parks of commercial structures like malls and multiplexes, are also examples of products developed in keeping with market needs. “We’ve expanded our range of industrial flooring coatings to include epoxies, polyurethanes, and epox polyurethane hybrid floor coatings,” shares Luniya. “Polyure-thane flooring systems are excellent for wear and tear and against oil spillages of vehicles; they protect the concrete from damage and arrest the generation of dust in such areas. Such systems also help enhance the aesthetic quotient and illumination in these confined areas, as they can be made available in a variety of colours as desired by the customer. They lend themselves to being easily cleaned. Dull basement areas can be made really nice.”
The government’s impetus to the expansion of the country’s infrastructure is also encouraging players to come up with formulations aimed at enhancing the life of these structures. “At Zydex, R&D is driven by our commitment to bring forth cost-effective innovations to the market,’ says Agarwal. “Huge investments are made in creating infrastructure assets such as rigid pavements, elevated bridge decks, pavers, paving blocks, bridges, flyovers, marine piers, docks, shipyards, tunnels and railway sleepers. These must be protected to extract the most value from them over their design life. We’re all set to launch a 100 per cent organo silane, water soluble, chemically reactive and penetrant sealer for 360° protection of structures. The technology will help create penetrative and breathable structures that are also water resistant at an affordable cost.”
Having a wide range of readily available specialist chemicals to choose from makes it easier for contractors to buy products suited to their needs. Ashoka Buildcon, for example, is very engaged with road contracts. “To this end, we’re using a number of soil stabilisers,” says Patil. “Zycosoil comes to mind as a new offering in this segment. We also use anti-stripping agents that help avoid the premature failure of pavements.” On the other hand, the most frequently used construction chemicals by the company’s concrete division are plasticisers, additives, and retarders.
Indeed, ‘user-friendly’ is fast emerging as an industry buzzword, necessitating the development of products that are easy to use and don’t compromise on results. To cite an example, Pidilite is introducing high-end, user-friendly repair product systems, essentially high-end single component chemicals that just need to be mixed with water. “Chemicals used for repairs constitute a major segment of our portfolio,” says Luniya. “We want our customers to benefit from systems that assure their repaired homes of high durability. We’ve also introduced a bouquet of high-performance injections aimed at arresting drip leakages and strengthening concrete wall and floors in basements, slabs, or water-holding structures. This is another extension to our range of repair products for the buildings and commercial segment.”
“We also offer cementitious self-smoothing refurbishment underlays for the commercial building sector as well as the industrial segment, where down-time for flooring repairs is minimal,” he adds. These products offer high strength and ready-to-use surfaces after repairs over the weekend — the concrete becomes as though new. Here again, the usage of the product has been kept simple; it only needs to be mixed with the right quantity of water and flow applied. The outcome is a levelled floor surface over which carpeting or floor coatings can be done almost the next day.
As offerings increase, construction chemicals are increasingly being seen as an essential construction material. DR Nayak, Deputy General Manager – Technical & Marketing, BE Billimoria & Co. Ltd, points out that integral waterproofing in both powder and liquid form and crystalline waterproofing compounds are frequently used construction chemicals. Other construction chemicals are designed to surmount challenges associated with construction. Retarders, for instance, are useful when the time interval between mixing of concrete and its placement in forms is considerable as happens when the RMC plant is situated far away or traffic conditions are likely to cause delay in deliveries, by slowing down the process of hydration of RMC. Plasticisers improve the workability of concrete, and are useful for pile foundations and slender members or when reinforcement is congested. They’re also useful for pumped concrete particularly in case of high-rise buildings. Construction chemicals are also necessary to produce high-strength concrete. “But the increasing availability of such products should not make us complacent,” he cautions. “Good quality of materials, close supervision and high quality of workmanship play an important role. Construction chemicals cannot be regarded as substitutes for them.”
Though awareness about the use and benefits of construction chemicals is increasing, there is scope for greater understanding of the role of each product. A Frost & Sullivan study says the absence of entry barriers in the market allows a lot of low-quality products to be sold. Better awareness could help reduce this problem and ensure that construction chemicals are not overused or misused. “Contractors have a choice of construction chemicals that are used unless a brand is specified in the tender,” says Nayak. “That’s why it’s essential for engineers preparing tender documents to understand the properties of each kind of chemical.”
Does the array of products on offer fulfil all the needs of the Indian market? In Patil’s view, “The range and quality of construction chemicals available in India is on par with technologies found overseas. The market is well-populated and the variety of products on offer is sufficient.”
However, according to Pankaj Agarwal, President – EPC Division, GVK Group, “There’s scope for larger usage of construction chemicals in India as is being done overseas. But newer chemical formulations must be evaluated for eco-friendliness and safe usage prior to large-scale use in general construction. These include high-quality liquid waterproofing compounds with better reach and self-spreading capabilities, and that dry quickly. Waterproofing membranes that are presently available are not puncture-proof and don’t reach every nook and corner. Chemical-filled capsules used in drilled holes prior to inserting steel rods to extend concrete structures are also not readily available in India. These would be useful as concrete structures aren’t easy to extend unlike steel structures. There’s also scope for chemicals used in place of mortar to affix slabs and granite and marble. Such ready-to use chemical products offer much better results and help speed up work. They are especially useful for interior and exterior vertical finishes.”
Potential opportunities are likely to attract even more players to the market, spelling greater variety and better prices for users—now that’s the perfect formula for success.
Based on end use, Frost & Sullivan divide the market into these segments:• Admixtures• Waterproofing compounds (not to include waterproofing membranes)• Flooring compounds• Repair and rehabilitation• Miscellaneous (sealants, grouts, tile adhesives, and others)
Further, they sub-divide materials into these categories based on chemical type:• Polymer-based• Inorganic-based• Epoxies