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"Focusing on Global Soda Ash Market"
With a wide range of products under three categories - namely Living essentials, Industry essentials, and Farm essentials - Tata Chemicals Ltd has been successful in achieving its aim - to touch people's lives in a way such that they can live better, eat better and work better. R Mukundan, Managing Director, Tata Chemicals Limited (TCL), talks about the company and its future plans.

Your association with TCL has come a long way. Please apprise us of company's growth since 2002 in all the three essentials. How has the overseas acquisition - namely Brunner Mond (UK), Magadi Soda (Kenya) and General Chemicals (US) - boosted TCL's businesses? Tata Chemicals is a global company with interests in businesses that focus on LIFE: Living, Industry and Farm Essentials. The story of the company is about harnessing the fruits of science for goals that go beyond business.

This story began in Mithapur, Gujarat in western India with the creation of a plant that would raise a wealth of marine chemicals from the ocean, with the potential to touch human lives in many ways. From these humble beginnings a market-leading international business has been created, with operations across four continents.

Through its living essentials portfolio the company has positively impacted the lives of millions of Indians. Tata Chemicals is the pioneer and market leader in India╩s branded Iodised salt segment. With the introduction of an innovative, low-cost, nanotechnology-based water purifier, it is providing affordable, safe drinking water to the masses. We have recently ventured into promising segment of branded pulses extending our i-shakti brand.

Tata Chemicals is the world╩s second largest producer of soda ash with manufacturing facilities in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. The company╩s industry essentials product range provides key ingredients to some of the world╩s largest manufacturers of glass, detergents and other industrial products.

With its farm essentials portfolio the company has carved a niche in India as a crop nutrients provider. It is a leading manufacturer of urea and phosphatic fertilisers and, through its subsidiary, Rallis, has a strong position in the crop protection business.

The Tata Chemicals Innovation Centre is home to world-class R&D capabilities in the emerging areas of nanotechnology and biotechnology. The company╩s Centre for Agri-Solutions and Technology provides advice on farming solutions and crop nutrition practices.

All our acquisitions are around our strategy to serve our customers effectively as well as having a low cost resource base. Today, close to 40 per cent of our revenues come through exports which itself is a very good performance indicator of our subsidiaries and overseas ventures.

Spread in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, TCL is the second largest producer of Soda Ash.

Which region contributes the most? Please throw some light on the manufacturing facility in Kenya, which has been producing natural soda ash at Lake Magadi, Kenya, for a hundred years.
Our North American facility contributes approximately 50 per cent towards the soda ash business with capacity of approximately 2.5 MTPA. Our strategy is to move towards low cost and sustainable resource base, currently 60 per cent of our capacity is natural soda ash based. Both our Magadi and USA facility are natural soda ash based facilities. Natural soda ash manufacturing is much lower than synthetic manufacturing process and gives us distinct competitive advantage in the global market.

Will you please highlight the opportunities available for the caustic soda and soda ash manufactures across the Middle East, Asia Pacific, China and Latin America for setting up new manufacturing facilities? Middle East is considered to be emerging as a key production hub for caustic soda. Does TCL plan to explore the region for further expansion?
Middle East has availability of key raw materials supported by infrastructure and energy; hence, it is emerging as a promising manufacturing destination. TCL will continue perusing the demand supply balance and expand its manufacturing footprint in line with its business objectives.

Please tell us about TCL╩s collaborations with ONGC and EPM in domestic and international level respectively. How does this fit into company╩s business strategies?
Our subsidiary TCNA is a shareholder in an upcoming potash facility in Lake Sevier. This will help us expand our portfolio of offerings in the crop nutrition space and making India more self-sufficient as well as providing better nutrient alternatives to the Indian farmer.

Please tell us about the recent initiative taken by TCL to award engineering institutes in recognition of their strong linkages with industry.
We encourage and support initiatives addressing educational challenges for the country and recognising efforts of various institutions in building up India. We are associated with CII in two major such initiatives. First one was CII - AICTE survey of best industry linked engineering colleges in India and second one was Tata Chemicals initiative to recognise contribution of Chemistry Teachers - 'Best Chemistry Teacher Award'.

BCTA is established to appreciate the efforts of exemplary individuals involved in teaching Chemistry and its allied components at various educational levels. The nominees could be teachers of class XI and XII, undergraduate courses and post graduate level. With the glorious success of the awards instituted last year to commemorate the United Nations╩ International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011), BCTA╩s second year has been even grander. The awards received an overwhelming response from chemistry teachers all over India. The awards were judged by an eminent jury which comprised of renowned Indian scientists, professionals, technologists, and academia from across the country.

According to National Chemical Policy draft, the Indian chemical industry is poised for growth, and a clearly defined vision has been developed to enable it. Your comments? How will TCL be benefitted if the announcements are executed?
Providing reasonable infrastructure, opening of multiple PCPIR╩s and providing a more conducive environment for growth will benefit the Indian Chemical industry. In addition to this, availability of feedstock and change in regulatory environment will also benefit the industry.
The specialty chemicals business specifically is poised for exponential growth and TCL will continue scanning opportunities in line with the growing opportunities in the Industry.

Income in Q2 FY13 increased 23 per cent and Profit After Tax (PAT) by 26 per cent. How does the company plan to continue its dominance in future? What is the future growth strategy of the company and how does TCL plan to play a bigger role in the global chemical industry? TCL plans to continue growing its market share in the Soda Ash market globally. This will be achieved by unlocking capacity at our global plants. In the fertilisers space, TCL plans to increase footprint by executing strategic projects in relevant geographies and will continue looking for opportunities linked to preferential access of raw materials. The consumer products business will look to enter spaces where it can create a value either by value addition or sourcing advantages.