PLI scheme could boost prospects for fluoropolymers
Kapil Malhotra, Senior Vice President – Marketing, with Gujarat Fluorochemicals Ltd, is confident of market revival post-COVID for fluoropolymers across end-use segments including automotive, healthcare, electronics, construction and industrial processing. Moreover, the growing use of fluoropolymers in newer applications such as waterproof clothing, dental ware etc. will only take this trend forward
IBT: What are the key competitive advantages that have helped GFL build an established global business in fluorochemicals?
Kapil Malhotra: GFL has endeavoured to be the market leader by providing its customers the latest, most innovative and best available technologies, products and services. GFL provides “Value for money” to its customers by producing best in class quality products and selling them at a competitive price. Maintaining global excellence in quality, excellence in services & manufacturing practices, building and maintaining integrity with all its stakeholders and a continuous approach to enthuse all our customers through innovativeness have been certain ways to delight and deliver the values to our customer.
Through its integrated operations and integrity built over the years with its customers, GFL has proven itself to be the most reliable and established leader in the Indian market. For global markets, GFL is considered as the preferred supplier because of its dealers’ network, excellent supply chain and warehousing networks. GFL emerged as a supplier, which develops products and applications through collaborative technical engagement from the conceptual stage till end use.
IBT: How is the company currently placed in terms of R&D focus and outcomes vis-à-vis its global competitors? What have been the key R&D success stories till date, and what is the future direction of innovation you envisage?
Kapil Malhotra: GFL has got its own research centre named GFRC, which is situated at Dahej, India. Our team of experts is constantly working to enhance the quality of products & making processes more efficient by developing newer technologies. We are a recognized global fluoropolymer supplier and our products are at par with the other Fluoropolymer manufactures. GFL has got a high customer retention rate & it indeed talks about the value we deliver to our customers. The centre has collaborations with renowned educational and research institutes such as Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and has established two priority R&D focus areas:
- New Product Development
- Sustainable Manufacturing Technologies
The Ranjitnagar R&D Centre, over the few years of its existence, has developed the dexterity required to support and sustain the business with one of the key competencies providing swift responses to customer’s investigations. Having an established credibility with major innovators in India and global markets, GFL’s Fluorospecialty products are well established in target markets.
GFL has combined research and customer insights to create one of the industry’s broadest and most flexible portfolios of Fluorospecialties. Our solutions for the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries are derived from extensive research capabilities with analytical development chemists engaged in Process Development.
Our research team has done some significant breakthroughs. One such example is PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) Micropowders. During the processing of PTFE, a lot of waste is generated at the processor’s end. To curb this problem, our research team developed a process by which we can convert PTFE scrap into PTFE Micropowders.
PTFE Micropowders have got a market value and they can be used in an immense number of applications. Thus, in this way, there was a win-win situation in which the processors got rid of PTFE waste and through it, GFL developed a product, which has market value. Secondly, at GFL, we comply with the UNGC (United Nations Global Compact) Principles. We can proudly claim that our products are PFOA free, which has a detrimental effect on the lives of the people.
Again, we owe this to our excellent research team. Our facilities are backward integrated and in future, we will try to make our processes more ecofriendly, besides adding more products to our portfolio. GFL has always preferred to focus of custom requirement and if required, take support in development of products to cater to their needs; delivering trust and value to the former and with continue to do so in the future.
IBT: How has the COVID-19 pandemic, and the requirement of social distancing, impacted your business operations? How have the lockdowns and business disruptions affected your global supply chains, and how are you working to mitigate the impact?
Kapil Malhotra: The world saw an economic slowdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Industries suffered huge losses because of lower requirements, turbulent supply chains and other dependent activities. GFL was affected too in some way. But by and large, with safety measures taken by the company management and following standard operating procedures laid down by the Government of India, GFL resumed its production at a fast speed to serve its customers.
In fact, some of the GFL’s products, which cater to pharma industries are necessary ingredients for manufacturing of sanitizers and medicines for COVID-19 treatment. Hence GFL could not afford any kind of disruption in its production. All precautionary measures like PPE kits, sanitization of machinery and personnel, temperature checks and roster duty plans resulted in lesser number of people getting affected by the pandemic; thus increasing productivity and continuous workflow for the company.
Since GFL has integrated operations, we did not face a major challenge in terms of raw materials. However, certain challenges were there in respect to supply chain, which was handled with meticulous advance planning.
IBT: What is the material change that you are expecting the global market demand situation for fluoropolymers, fluorospecialties, chemicals and refrigerants in the post-COVID situation? Which are the major markets/product segments that are witnessing significant change in market demand and outlook (positive or negative) and why?
Kapil Malhotra: We are witnessing encouraging signs for the revival and growth of global markets post-COVID. Production-linked incentives by Government under the “Atma-Nirbhar” drive for API manufacturing in pharma sector and specialty chemical sector will surely boost the requirements in the coming years. The global arena is witnessing a paradigm shift in the automobile and telecom sectors, with requirements of Lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles and 5G networking for communication. We anticipate a high consumption of Fluoropolymers and Fluoro-specialty chemicals in the above applications.
IBT: In an extremely competitive market place and input pricing pressures, what are the value addition opportunities that GFL has explored/plans to explore to improve its margin?
Kapil Malhotra: GFL has integrated operations, which reduce the requirement of external raw material to a large extent, and wherever required, GFL has a trusted base of suppliers with them who provide quality raw material at a very competitive cost, thereby reducing the total input costs for the company. Since our team proactively does all planning for the supply chain, we benefit from last minute price surges. Therefore, we pass on these benefits to our customers.
GFL has always worked upon ideas, which are value-added in nature and we also foresee good growth over the next few decades, because of entry barriers in the products that we manufacture. Due to the same reason, GFL is the leading manufacturer of Fluoropolymers and Fluoro Specialty chemicals in India today.
IBT: How do you see the entire climate change movement impacting the sustainability of your business, and what steps has the company taken/plans to take to address this over the long term?
Kapil Malhotra: We all know that our planet is warming and the emissions of greenhouse gases have substantially increased. At GFL, we have taken preventive measures, so that we can build a safe environment for future generations.
To name a few, we have stopped using the refrigerants, which have a negative impact on the environment. Moreover, at our facilities, the gases we vent or the liquids we discharge are within the permissible PPM levels. We have taken initiatives such as Responsible Sales and Marketing, sustainable procurement, Corporate social Responsibility and comply with the standards such as UNGC, ISO 26001 etc. We have trained all our employees on these principles so that we can meet our sustainability goals.
With changing dynamics of Refrigerants markets, necessitated by Montreal Protocol to gradually reduce uses and phase out of HCFC refrigerants, GFL has ventured into new generation 400 series blends to replace HCFC.
GFL has always believed that the environment is a major constituent of everyone’s existence; therefore it should be protected and preserved for generations to come.
IBT: How is the India Fluorochemicals industry competitively positioned in global trade? What are the emerging opportunities that the industry can tap to unleash the next wave of growth post-pandemic (vis-a-vis end user segments)?
Kapil Malhotra: In the global market, GFL has a got a good reputation as a Fluoropolymers and chemicals supplier. In terms of end users, Fluoropolymer industry can be classified into automotive, healthcare, electronics, construction and industrial processing. Industrial processing and use of Fluoropolymers in the healthcare market are the hot zones, which will propel growth in the international market. Moreover, the growing using of fluoropolymers in newer applications such as waterproof clothing, dental ware etc. will only take this trend forward. Also as mentioned above, changing technologies in both the automobile (Lithium Ion Batteries) and telecom sector (5G network) are the next big thing for fluoropolymers and fluorospecialty products.
IBT: How do your view the impact of the global thrust to de-risk from China for your industry, and how can India best leverage this window of opportunity?
Kapil Malhotra: We are witnessing a change in the mindset of global industries when it comes to dependence on china for their supply chain. The preferential position that China has enjoyed for few decades seems to be fading away. Global players are now shifting their focus as well as manufacturing industries away from China. And this pandemic has given them more reason to do so. GFL is already building its investment plans and production capacities keeping in mind the global sourcing pattern.
Kapil Malhotra has more than 33 years of experience in Business Development and New Application development. He is currently working as Senior Vice President-Marketing with Gujarat Fluorochemicals Limited (GFL). In his various assignments he has an expertise in business development initiatives and formulation of selling and marketing strategies. He has constructed brand visibility/awareness in the market with different promotional events.
Kapil Malhotra is working in GFL for more than 14 years and is Heading the Business Development of high end performance fluoro polymers (PTFE, FEP, PFA, PVDF), FKM, Chlor Alkali and Chloromethane produced at Integrated Fluoropolymer and Fluorochemical complex at Dahej, Gujarat. He has been associated with this Greenfield project right from the conceptual stage to final commissioning of the Plant at Dahej, Gujarat. He has been a very prominent part of the top management team to successfully place the above products in more than 50 countries globally. He is actively involved in various prestigious Associations to promote the industry cause on various National and Global forums:
- Vice Chairman of Chemical Chapter of “ Trade Promotion Council of India “
- Vice President in “ Alkali Manufacturers Association of India “
- Executive Member in “ Indian Chemical Council “
Kapil Malhotra has done BE (HONS) Chemical from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani and MBA (Marketing & Finance) from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi.