07 August 2020

Interview - Prabir Ray (Ultratech Cement Limited)

We expect government to give the growth engine a firm push by kickstarting infra projects



UltraTech Cement Limited, India's leading manufacturer of cement and amongst the top cement producers globally, is among the country’s largest producers of ready mix concrete. PRABIR RAY, HEAD – RMC, ULTRATECH CEMENT LIMITED responded to queries from CONSTRUCTION OPPORUNITIES on the issues pertaining to the RMC sector.



Give us an understanding of the company’s role in the RMC segment thorough 2013?


UltraTech Concrete, a division of UltraTech Cement Limited, is the largest manufacturer of ready-mix concrete in India with presence in 35 cities across India. We have a deep understanding of the customer’s need for application oriented concrete and have come up with various specialty concretes in our portfolio. UltraTech Concrete specialises in delivering the expected product performance using local raw materials. We partner with our customers in developing new products to suit specialised needs, which give them the architectural freedom in designing and construction of sleek structures with superior finish and higher durability.



Tell us about your manufacturing facilities and the projects they support?


UltraTech currently operates over 100 RMC plants in 35 cities across India that have world class IT systems, quality control and vehicle tracking systems.  Apart from supplying concrete through its commercial plants, UltraTech specialises in providing customised solutions to customers through its various operating models. It currently operates RMC units for some of the most prestigious infrastructural projects in India such as Jaipur Metro, Mumbai Monorail etc. For these projects, UltraTech supplies custom designed, light weight and architectural concrete.



With many cement companies entering the RMC sector what are the implications on business margins?


RMC is a thin margin business and as per the industry standard the profitability of organised and unorganised players varies to the extent of 3-4 per cent at an EBITDA level.



What were the new products launched by UltraTech?


We have introduced a number of specialty concrete products for the design and construction industry like UltraTech Freeflow for fast concreting and sleek dimension, “UltraTech Hypercon, a high strength concrete and UltraTech Duracon, a special concrete for mass concrete works, UltraTech Décor, which is exposed and decorative concrete Recently, we achieved a new landmark by supplying M80 Self-Compacting Concrete “UltraTech Freeflow” – of which we are the first commercial supplier -- and M80 High grade Concrete “UltraTech Hypercon”.



What are the innovations introduced to UltraTech to give a boost to sustainability?


Recognising the need for sustainable innovation in infrastructure development we have built white topping roads. UltraTech concrete recently completed a project of white-topping of the Nice Road at Bangalore and has successfully showcased its performance on the length of approximately 50 km long road. White-topping brings valuable solution to the ecosystem through conservation of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and quarry- aggregates and offers an advantage over asphalt overlays currently being practiced in construction of road surface.



Tell us about the challenges currently being faced by RMC manufacturers which hamper growth?


Generally, concrete is transported in truck mixers and is required to be discharged within two hours from the time of loading. Thus there is a two-hour window within which the product must reach its destination so that it most effectively retains all the properties required for good construction.  The worsening traffic conditions and  municipality restrictions on truck movements in cities are  impediments for supply of the product which is perishable and has a short shelf life. The other big challenge comes  from non-standard suppliers of concrete.  This concrete is not certified by QCI or equivalent bodies and hence, obviously, there is a risk associated with its use. Customers need to be aware that from a quality and sustainability perspective, they need to use only certified concrete. Serious RMC players have developed an expertise in creating products that match the requirements of the user in terms of design, quality and strength in the most sustainable manner.

Hence we think that instead of specifying the limits of OPC or other products in concrete, customers must give their requirements in terms of quality and strength and leave the RMC makers with the freedom to design more environmental friendly products that meet the criteria specified.



What is your outlook for 2014 and expectations from the government? 


The concrete industry in India is poised to grow at a CAGR of around 18 per cent over the next five years on the back of urbanisation led India growth story. The housing sector is expected to be the main driver of demand (75 per cent) where concrete is already the most preferred construction material. Infrastructure and industrial segments are likely to constitute 17 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. Increasing awareness about quality, hassle free construction, and economic sustainability is resulting in the greater penetration of ready mix concrete in the Indian context. 

India’s growth engine has slowed considerably. From a solid 6.7 percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) during 2008-2009, GDP growth is now expected to hover at about 5 percent at the end of 2013-2014. And, therefore, our expectation from the incumbent government is to give the growth engine firm push by kickstarting infrastructure projects, and to ease the liquidity situation.





• Fast Concreting and Sleek dimension – UltraTech Freeflow: Elegant and intricate architectural shapes and design are the current trend of the construction industry. In this segment, UltraTech Freeflow suits the design and formwork. It is produced using latest 4th generation acrylic based super plasticizers and viscosity modifying agents, which gives the self-compacting feature to UltraTech Freeflow. It facilitates speedy construction and is ideal for sleeker designs.

• High Strength Concrete – UltraTech Hypercon: With standard concrete, column and beams with larger size and depth are required to be provided to transfer the structural loads to the foundations. This results in lesser usable area per floor. In this area, Ultratech concrete has introduced a special concrete UltraTech Hypercon. It is produced by blending a combination of different cementitious material along with advanced quality superplasticizers.  

• Special concrete for mass concrete works – UltraTech Duracon: With structures becoming taller and bigger, the foundations are also becoming bigger. Special care has to be taken in terms of the mix design so as to limit the temperature rise in the core of the structure. Also, the temperature differential between the core and the surface needs to be limited below 20 degrees centigrade, else, the thermal stress results in cracks in the structure. Duracon substantially reduces the temperature rise during the setting process, hence making it ideal for the mass concrete applications.

 • Exposed and Decorative Concrete – UltraTech Décor: UltraTech Décor is coloured, textured imprinted concrete available in different shades as per the patterns approved by architects. The speciality of this product is that it is manufactured by using very consistent quality UV resistant color hardener sourced from very reputed manufacturers, which retains the true shades of the colour for longer duration. UltraTech Décor is available in a large variety of colours. Even customised shades can be made available as per customer’s requirements.


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