Make in Steel Forum 2021 online concludes in grand success

With domestic availability of iron ore and cost-effective labour, India has been a major player in global steel manufacturing. The country has overtaken to become the world’s second largest steel producer. The Prime Minister has announced an investment of Rs 100 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years. This plan dovetails well with the National Steel Policy, 2017, which envisages 300 MTPA of production capacity by 2030-31. The current manufacturing capacity is around 112 million tonne.

Given the high degree of investments being made to improve the country’s infrastructure, it is vital that the raw materials used in these projects, the manufacturing and construction processes deployed, do not compromise on standard quality protocols.

With this background, FIRST Construction Council, in all success, virtually organised the “Make in Steel Forum 2021” on February 24, 2021.

The conference was virtually structured along the theme ‘Steel Sustainability and Resilience for a post-COVID society’, and it included four sessions focusing on the government’s vision, innovation in steel, growth in stainless steel, and re-engineering. The panel discussions were further followed by the Make in Steel Awards 2021 that recognised and rewarded India’s Fastest Growing Steel Companies. The winning companies were selected on the basis of their six year annual performance of growth in sales and PAT with higher weightage given to the most recent years.

Setting the perfect tone for the forum, Pratap Padode, Founder & President, FIRST Construction Council, highlighted the opportunities in his welcome address, “Projects worth Rs 44 trillion are under execution but the opportunity mainly lies in the forthcoming Rs 66 trillion projects, which are at various stages of conceptualisation. Of these Rs 111 trillion – 47 per cent will use steel directly – 24 per cent of projects are in energy, 18 per cent in roads, 12 per cent in railways, and 17 per cent in urban infra.” He further added that the sector needs to be mindful about keeping quality standards intact. “The recent statement by Minister of Roads Transport & Highways, Nitin Gadkari has raised concerns among steel stakeholders. The minister has given a guideline that to enhance supplies and contain the price rise, TMT bars could be sourced from secondary producers too for National Highway projects. MoRTH said that all steel – whether produced from ore, billets, pellets or melting of scrap – would be allowed to be used for national highway construction, as long as it meets the standards required for specific grades of steel.”

Following the encouraging welcome address was the launch of the TMT Report 2021 – a guide for the buyers to navigate among those who stand for ‘quality’ and ‘trust’. Buyers of TMT should use this report as a guide for how to evaluate TMT rebars and make informed business decisions through the knowledge shared within this report. The report will be available for free download on the www.FIRSTConstructionCouncil.com website.

Here are the key takeaways from the much-engaging and informative sessions:

Vision

The first session focussed on the government’s vision: “The government of India has laid out its vision: “To meet the anticipated demand of 160 million tonnes of steel for becoming a $5 trillion economy, through a competitive, efficient, environment-friendly steel industry, adhering to global safety and quality standards.” Moderated by Dr Susmita Dasgupta, Former Joint Chief Economist, Joint Plant Committee, Ministry of Steel: the esteemed panellists included VR Sharma, Managing Director, Jindal Steel and Power; Alakesh Roy, Managing Director, Zamil Steel Buildings India; Alain Legrix De La Salle, Director and Vice President, Sales and Marketing, AMNS India and Vice President at ArcelorMittal; and Satyajit Maity, Chief of Marketing-B2C business, Tata Steel. Excerpts from the discussion:

  • More than 60 per cent of the steel consumption comes through government funded infrastructure projects.

  • The sector has an ambitious plan to reach 300 million tonne in the next nine years. To achieve this, there is a need to grow in a professional manner, and the growth should be more than 10 per cent YoY on the production as well as the consumption front.

  • The government can bring in an Infrastructure Financial Development Corporation of India, or an infrastructure financial bank should be in place. The greenfield and brownfield projects need to be supported in different ways.

  • The tax benefits for brownfield expansion plans should be equal to the greenfield projects. The expansion on brownfield projects should be preferred because the overall burden on the eco-system would be less.

  • There is a need for continuous upgradation of technology as the world is heading towards hydrogen-based technology and the focus should be on how the sector can bring hydrogen as the main media to produce steel.

  • One nation, one grid, one electricity tariff – can augment steel production across India.

  • On the demand side, a long term policy has to be developed, and the consumption theory needs to be taken up with the government; it is the consumption that will drive the demand.

  • The contribution of manufacturing to the GDP needs to go up from the current 16 per cent to 25 per cent. This cannot be achieved through just consumption in the domestic sector. The focus should be on exports. If the economy needs to grow to 5 trillion, the focus has to be on exports.

  • There is a need to make a calculation of cost of exports. The transaction cost of exports is high. It is not the item-wise cost but the overall cost that is making Indian steel uncompetitive.

  • The industry needs to support the customer by bringing in all steel solutions. The industry should accelerate and boost the promotion of steel into the construction segment by some common as well as individual initiatives from the sector.

  • Steel is completely underutilised in the construction sector, and in India, construction primarily means concrete. Institutional mechanisms should be put in place to increase consumption in construction.

Innovation

Steel is innovating, and in this session Dr Sachin Kumar, Senior Fellow, Industrial Energy Efficiency Division, TERI, focused on the transition towards low carbon steel manufacturing. As Dr Kumar elaborated on the India scenario and emphasised on new technologies that would suit the Indian context and can help in decarbonising the manufacturing process. He put forth key recommendations that could help the Indian steel sector move towards decarbonisation.

  • Make maximum use of domestic scrap.

  • Maximise energy-efficiency.

  • Facilitate greater resource efficiency throughout the economy.

  • Establish pilot and demonstration plants to test low carbon technologies.

  • Stimulate demand for low carbon steel.

  • From 2030, introduce policy measures to constraint emissions.

Growth

Automotive, railway and transport are emerging as the sectors with the fastest growing consumption of stainless steel and alloy steel in the country. Real estate, commercial real estate, retail space, entertainment space, hospitality projects and Special Economic Zones are all using stainless steel much more too. How is stainless steel finding its space along with conventional materials such as steel, glass, plastics, and aluminum composites?

Offering interesting insights to this was the fireside chat – a candid discussion between Dr Dasgupta and KK Pahuja, President, Indian Stainless Steel Development Association. Dr Dasgupta did put forth some edifying questions, and Pahuja elaborated on the association’s vision as well as delved deeper into the potential of stainless steel in India and the factors driving growth.

Excerpts:

  • “Stainless steel consumption growth is normally higher than carbon steel for the reason that we consider the normal economic cycle of growth and also go by substitution. So we substitute carbon steel, plastics, aluminium as well, and also consider the normal economic growth cycle. Hence, if steel is growing at 5 to 6 per cent, the growth of stainless steel would be 7 to 8 per cent.

  • At present, there is a lot of idle capacity in the industry. The flat and long products in carbon steel is 50:50, but in stainless steel, it is almost 80:20 (flat being 80). Long product consumption in India is still not at its high.

  • The market is catching up, particularly the TMT bars are the way to go forward in terms of long products.

  • The preferred raw material is stainless steel scrap. However, stainless steel scrap comes into the market after a longer cycle.

  • We are also looking at structural applications in stainless steel now; Railways have taken upon themselves to build foot-over-bridges.

  • The time has come for stainless steel rebar. We have a long coastline and coastline structures are prone to corrosion – be it RCC or otherwise. Positively, now we see that the railways and NHAI are considering stainless steel rebars.”

Re-engineering

Light Gauge Steel Frame (LGSF) is an innovative form of construction gaining ground. And, the last session focused on re-engineering. The expert panel was once again moderated by Dr Dasgupta and the panellists included Ashok Bharadwaj, Director & CEO, Stallion LGSF Machines; Prof M Madhavan, Associate Professor-Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-Hyderabad; Anish Chopra, Managing Director & CEO, Greenify Eco Technologies; and Architect Anita Dake, Founder, Vector Designs. Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

  • The per capital steel consumption and demand for steel buildings can be increased by making this technology widely available and accessible in India.

  • Training programmes should be organised for architects and designers to ensure increased understanding and usage of the technology.

  • We are trying to build more houses without having a fundamental understanding. The need of the hour is for the government agencies or the private players who are in this industry to come forward and have a pooled resource so that we can generate a large amount of data that is necessary for the formulation of design guidelines.

  • We should not restrict the cold form steel usage or LGSF to G+2 or G+3.

  • The country is becoming more and more seismic. We also have a unique landscape where with 66 wind-prone districts in the entire peninsular India and the three most important real estate pieces – Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai – are all in the coastal zone. No amount of effort has been taken to study the wind effect seriously. Research should also be devoted for conditions such as wind and earthquake to have an understanding and determine the role this technology can play.

  • With LGSF, we will also be able to address issues with getting into the new normal, which is post-pandemic. LGSF can provide very new employment opportunities – training and skill development is required – such as structural engineers, detailers, machine operators, site erectors, quality inspectors, technology trainers.

  • One critical thing that engineers in India do not do on construction sites is measure or record the number of accidents that happen due to construction. One of the prime causes of accidents is the movement of construction vehicles in concrete construction. So far, in India, no honest attempt has been made to record the accidents. Movement of vehicle – which is the main cause of these accidents – is because you have to transport cement, sand, coarse aggregate, which only creates chaos at the construction site. It is time that we move from a site-based construction to a dry-based construction.

Recognition and rewards

The Make in Steel 2021 awards recognised and rewarded India’s Fastest Growing Steel Companies. The companies that emerged winners:

  • India’s Fastest Growing Steel Company – Large Category: Tata Steel

  • Second Fastest Growing Steel Company – Large Category: Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL)

  • India’s Fastest Growing Steel Company – Small Category: Kirloskar Ferrous Industries

Partners in success

The Make in Steel Forum 2021 was Powered by TATA Tiscon; Platinum Partner: JSPL; Gold Partner: Shyam Steel; Supporting Partners: Indian Steel Association, National Highways Builders Federation, Indian Stainless Steel Development Association, and Ready Mixed Concrete Manufacturers' Association (RMCMA); and Media Partners: Construction World, Infrastructure Today, and Equipment India.

- SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN

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