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At the last ICERP, which took place on February 23-25 in Chennai, India, JEC Composites Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Nieman, Vice President and Managing Director, Composites, Owens Corning Asia-Pacific and Satish G. Kulkarni, Managing Director, Owens Corning (India) Ltd.
(Published on July 2006 – JEC Magazine #26)
AN INTERVIEW WITH GARY NIEMAN, VICE PRESIDENT & MANAGING DIRECTOR , COMPOSITES, OWENS CORNING ASIA-PACIFIC AND SATISH G. KULKARNI MANAGING DIRECTOR OWENS CORNING (INDIA) LTD.
JEC Composites Magazine: What is the situation of the Indian market today and your strategy to meet demands?
Satish G. KULKARNI: The Indian composites market has been growing in excess of 20% year-on-year for the last three years and we expect this expansion to continue. It is driven by three key growing market segments - infrastructure, automotive and telecoms - and fundamentally, our strategy in India is founded upon the intimate partnerships we have developed with our customers in these particular market segments.
JCM: Concerning this strategy, is the Indian market very different from the European market? What is specific about it and what exactly is your role?
S. K.: Compared with Europe, the way we work here is slightly different. Specifically in India, Owens Corning meets the end-users and explains the benefits of our unique composite solutions and then partner with the fabricators to help develop these applications.
Gary NIEMAN: Satish mentions a very important point. Let me give you a specific example of work Owens Corning has done together with some local customers and local end-user market in underground storage tanks for gasoline stations.
This is a project which began about three years ago when gas stations in India were de-privatised and we started worked directly with government authorities and Reliance Industries, who had the contract to renovate and build new gas stations. Drawing on our global experience of successful partnerships with key fabricators we worked with Amiantit, a leading manufacturer of high quality pipe systems for major infrastructure development, to help specify and produce parts and to mould the tanks. At the time Amiantit were not currently manufacturing products in India. Working together with Amiantit and supporting them in building a plant in India to manufacture the tanks using Advantex® glass which has the corrosion-resistance and performance properties to meet the stringent safety requirements. We also supplied information from the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency concerning the testing of underground storage tanks - specifications that ultimately were to be chosen and used by Reliance Industries for this particular project.
This example emphasizes the point Satish made earlier concerning customer intimacy. There was a great partnership in which we drew upon our company’s global experience employing proven technology from elsewhere, a global relationship with Amiantit, a large customer we do business with around the world, introducing them to the Indian market collaborating to get started up and then working with Reliance Industries the purchaser of the tanks, to ensure a successful outcome for all concerned.
Gary Nieman was recently appointed Vice President and Managing Director, Composites, Owens Corning Asia-Pacific. In this new role, Nieman is responsible for strategic and operational planning, driving growth and profitability across the Asia-Pacific region. He is familiar with Asia. With Owens Corning since 1977, he has held a variety of positions in manufacturing, sales and sales management, product management, and marketing.
Satish G. Kulkarni, Managing Director, Owens Corning (India) Ltd., is responsible for Owens Corning’s growth in India. He has over 25 years experience in India as well as Multinational Corporations. During this period he has handled a various assignments in marketing, new business development and strategic planning.
OCIL is a joint venture between Owens Corning and Mahindra and Mahindra with equity investment by the AIG Group. OCIL is the market leader in the fibre glass industry in India.
JCM: Would you say the Indian market is now more receptive to composite materials - it’s still a relatively new territory, are there any barriers to overcome?
G. N.: Yes, there are still barriers to overcome however today, the benefits of composites are widely understood due to the work we undertook with our customers providing test results and case studies from around the world supporting the integrity of the GRP pipe solution. We have found that governing and specifying bodies are much more willing to use composites. To cite an example there are a number of projects that have specified GRP pipes for potable water and for sewage disposal. Three years ago very few tenders specified GRP, so barriers are coming down.
I was last here three years ago and one of the observations I would make in the interim is how broad the growth has become. A statistic: I looked at our top ten customers in 2005 and half were doing business with us in 2002 and had doubled, even tripled their growth organically. The other top five customers are new to India. I think that’s an indicator of the opening up of the market which has become more receptive to external ideas and once you demonstrate technical capability the market is willing to adopt composites more so than they were three or four years ago.
G. N.: Over the last decade our market share has increased significantly, above market growth, and a big part of that success is because we’ve opened up new business for our partners, introducing new customers and fabricators to India who are very appreciative of the opportunities and they reward us with new business.
JCM: Looking ahead, what’s your forecast for the next two years?
G. N.: We expect to see more overall growth in the use of composites in India and I believe the infrastructure market segment - pipe, wind energy and telecommunications - is the driving force and will offer the most growth during the next two years and will therefore continue to be a focus for our business.
At ICERP - the voice of the Indian Composites Industry - Owens Corning (OWENQ.OB), the leading reinforcements manufacturer in India, announced it has added a second glass fiber knitting line at the Taloja, Mumbai plant of Owens Corning India Ltd., a joint venture between Owens Corning, USA and Mahindra & Mahindra, India.
In addition to the Taloja plant’s existing glass roving operations, this new capital investment only two years after the installation of the first fabrics weaving line will significantly increase the production of sophisticated multi-axial glass fibre fabrics providing Indian customers innovative solutions and choices to help them compete and succeed both locally and globally.
Closely following infrastructure is automotive and transportation. We’ve had very good success with our Silentex® absorption muffler systems, especially for two-wheelers. The residential and light com-mercial construction market is starting to gain some momentum but it will take three, maybe four years before it starts to generate significant new business for composites but the conversations are starting concerning the specification of composite materials. For example many tractor/bus manufacturers use composite parts and many others are considering composite solutions.
JCM: Do you plan any new investments?
G. N.: Owens Corning has been an innovator and leader in the composites business for 67 years and we couldn’t be more excited about expanding our business. Here at ICERP we announced an investment in a second fabrics knitting line at our facility in Taloja to specifically serve the wind energy market and we will soon be introducing HiPer-tex™, a new revolutionary global reinforcement platform and WindStrand™ the first HiPer-tex product application for wind turbine blades which fully supports my comment concerning which markets are leading growth.
JCM: You mentioned you are back in Asia and have past experience here. What’s your personal outlook?
G. N.: Actually, I have almost thirty years of experience with Owens Corning and for half of that I have had the opportunity to work in Asia-Pacific. I was in Korea in the mid-90s and I was in Mumbai, here in India in 2002 and have spent most of my career working with customers to develop new applications to help market growth.
You know, Owens Corning’s purpose is to deliver solutions, transform markets and enhance lives. My personal commitment to Owens Corning stems from the fact that I believe the products that we craft and the products our customers manufacture make the world a better place through energy conservation and through environmental sustainability. In Asia the market opportunities for the composites industry are tremendous and the quality of our own people and the relationship with our customers makes that a really exciting and energising place to work.