Domestic manufacturing will play pivotal role to set up digital infrastructure in India: Skipper

2022-05-28 00:07:47 By : Ms. Aimee Cai

Established in 1981, Skipper Ltd has today evolved into one of the world’s leading manufacturers for transmission and distribution structures (towers and poles) in its engineering products segment, a leading and respected brand in the polymer sector, as well as a trusted partner for executing critical infrastructure EPC projects.

Skipper’s market reach spans across 40+ countries around the globe from South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and Australia. Within India, it is a preferred manufacturer of choice for customers pan India, from J&K to Tamil Nadu, and from North East India to Gujarat. It is a part of the SK Bansal Group.

Siddharth Bansal, Director, Skipper Pipes, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:

DQ: Elaborate on the current situation of the Make in India scheme.

Siddharth Bansal: The reformist ‘Make in India’ scheme has three primary objectives. First, is to improve manufacturing sector’s growth rate to 12-14% per annum; second, is to create 100 million additional jobs in manufacturing by 2022, and ensure manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP is hiked up to 25% by 2025. With these targets and objectives at the backdrop, the scheme, at the moment, seems to be somewhat far from its goals. For instance, the growth rate of the sector was pegged at only 6.9% per annum between 2014-15 and 2019-20. Likewise, the sector’s share in the GDP also plummeted from 16.3% to 14.3% between 2014-15 and 2020-21.

However, the cause of this transitory de-growth could be attributed to the COVID 19 pandemic, as the government had to temporarily shift its focus from productivity to the well-being of its people. One must be apprised of the fact that we have been able to sustain these numbers despite prolonged and stringent lockdowns, norms of social distancing and contactless processes.

Despite the short-lived de-growth, a strong push and facilitation from the government, combined with endeavours of the industry stakeholders, India as a country has climbed up the ladder and claimed the 63rd position from 130th position, in the World Bank’s log of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ between 2016 and 2021. Additionally, we also jumped up several spots in the world competitiveness index, moving from 70th rank in 2016 to 43rd rank in 2021. Further adding to the insights, liberalisation of FDIs paved the way for an increased influx of funds into the country, which aided in making India an open economy.

DQ: What is your contribution to the sector in India?

Siddharth Bansal: In our polymer business, we are playing an active part in the growth of the country’s PVC pipes and fittings market, which is anticipated to register a double digit CAGR of around 14% by revenue. To give you some context, India is an expanding economy, in terms of population, urbanization and industrialization, which makes the requirement larger than any other country in terms of volume. Considering this, we are very pleased to be contributing to India’s need for an efficient water supply infrastructure.

Sharing some industry insiders, India is one of the biggest consumers of CPVC through plumbing pipe and fittings products. In FY 2020, the India PVC and Fitting market was valued at Rs.300 billion and is forecast to touch Rs. 500 billion by FY 2025.

Through our polymer business, we are also contributing to government initiatives of – the Housing for All, Nal se Jal, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Swachh Bharat Mission.

In the coming period, the demand is set to grow phenomenally and India will strengthen its position as an investment hotbed. Solely in the polymer business, India presents a collective opportunity of Rs. 35,000+ crores for large and organized players like us. Going forward in this direction, we are investing in superior customer experience through a range of high-quality products and solutions.

With a B2C and branded business model added to our established engineering division, a B2B institutional business, we are pursuing optimized performance through our invigorated sales and marketing engine. We are leaving no stones unturned to make a striking shift in our market share and position within a growing marketplace.

In the T&D business, with in-house facilities like innovative engineering, fabrication and galvanizing, within our four state-of-the-art, PGCIL approved, QMS/EMS/OHSAS certified, manufacturing plants, Skipper possesses the ability to address all your engineering needs under one umbrella. The manufacturing capacity of the plants is 300,000 MTPA combined for power transmission towers, which is the largest in India and among 10th largest in the world. Skipper’s international footprint spans across continents, such as Latin America, Europe, and Africa, and is spread across 40+ countries.

The company extends beyond mere manufacturing while servicing its clients. The Dedicated R&D Center in Howrah West Bengal is recognised by the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research, Government of India. The research facility also holds NABL Accredited Labs for Material Testing and Full Scale Load Testing. The R&D Center is also equipped with a Tower Test Bed with World Class Parameters Viz. Testing Heights up to 120m which is the highest in India and Voltage capacity up to 1200kV.

DQ: What are the key projects under the ‘Make in India’ scheme?

Siddharth Bansal: A major aspect of Make in India is to make local and go global. Underlining our commitment towards making India a global manufacturing hub, we are constantly charting new ways to produce world-class quality products and contribute meaningfully to India’s infrastructure development. Recently, the country has emerged as the ‘go-to’ destination for global infrastructure needs and despite pandemic headwinds, it is all set to become a global sourcing hub.

A key differentiator that gives us a competitive edge is our ability to offer high quality and cost-effective solutions in crucial areas such as infrastructure and telecom. Following the roadmap, we have been able to replicate the vision into a reality by becoming the largest transmission tower manufacturing company in India and notably, the 10th largest globally.

Furthermore, the Make in India vision has helped us unlock several avenues in the Indian market, as well as creating more opportunities in terms of business growth, infra development and employment generation. We have travelled a long road and we believe a long distance still needs to be covered to position India as a global leader. In this direction, we are committed to cater to 270 million people who are still set to be added to India’s urban population over the next two decades, even at a relatively modest assumed urbanisation rate.

A major achievement of Make in India vision is rapid technology adoption and progress in R&D and manufacturing capabilities by establishing state-of-the-art facilities. We are proud to say that all of our state-of-the-art facilities are based out of India — including, 5 manufacturing facilities with a total capacity of 300,000 MTPA for engineering business, 51,000 MTPA polymer production business, 1 NABL accredited R&D lab and testing facility.

Growing together with India, today Skipper Polymer division is fast emerging as a national powerhouse in the polymer pipes business, contributing to multiple developing sectors. Till today we have increased our Retail footprints to more than 25000+ touchpoints across the country. The vision of Make in India has not just boosted the moral of Indian manufacturers like us but has also opened vistas of opportunities globally.

DQ: How is the PLI scheme progressing in several sectors, and what are the challenges ahead?

Siddharth Bansal: The visionary PLI scheme is the need of hour to not just capture the growing market demands, but also to give Indian companies a competitive edge in manufacturing and in growing globally. Apart from opening doors of foreign investments, the scheme is a huge encouragement for local companies to set their bases here and expand in the international markets as well.

The Hon’ble Finance Minister, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman has announced an outlay of Rs 1.97 lakh crore for this across 14 key sectors to create national manufacturing champions,to create 60 lakh new jobs, and an additional production of 30 lakh crore during the next 5 years. In addition to the three schemes announced in March 2020, the Indian Government also introduced 10 new PLI schemes in November 2020. In November 2021, the PLI schemes covered 13 sectors with a total budgeted outlay of Rs 1,970 billion (US$26.48 billion). The government will undertake a two-stage review of the PLI scheme. During the review, the scheme’s progress and implementation across various sectors will be discussed. Subsequently, the possibility of re-allocation to government departments and ministries, which need more funds, will be assessed.

Skipper manufactures world class telecom towers and exports to multiple countries. India is the second-largest telecommunication market and with telecom services providers moving towards 5G technology and new-age connected equipment, domestic manufacturing will play a pivotal role to set up the digital infrastructure in the country. Here, the PLI scheme is acting as a catalyst and it has proposed to offset large imports of telecom equipment worth more than Rs 50,000 crore and reinforce it with made-in-India products. This will be like a booster dose for local manufacturing and will usher in a new phase in making India self-reliant.

Yes, there are challenges! In order to ensure a successful implementation of the policy, there is a need to make the scheme guidelines more flexible. The pandemic has completely altered how businesses function and for smooth execution, the schemes must easily adjust to the ever-evolving needs. For example, the Department of Pharmaceuticals had urged the government to provide additional funds of about Rs. 3,000 crores under the PLI scheme for drugs, and such requirements of additional funds may occur frequently. Also, technology is constantly evolving, and the telecom industry has large R&D investments and are highly customized. Thus, there may be a transfer of technology. Hence, it is important coverage of R&D under the eligible investment.

Considering the trend in recent PLI schemes such as IT hardware, where a localisation schedule has been laid down, it is likely that a similar condition would be incorporated in the telecom PLI scheme. This may need to be relooked as companies currently rely heavily on contract manufacturing models for key sub-assemblies. Additionally, challenges such as the ongoing chip shortages and global supply chain disruptions should be also looked into.

DQ: What is your offering for the local and global markets?

Siddharth Bansal: Skipper is a national powerhouse in the polymer pipe business. We manufacture premium quality polymer pipes and fittings, which serve the agricultural and commercial plumbing sectors. With our experience and track record, we are catering to both international and local markets with our engineering division’s offerings like transmission towers, telecom towers, transmission monopoles, lighting and distribution poles, angles, fasteners and railway structures. Today, we are proud of contributing towards nation building with our fine and quality products.

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