Vedanta-Balco's new products paving way for Make in India: CEO Abhijit Pati

BALCO CEO Abhijit Pati
While Vedanta Resources seeks to ramp up its aluminium value-added products profile, its arm Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (Balco) is gearing up to ensure that world-class products using state-of-the-art technology and indigenous resources and skills are manufactured in India. Abhijit Pati, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Balco, talks to R Krishna Das on the plan. Edited Excerpts:

Q: Since Indian companies are up against aluminium imports, how is Balco placed in terms of competition, given that its operations are fully-integrated?

A: As an integrated plant, we have achieved reduction in costs, consumption of power and water in our system, compared with previous years. Balco has set a benchmark in the power consumption and scores over other smelters and pot lines in India and the Middle East. Our products achieve 99.8 per cent quality assurance and our inclination towards becoming a 100 per cent value-added products company will further help us take on the competition.

Q: How do you plan to strengthen your value-added products (VAP) portfolio?

A: In an attempt to bolster the Indian aluminium industry, while protecting the domestic market from high aluminium imports, Vedanta’s Balco unit came up with two very successful products — primary foundry alloys (PFAs) and flip coils -- to cater the Indian and global markets. Over the years, Balco has emerged as one of the leading aluminium producers in India with its steadfast production of VAPs such as wire rods, flip coils, rolled products and PFAs. We are exploring new products and the work is in progress.

Q: Can you elaborate on the innovation being done in the range of products?

A: With a vision to change the course of the Indian Aluminium market, Balco made a bold move by launching PFAs, the most used variant into the market, to mainly cater the manufacture of alloy wheels for global and domestic automotive industries and challenge all odds of an import-dependent nation. Geared with the best-in-class Befesa Cast Bar Technology, Balco has now created a niche for itself among major automobile players. The next feather in Balco's cap is the production of flip coils. Used by steel makers during preparation of the molten metal, flip coil is used for de-oxidation of steel. Balco is the first and only Indian supplier of primary flip coil, a market where aluminium of lower purity had hampered the grade steel being produced. We are now slowly expanding our footprint in the global market.

Q: With the government’s emphasis on infrastructure growth, how do you see the growth of aluminium as a metal in the near future?

A: I am happy that the government’s ‘Make in India’ project is set to invest in infrastructure growth. The growth of aluminium in the near future will be influenced by this investment as well. Currently, the automobile and real estate market may not be doing well, but as soon as this phase passes, the demand for aluminium will soar. This will pave the way for more value-added products to meet the demand for the metal in making vehicles and construction material. The use of aluminium in power transmission cables is another area where we can see the utilisation of the green metal for better energy transmission.

Q: With flat-rolled product consumption set to increase, how is Balco gearing up to capitalise on this opportunity?

A: The company has major expansion plans to enhance capacity. The consumption of flat-rolled products will increase over the years. Balco's rolling mills are very doing well. We plan to increase rolled product capacity from 72 kg tonne (KT) to 200 KT under the expansion plan. Balco currently operates at 571,000 tonnes of annual capacity. In 2-3 years we aim to take it higher to one million tonnes and in subsequent years to three million tonnes a year. 

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