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Striking Right Balance Between Heavy Supply Chain & Feedstock Cost
Huntsman has created a new position of Vice President & Managing Director - Indian subcontinent and appointed Steve Stilliard to this role. In an interaction with CEW, Stilliard talks about the new role and responsibilities.

Stilliard joined Huntsman in 2001 with its acquisition of the former Albright & Wilson European surfactants business from Rhodia in that year. Previously appointed as Vice President Asia-Pacific of Huntsman CorporationĘs Performance Products division, Stilliard spearheaded the growth towards building a large business across Asia, including Australia, Singapore and the Indian subcontinent. He is extremely optimistic about the growth of the specialty chemicals sector in the Indian subcontinent and the Asia Pacific region, as compared to the US and Europe where the growth may hover around 3-4 per cent and probably in low single digits respectively. „Current turnover of the Huntsman group in the Indian subcontinent stands at USD 500 million from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, & Sri Lanka markets which account for 4-5 per cent of the groupĘs turnover of USD 11 billion,‰ said Stilliard.

Huntsman and Business Drivers
Stilliard sees strong growth opportunity for each of the five divisions, Advanced Materials, Performance Products, Pigments, Polyurethanes and Textile Effects, for the company in the Indian subcontinent resulting in strong demand for these products in the Indian market. „Driven by energy, infrastructure and consumers, the entire Asia region and Indian subcontinent in particular will drive the growth of Huntsman in this region," he explained. He pinpointed clean energy, water and environment as the key drivers for Huntsman's advanced solution business in India.

Huntsman forayed into the Indian market in late 90s and invested significantly in the Indian market to consolidate its position and emerged as a promising player. As a technology driven company, it has expanded its global footprint through a series of acquisitions. „With the shift in demand from West to the East of Suez, moving east was a natural choice for Huntsman," Stilliard noted. "We have always aspired to serve our customers better and staying close to them will enable us understand their needs and accordingly offer focused solutions," he added.

Water is the next oil and one of the fastest growing markets in India due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation for domestic as well as industrial purposes, where Huntsman has acquired significant expertise. Stilliard is of the opinion that huge demand of specialty chemicals may come from the construction industry due to mammoth infrastructure development envisaged in India over the next five years. Specialty chemicals have been identified as important catalysts for the growth of the chemical industry in India and this industry may grow at a rate more than the projected 13-14 per cent in the next five years. Stilliard sees immense scope in surfactants demand which currently stands very low at 1/6th of ChinaĘs per capita consumption.

Stilliard said that clean energy is one of the focus areas for Huntsman and the company produces energy efficient epoxy systems for white goods and wind blades which will be driven by the consumer market and renewable energy sector. Huntsman specialises in electrolyte chemistry-based lithium batteries used by the automotive industry, which is again riding a growth wave due to increase in purchasing power of the growing urban population and advanced solutions to clean off gases from refining streams. Strong demand for water technologies in India and textile chemicals will be driven by the markets in Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are now becoming hubs for the textile industry. „We intend to be close to our clients and aim to make an impact by helping them achieve the business objectives through advanced solutions,‰ Stilliard emphasised.

The market in India is set to see more competition as the large scale players are expanding their portfolios and getting into manufacturing of specialty chemicals, which will definitely raise the bar of competition. Huntsman is confident that the technical expertise which the organisation has acquired through strategic acquisitions will be the key differentiator and keep the company ahead in the competition.

Immediately after joining, Stilliard has dedicated himself to consolidating the scientific and operational teams under the same roof so the teams work in more cohesive manner and drive the growth of five profit centers. "We aim to make sure that we do well in all the operating areas and that all the facilities are doing well in compliance with the regulatory norms. From a commercial standpoint we are looking at working more closely by understanding their needs and supplying the focused solutions in the Indian subcontinent," he added. Although feedstock costs will be a challenge this needs to be balanced by factoring in the heavy cost of the supply chain of imported finished goods. "At present, we are looking at optimising our current operations and keeping our eyes open for inorganic acquisitions. We aim for mid-size companies as our initial route of growth and then expand through further acquisitions,‰ he explained. Stilliard is confident that the technical edge of Huntsman and close proximity to the customers will definitely provide the advantage for long term sustainable growth in the Indian subcontinent.