Optimism reigns in India despite the slowdown.

The All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers (AIIGMA) held its annual meeting in New Delhi on 19th & 20th February, a seminar which was spread over two days and witnessed a large gathering of foreign and Indian industrial gas industry stakeholders.

Staged at the Hotel Le Meridian, located in the heart of India’s capital city, gasworld was present to report on the 31st National Seminar on Industrial Gases (NSIG) and the latest happenings in the IG industry in the sub-continent.

‘Gases – Industries’ Invisible Backbone’ was the theme of AIIGMA’s meeting, which proved to be a huge draw as seen by the number of delegates attending and was certainly managed in a different way to that in Bhubaneshwar last year.

Despite the doom and gloom of financial meltdown, there was a palpable enthusiasm among the industry stakeholders, many of which are in the process of scaling up their operations to meet the burgeoning growth in industrial gas demand in the region.

Despite the absence of BOC Gases India and smaller delegations of the major international gas players already present in India, the country seems high on various companies’ radar scopes - which is attracting additional investment in the country over the next 12 months, while others are keenly watching the industry’s progress and thought to be planning to enter soon.

Without doubt, India still needs a massive dose of Government investment to improve its basic infrastructure but it is happening and can be clearly seen by the large projects currently underway for the new metro and motorways being built in and around New Delhi (in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in 2010).

Such infrastructure projects are confined to a handful of major cities, yet slowly but surely ‘The Elephant’, as the country is commonly referred to, is concentrating on its infrastructure development to facilitate all-round growth.

The gases industry is seen as one of the major beneficiaries from this direction, as most of the consumption comes from activities in these sectors. Of course there is much to be done in our industry in this country, but anybody who was there for the conference could sense that domestic and foreign players are taking India seriously.

An insightful speech
India’s former president, Dr Abdul Kalam Azad, was the chief guest at the meeting and inaugurated the event with his insightful speech on the gases industry.

Dr Kalam is no stranger to the scientific world and from humble beginnings, enjoyed an unparalleled career as an Aerospace and Defence Scientist – leading the nation with a vision of ‘Developed India’.

As an eminent Aeronautical Engineer, Dr Kalam contributed to the development of India’s first Satellite launch vehicle (SLV III) and became the architect of the Indian Guided Missile development programme, leading to successful nuclear experiments.

Mentioning an article from a recent issue of gasworld magazine, Dr Kalam stressed the need for more active participation of the industrial gases business towards the faster industrialisation of the country.

As part of his inauguration speech, he urged, “The gas industry of the world accounts for nearly $60bn industry business. Around 80% of this business is being controlled by seven large companies located in different parts of the world. India has a turnover of rupees 6000 crore, equivalent to $1.5bn (2.5% of world market share).”

“All the large companies are located in India and are eagerly looking for investment in the country. AIIGMA must build capacity among the 300 members who are producing various types of gases to workout the strategy, so that India can compete in the international market in the production and marketing of gases. India must at least aim for realising business worth $10bn (16%) of the total world market of industrial gases.”

Referring to India he went on to say, “Pharmaceuticals, which is a large consumer of gas, has a vision for 2020 for enhancing the export of both generic and patented drugs. Our infrastructure industry has also to grow during the 12th and 13th plan period. All this must be anticipated by AIIGMA and work towards creating capacity for gas production both for national and international consumption. This is possible, only if the Indian product is competitive and can be gained through the use of economy of scale and using the latest technology resulting from Indian R&D.”

Technical sessions and presentations
Twelve papers were presented by a range of distinguished gases industry professionals, including Phillipe Roujoun of Air Liquide India, Lonnie Smith of Luxfer Asia, Keith Stewart of Herose, Cryolor’s Michael Blondin, and Messer’s Dave Richards.

Additionally, Spiritus Consulting’s John Raquet presented the ‘Global Gas Business – Current drivers and challenges’ who roused the audience with an optimistic outlook for our industry, especially in India.

Tube Trailers were the subject of A.D Inamdar’s (Everest Kanto Cylinder) presentation, and Dr Roy Irani offered his insights regarding gas cylinders testing as he asked the question – ‘Can the Indian gases industry afford to miss out on the non-destructive testing revolution?’

Dr Irani was later nominated as the ‘best speaker’ for his presentation, while Dr Vimal Kumar from the Ministry of Science, Kanchan Choudhry from IIT and T.S. Datta from the Atomic Research Centre shared their presentations on cryogenic gases, ASU’s and helium.

As well as an array of established presenters, policy makers from different ministries were also present over the course of the two days and assured about help and initiatives for the development of the region’s industrial gas business.

Kudos to Karan and his team
Karan Bhatia, young and charismatic President of AIIGMA, has certainly elevated the organisation and its event onto a must-attend list of global and domestic gas industry stakeholders.

Among many of his steps to improve the domestic gas industry, his initiatives to adopt ITI (Industrial Training Institute) to meet the shortfall of trained professionals in the gases industry is a very visionary move.

Everything at the event, from presentations to a cultural programme, worked with clock-work precision – contrary to excessive delays for which India is famous for! To say the whole event was a great success would be something of an under statement.

Concluding the conference, Karan hinted at a “Global Meet on Industrial Gases” next year, instead of having the usual AIIGMA meet, so watch this space next year.

gasworld would also like to thank Mr Bhatia and Ms Veena Peter for their kind courtesy and extending their invite to us for the event.