03 June 2020

Interaction- Uday Tripathi

Geosynthetics business on a cusp of riding high growth trajectory


Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is the mother of all geosynthetics, in the sense that it provides the raw feedstock for manufacturing geosynthetics. In an exclusive interview to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES, UDAY TRIPATHI, BUSINESS HEAD – POLYPROPYLENE, RIL, discusses their market strategy and reasons for low penetration of geosynthetics in India.



Tell us about your geosynthetics product portfolio, in terms of types and applications.


RIL holds leadership position in diversified fields, such as Hydrocarbon Exploration & Production, Petroleum Refining & Marketing, Petrochemicals, Retail, and 4G Digital Services.


Our Petrochemicals business offer products that are used in manufacturing of a wide range of things – from the toothbrush that you use in the morning to the pillow you rest your head on as you turn in for the night.


We are the leading manufacturer of raw materials used in making geosynthetic products. RIL’s promise of uninterrupted supply of core raw material grades, competitive pricing, and minimum lead time for delivery to customers. The geo-synthetic products manufactured using RIL’s raw materials are used in a range of applications and span various industries – geosynthetics, packaging, agriculture, automotive, appliances, housing, construction & infrastructure, furniture, healthcare etc.



What are the advantages of using geosynthetics in the construction sector?


The use of geosynthetics in modern-day infrastructure helps enhance efficiency and performance, reduces costs, and enhances durability. The use of geosynthetics also reduce the usage of conventional natural resources, thereby preserving the environment.




Where do geo-synthetics sit in the construction materials ecology?


It’s been for quite a few decades that geo-synthetics is being used globally in infrastructure development. However, in India it is still in a nascent stage. Of late, the use of geo-synthetics is gaining momentum in India, but there still remain a wide gap between the actual consumption and the potential scope for these products.


I would like to explain this with a classic example. In the riverbank erosion control projects, carried out on the banks of the Brahmaputra and the Ganga, geotextile bags have replaced boulders as the product of choice. The testimony to the increased use of geotextile bags in curtailing river banks erosion projects is found in the data that shows that currently more than 50 per cent of polypropylene (PP) geotextile is consumed in India for riverbank erosion control applications.




What differentiates your products vis-à-vis competitors? In what way will your clients benefit?


We are the leading manufacturer of raw materials used in making geosynthetic products. RIL’s promise of uninterrupted supply of core raw material grades, competitive pricing, and minimum lead time for delivery to customers have given us the edge over competitors. RIL doesn’t merely supply raw materials. It also provides comprehensive solutions to customers, including expert consultation and services in the area of project identification, new product designing, raw material selection and testing facilities. By doing so, we have helped our customers provide better quality products to end consumers. Our leadership in Petrochemicals, more specifically in Polymers, has been reinforced by our strong focus on quick adaption of world-class technologies and state-of-the-art R&D-led innovations.



What are the cutting-edge technology/ products developed by your R&D centre?


At RIL, it’s our constant endeavour to stay ahead of the industry in terms of new technology and products. We keep our ears to the ground to understand the needs of our customers and end users and deliver accordingly. Our product portfolio comprises a range of things that are manufactured by using globally leading technologies which are being upgraded constantly. We have a world-class Product Application and Research Centre (PARC) in Vadodara and R&D facilities across all production facilities. The R&D headquarter in Navi Mumbai drives our technological development. The PARC works closely with customers not only on the raw material front, but also on formulations of finished products, query solutions, and applications.


We support our customers in manufacturing geobags and rope gabions that use Repol polypropylene (PP) – a homopolymer having unique combination of mechanical strength, weatherability and chemical inertness to suit the varied applications. We provide guidance to our customers regarding the usage of right raw materials, and identifying the right process to manufacture required grades.




Tell us about some major projects where your products have been used.


Almost all geosynthetic processors located in India are our customers and procure most of their resin requirement from us. Majority of the infrastructure developed in India using geosynthetics have used RIL-manufactured polymers.



What is your cost/quality equation in a price sensitive market like India?


We have designed our products to suit best to applications across segments. For commodity segments, price plays a major role. For niche segments, quality drives the market. In Reliance, irrespective of the pricing, product quality and customer satisfaction takes precedence. This has resulted in RIL being the market leader in polymers with a large loyal customer base, driving the end-use industry in every possible way.




Which sectors are major demand drivers for your products?


Customers using PP / PE / PVC to manufacture geosynthetic products in India are largely supplying to riverbanks erosion control, canal lining, pond lining, and plasticulture projects. Sectors like roadways, railways, municipal and hazardous waste disposal management offers enormous opportunities.


A series of awareness campaigns are underway with local bodies, state governments, railways, and irrigation & agriculture authorities. We believe that many more opportunities will be unlocked soon.




What type of government policy would foster the growth of India’s geosynthetics market?


RIL believes that the policy governing development infrastructure should focus on durability, sustainability and environment friendliness. To achieve this, policy making should focus on using the life cycle cost benefit analysis as it suggests that use of geosynthetics turns out to be economical in the long run. As for better infrastructure development, it is imperative that user agencies develop design codes with mandatory usage of geosynthetics and incorporate the use of geosynthetics in the existing codes of practice.


We feel that states facing devastation or at the risk of suffering huge losses from floods and erosion of riverbanks should refer to and incorporate BIS / MoWR (GFCC) guidelines on geosynthetic solutions to their problem. Decisions should be taken based on cost benefit life cycle analysis instead of just looking at initial costs.




What has been the impact of GST on your business?


Following the implementation of the GST, there had initially been a few issues pertaining to its adoption among our customers. But now the industry has streamlined its systems.


While processors initially were finding it difficult to push finished goods into the market as the supply chain was not ready for the adoption of the GST, business now is back on growth track following the streamlining of systems.




Reasons for low penetration of geosynthetics in the Indian market. What are you doing to disseminate awareness about them in the construction sector?


In India, the use of geosynthetics is in a nascent stage owing to lack of awareness among user agencies and policy-making government bodies. The infrastructure development rules, regulations and procedures lack mandatory guidelines on quality, durability and specifications. The absence of life cycle cost benefit analysis models adds to the woes. The indiscriminate awarding of contracts to lower bidders, without taking into account quality and durability parameters, leads to poor quality materials being used in construction.


As an industry leader, RIL considers that the development of a sustainable Infrastructure in the country is of utmost important. To drive the ambition of robust infrastructure for India, we engage with concerned government bodies and authorities, as well as with our customers, to create awareness about the use of geo-synthetics in infrastructure development.


For the past few years, RIL and its customers have been conducting awareness programmes on a continuous basis across various application sectors and regions to ensure that India too develops a sustainable, world-class infrastructure. The awareness programmes are targeted at user agencies, as well as nodal agencies involved in framing guidelines. We also develop pilot projects to demonstrate the performance and the cost benefit analysis of the usage of geosynthetics. Also, field performance data are collected, analysed and presented to the authorities concerned, so that they can incorporate relevant provisions in the codes of practice. We facilitate our existing and new customers to set up production lines to manufacture various geosynthetic products, catering to both domestic and export markets.



A few achievements of our initiatives are:


  • RIL has provided all required data, analytical and technical support in the publication of Ganga Flood Control Commission guidelines. As a result, the authorities have included the use of geotextiles, geotextile bags and geotextile tubes in flood management work.
  • The latest publication of BIS Standards includes the various standards for geotextile bags for coastal and waterways protection.
  • Indian Railways has approved stabilisation of tracks with geotextiles and geogrids on a pilot basis. These studies will enable Research Design & Standards Organisation and the Railway Board to formulate and finalise the guidelines in accordance with the practices adopted by international railways.
  • Public Works Department in some states of India have now approved the use of geosynthetics for road projects on a pilot basis to conduct cost benefit analysis. These studies will help the centre and state governments to implement large projects. The studies will also be helpful in constructing the 34,800 km National Highways Bharat Mala project.




Could you share outlook on the geosynthetics industry and form your company perspective?


We at RIL are confident that the industry’s efforts in propagating development of strong, durable, sustainable and environment friendly infrastructure is likely to unlock a huge growth potential for geosynthetics.


Looking at both domestic and export markets, we feel that there is a huge opportunity for expansion of existing capacities, diversification and greenfield projects to manufacture geosynthetics.


We are confident that the businesses that will invest in geosynthetics production facilities will ride the growth of increased usage as more and more states, municipalities, government agencies, and policy makers will understand the pivotal role of geosynthetics in robust infrastructure development.


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