Q: What are your priorities for your three-year term as president?
Seksaria: The Plastindia Foundation is an apex body of various plastics industry organizations, institutions and other plastics industry stakeholders all over India. The soul of this body is 'PLASTICS.' The object of this benign soul plastics is to serve all living creatures and Mother Earth by making the life of everyone more comfortable, more affordable and absolutely sustainable.
The priority of the Plastindia Foundation is to work for the growth of plastics and the Indian plastics industry quantitatively and qualitatively, with the ultimate objective of all-around growth of our nation and its citizens.
The Plastindia Foundation (PIF) would like to achieve this objective mainly through:
1) Manpower development by setting up of the Plastindia University (PIU).
2) Technological development through R&D activities at PIU, technology exchange and technology transfer, joint ventures, collaborations, exhibitions, seminars & conferences.
3) Market development through organizing international exhibition and participating in domestic and international exhibitions and B2B meetings.
4) Social projects such as Plasticulture to increase the yield in agriculture and through it to increase the income of our farmers
5) Environment & plastics image activities.
Q: What message would you like to communicate to foreign companies about India's plastics industry?
Seksaria: The Indian economy is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is at its growth path in all sectors in general and the plastics sector in particular. Yet per-capita consumption of plastics in India is quite low as compared to the world average. With the fast economic growth, rapid urbanisation, changing life styles and government initiatives and plans for smart cities, Make in India, Digital India, [and] Clean India, the Indian plastics industry has immense potential of many fold growth. India is an attractive destination for foreign companies for sourcing plastics products, for setting up plastics units, for supplying machinery and equipment and for technology exchange. We invite all interested foreign companies to be companions in the journey of the Indian plastics industry to the next level of quantitative and qualitative growth.
Q: The decision to move the 2015 Plastindia show to Gujarat was controversial. Your international partners at the K Fair and Chinaplas wrote letters objecting to how the decision was made, at the last minute, although in the end they supported the show. And you faced a lawsuit from some Indian exhibitors. Going forward, does the Foundation need to repair frayed relationships from that?
Seksaria: The Plastindia 2015 exhibition at Ahmedabad was quite successful with the cooperation, support and overwhelming response of all stakeholders, International partners, exhibitors and visitors. The support from the Gujarat government was also a great help for the success of this exhibition. We have already started preparation for the Plastindia 2018 exhibition to be held at Ahmedabad. The suggestions of stakeholders, exhibitors and visitors are being taken into consideration to make the 2018 show bigger, better and much more purposeful for all concerned.
Q: One of the Foundation's major goals has been to build the Plastindia University to increase the skill levels in the industry. How important is this and what's the status of that effort?
Seksaria: Yes, Plastindia University is one of the major goals of PIF. We want to set up this for imparting technological and management education in the field of plastics and create much required skilled manpower for the plastics industry. With the anticipated exponential growth of the plastics industry in India the goal of setting up PIU is an important priority for PIF. A committee with wider participation of stakeholders as well as experts in this field is working hard on this project, with a target of completing the first phase of PIU by the first half of 2017.
Q: What are the biggest challenges the Indian plastics industry faces?
Seksaria: There are various challenges before the Indian plastics industry, such as shortage of skilled manpower, land availability issues, high capex, high interest rates, slow growth of value added products, slow export growth, the threat of imports of cheap finished products from neighboring countries under preferential duty structure and the negative image of plastics.
Though these challenges are there, PIF and stakeholders with state and Indian governments are trying to find solutions and overcome the challenges. We are confident of overcoming these challenges.
Q: Finally, your [Mr. Seksaria's] group, the Indian Plastics Federation, comes from Kolkata. There's less plastics industry development there. Can you briefly update us on what's happening there in plastics?"
Seksaria: As stated by me earlier, the apex body PIF consists of various organs which act in complete coordination to carry on its objectives discussed above. The Indian Plastics Federation which I represent is one of the organs of the apex body and not a group. Yes, the headquarters of IPF is at Kolkata which is in eastern India. Though compared to western region there is less development of plastics industry in eastern India, eastern India has to its credit the first petrochemicals plant of India, an LDPE plant set up by ICI. But later on major polymer raw material capacities were set up in western India, which resulted in more growth of the plastics processing industry in western India. Some capacities thereafter came in other parts, including eastern India, which resulted in some growth of the plastics industry in eastern India as well. In recent times some more plants are being set up in eastern India by BCPL and Indian Oil, apart from the existing HPL plant which will increase availability of raw material in eastern India to drive higher growth of the plastics industry. In the next few years with petrochemical plants in all regions, we anticipate balanced and faster growth of the plastics industry all over India.
I'm going to take the blogger's prerogative to add a few more thoughts.
The Foundation's Sept. 23 news release announcing the three new top leaders expanded on some of Seksaria's comments, especially the opportunity before the industry from the government's “Make in India” program and challenges from environmental issues and negative perceptions associated with plastics.
It said that India's plastics industry is growing 15 percent a year, and is “one of the top five industries contributing to Indian GDP.”
Giving the rising costs in China and some searching for alternatives to manufacturing there, there is more of a chance for Indian plastics manufacturing to come up.
But there are also some homegrown challenges. In 2012, the then outgoing head of Plastindia Foundation told me that the show needed “structural reforms” to better serve the Indian industry.
Seksaria lists the Plastindia University in Gujarat, which is being done in partnership with two U.S. universities, as a key part of its plans to help India upgrade.
On my last trip to India earlier this year I heard from people very involved in that work that there were concerns around governance issues and how the university operated. It's good to see Seksaria say that at least the first phase of it is planned to open in 2017.
One final thing I noticed is that the three top leaders coming in all represent plastics processing companies, molding and extrusion firms making a range of things, from plastic irrigation equipment and pipes to furniture to custom molding.
To me, the processing segment of the industry is probably the most important segment for driving the industry forward, as that group most closely faces the customers of the plastics industry and has to lead on innovation.
Obviously the foundation represents all segments of the industry — materials, mold makers and equipment firms — but the processing segment is at the core, and it seems noteworthy that at this crucial point for Indian industry, all of the top three officials at the Plastindia Foundation come from the processing segment.
As Raju Desai noted in the foundation's press release, there's the potential for solid growth in India's plastics industry, if the industry can seize the opportunity.
“The onus is on organizations like Plastindia Foundation to fulfil our Prime Ministers vision of ‘Make in India'. The plastics industry in India has the capability of making India as the global hub of plastics and plastic-products. At Plastindia Foundation, we shall make all efforts in this direction”
India's industry has a lot of creative, globally-savvy companies, like auto parts molder Motherson Sumi Systems Ltd. or packager Essel Propack Ltd., companies that we've profiled in Plastics News.
The country also has a lot of companies that struggle. People at the Plastindia Foundation work hard, many of them on a volunteer basis, and a healthy foundation can play a role in helping India's industry overcome those struggles.