Economic prosperity is boosting the consumption of plastics in India, according to Sunil Jain, president of plastics machinery maker Rajoo Engineers Ltd. - and he does not expect demand to slow down in the coming years.
The country's per-capita plastics consumption is moving up as well, from a base of about 4.8 kilograms, or 10.6 pounds, compared with the world average of 15 kg, he said in a recent interview in New Delhi.
``As such, there cannot be a slowdown in our industry,'' he said.
By 2012, Jain believes India will be the third-largest plastics market worldwide, after the U.S. and China. A growing domestic market for plastics in the country is construction, including road building, he said. Until recently, plastics usage in that end market was minimal, Jain said.
He added that the Indian government is making ``conscious efforts to promote plastics.'' Government support includes sponsoring special zones that offer tax incentives and plastic technology parks planned for major cities, Guwahati and Kolkata slated to be the first.
The country's plastics machinery sector has become globally competitive as well, with Indian-made machines operating side-by-side with the best Western brands, said Jain, who also heads the Machinery, Moulds and Tools committee of the All India Plastics Manufacturers Association of Mumbai. His own company, Rajoo Engineers, is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, sells about 120 machines a year and exports as many as half of those.
The machinery sector, along with the rest of India's plastics industry, is looking to boost exports.
``We have established export markets, especially the close network with African markets, which are largely dominated by ethnic Indian businessmen in that continent,'' he said. ``We compete with the top-range European brands,'' he added, highlighting that Indian machines and spare parts remain cost-effective for major plastic product producers in Africa.
``We are very strong in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa,'' Jain said. ``Our current target [markets] are the leading European and U.S. markets,'' he said, adding that Rajoo machines already operate in Germany.
For now, the environment is the plastics industry's ``biggest problem'' in India. ``But a lot of efforts are being put in,'' he said.
India has the world's largest plastics recycling industry, estimated at more than a million people sifting through dump sites daily. He acknowledged health hazards faced by these workers but added that the Indian plastics industry's main bodies, such as AIPMA, have jointly organized discarded-plastic collection points in Mumbai for the past three years. Mumbai's collecting of discarded plastics is a success story for the industry, which also is helping plastics collectors with more financial remuneration and mouth masks, he said.
Eventually, Jain expects to see dedicated disposal points for plastic waste as part of the industry's national effort to promote a healthy recycling industry and educated consumers in India.