Be it medical, household, or PET, the demand for plastics is back, says Deepak Pahwa, Managing Director, Bry-Air (Asia) By Niranjan Mudholkar | The Economics Times Polymers | December 2020-January 2021
Would you say that the Covid-19 pandemic has been the toughest leadership test for you?
Certainly, the pandemic did have an impact on the smooth functioning of the business at first, but Bry-Air swiftly sailed through this because of many reasons – the most important being we are into diversified businesses. Because of which we did not face such a big challenge and bounced out of it quickly. Thinking on feet to establish a 24X7 service helpline for our Indian and international clients kept the flow of work steady and did not let the chain break.
Our employees were the first ones to band together and bring out the best of teamwork qualities at such a crucial time. While our leaders ensured that their teams are functioning properly given the barrier of physical distancing and once the manufacturing units were allowed to re-open by the government, it was business as usual for us.
As we speak, most of our work-force is back in the office and we the business is on full-swing, of-course with all safety measures in place to break the spread of viruses. One thing that we realised during this cri-sis is that the future belongs to people who can multitask, adapt, reskill, and be productive. While the uncertainty is here to stay, what’s necessary is to orient ourselves to the new reality and adapt accordingly.
How did the pandemic impact your business and overall operations? How did you deal with the same?
As I mentioned earlier, the business impact was very little compared to what some of the other MSMEs have faced in India. While the manufacturing and supply part of the business was set back for some time, this crisis has helped our business in more ways than one. For instance, the awareness about the dehumidification solutions is limited. However, during the pandemic as everybody was advised to stay home the smooth functioning of the warehouses, data centres, refrigeration, and other similar needs became a necessity. This resulted in increased awareness amongst various Indian and International companies about the need for having a dehumidification system in place.
Similarly, the dependency on plastic has increased during the pandemic more than ever before. From medical plastics to the industrial plastic industry is seeing a surge in demand from all sectors. Even if you see, the debate around the single-use plastic has also taken a back seat. So that is another segment that has generated a huge demand for our business too since we have a huge range of moisture control systems and solutions specially designed for the plastics industry.
How has Bry-Air adapted to the New Normal? Is it business as usual or have you made some major changes?
It is now business as usual and more than making operational changes form the safety and security stand-point, it is the time to being about the change in psyche of the people. The uncertainty is still there, but it is about time to learn to live around it, adapt to the new lifestyle of doing everything by ourselves, juggling many roles as most of the resources at our disposal were taken away for following the norm of social distancing, learn using technology for our benefit and make the most of what we have right now along with being conscious about the future needs of the upcoming generation.
What made you re-launch the GDS plastic dryer series now? What kind of upgrades have you introduced through this re-launch?
We launched our Green DrySmart Dryers in January at Plastivision 2020 and it got a lot of attention from the representatives of the plastic industry world over. However, the on-ground marketing for the product started in February, but the COVID onslaught completely washed it away shifting the attention to the loss of human lived world over.
Our focus as an Indian manufacturer also shifted to quickly get our operations back on its feet and sail through the thick COVID cloud. Seven months later, we are in a position to go whole hog marketing GDS to the international and Indian manufacturers. More so because the plastics market is seeing a surge in demand for plastic products given the current situation at hand. Be it medical, household, or PET, the demand for plastics is back and there is no better time to market the revolutionary GDS dryer than right now. The manufacturers need it more than ever before.
Coming to why we say that GDS is ‘revolutionary’- it is because GDS is first of its kind plastic dryer which is Waterless in the truest sense. Made after a lot of market research, GDS specifically caters to the drying needs of next generation plastic materials, GDS plastic dryer is able to deliver < (-) 40 °C dewpoint even at 70 °C return air to desiccant rotor inlet. It is a Green product which promises to deliver up to 40 percent reduction in running cost.
With GDS we have re-established its message that ‘Bry-Air knows drying best’ because here we have a product that is ideal for the processors who want energy efficient solutions with convenience and portability. Some of the ideal industries that use plastics heavily and are the best match for GDS are automobile, medical plastics, white goods, packaging, mobile accessories, sports/toy industry etc.
Give us an overview of your over-all manufacturing footprint.
Bry-Air is the leader in dehumidification and is a global solution provider for humidity control, moisture removal and product drying. Our solutions are well recommended for Plastics drying and conveying, high temperature waste heat recovery and absorption cooling too. Bry-Air Dry Room solutions are critical for lithium battery production and we are today the world’s fastest growing adsorption technology group in the world. We have over five decades of experience in applications, manufacturing, engineering and R& D in the field of dehumidification and environment control solutions, with subsidiaries in China, Malaysia, Brazil, Nigeria and Switzerland, and an associate plant in the USA.
With installations in over 85 countries in almost every industry and supported by a robust sales and service network worldwide, Bry-Air touches people’s lives round the clock. Bry-Air is one of the flagship companies of the Pahwa Group, where innovation in technology and business processes is the driving philosophy.
To stay ahead of the curve, Bry-Air also has full-fledged R&D centre that is recognized by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and is undoubtedly one of the finest in the industry. Bry-Air has field many international patents and several of them have been granted. The Group has filed 123 international patent applications in 13 new technologies (since 2007), of which 52 patents have been granted/allowed already.
The plastics industry has been going through really tough times for environmental reasons. However, the pandemic seems to have given it a new lease of life. What is your opinion?
Plastics are such an integral part of our lives that it can never be replaced or be completely done away with. It is one of the fastest growing industry and the processors world over have made a lot of progress in the way plastic can be used by various industries. From you baby’s toys, to your favourite bag of munchies, your mobile phones to your cars; it is all made of high end plastic. In fact, if you see now the whole debate on the ban on single-use plastic is hardly to be seen anywhere. Because agree or not, plastic as a product in itself has evolved and come a long way in past decade or more.
Plastics are widely used in medical devices like disposable syringes, intravenous blood bags, optical and dental products, MRIs, heart valves, contact lenses, prosthetic devices, and many more medical products. Medical-grade plastics are used more and more in medical devices for their high performance, light weight, and lower costs. Its growth has also transformed the market with medical plastics replacing other materials such as glass, ceramics wherever applicable.
The overall global market for Medical Plastics is expected to reach US$28 billion in 2020. During Covid-19 outbreak, increased requirements of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has boosted the consumption of standard plastics such as medical-grade polypropylene, polyethylene, and drive market demand. We believe this demand will only grow in the coming future along with the need for environment control solutions to be able to pro-duce best quality plastic products.
What are your views about initiatives like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’? What are your expectations from the Government in terms of providing a boost to your industry?
Bharat has always been AtmaNirbhar. Today’s self-reliant Bharat movement is a positive step in the direction of rekindling the manufacturing set up in India, however, there was something called an import substitution programme in 1970s that refrained companies from importing anything unless you had got a certificate to ensure the particular product was not manufactured in India. Only then could you apply for an import license and then could import the item. if there was an indigenous item available one would not get a license to import it. Similarly, there was a very strong movement and encouragement by the government that we’re calling today self-reliant.
“HAVING MULTIPLE OPTIONS WITH REDUCED DEPENDENCY ON A SINGLE SOURCE, FOR INSTANCE, AND THAT TOO AIMED AT FURTHERING LOCALISATION IS AN OUTCOME OF THE POST-COVID AFTERMATH. IT IS THERE TO STAY AND BENEFIT INDIAN ECONOMY AND HAVING SAID THAT, THE BUSINESS OUTLOOK IS DEFINITELY POSITIVE.”
Then with the end of license Raj and initiation of economic liberalisation government scrapped the import licenses which unfortunately swung the pendulum to the extreme by opening the floodgates to imports. Before the bureaucracy could the big mistake they made with the duty structure after liberalisation, it was too late. Its ultimate result was that people had a very great incentive now to import a whole product. But certainly, the Indian manufacturing industry went from one extreme to another, the localisation thrust was totally lost overnight in 1991, and today we are here in 2020, the present government with our Prime Minister appealing for Making in India, Vocal for Local and Atmanirbhar Bharat – it is all that the same we were doing earlier, but a welcome move to inspire the country to achieve what we have lost over time.
In the HVAC&R industry, Bry-Air is leading with an example of how Make in India is not only a phrase but is truly of part of what we do every day. At Bry-Air, Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India are a reality since last 55 years. Talking of our latest GPS dryer which is made in India completely with pride for the rest of the world. Over the course of almost 6 decades, Bry-Air has practically become the only Indian player in the HVAC&R industry whose products are equally sought after in the international markets, as they are in the Indian market.
Leading companies in plastic industry from Europe and North America have partnered with Bry-Air for selling in-line moisture minder is a testimony to our products that are truly world class and made in India.
Tell us something about your ex-ports business in terms of revenue shares, products exported and markets catered to.
With Desiccant at its core, in relation to air’, the Pahwa Group is a group of knowledge based and technology driven companies offering advanced environmental control solutions to a wide array of companies. Bry-Air and DRI are flagship companies of Pahwa Group. On one hand is Bry-Air that offers moisture control solutions for a wide array of applications, whereas on the other hand is DRI… Desiccant Rotors International which is a fast growing Indian HVAC&R company with global footprints providing end to end solution for fresh air treatment, Green Buildings & Evaporative Cooling Solutions.
The other group companies include Delair India that specialises in designing, engineering and manufacturing of Compressed Air and Gas Drying Systems – Refrigeration & Adsorption type and TDS that provides short term humidity, temperature control, drying and water damage restoration solutions on rental basis.
Our range of products find application in all industries and has installation in over 85 countries including South East-Asia, China, CIS countries, Indian subcontinent, West Asia, Middle East and Africa including South Africa & Australia as well as USA and Japan. The product range is backed by the latest technologies, strong R&D, world class test facilities and a team of highly trained engineers.
Together with DRI, and other group companies, the Pahwa Group employs a strong team of over 1400+ persons in six continents and has 13 manufacturing units. The core strength of all the group companies is concentrated in desiccant and desiccant-based technologies. The Group has filed 123 patents applications worldwide on 13 new technologies, since 2007, out of which 52 patents granted / already allowed for energy smart technologies and has set up nine state-of-the-art test labs to give the cutting edge to our R&D and product offerings.
What was your overall turnover in the last fiscal and what kind of numbers are you looking at for the ongoing fiscal?
In the year gone by, the overall growth has been slow – the reasons being the uncertainty created in the market due to the pandemic and its direct impact on the economic slowdown. We are definitely looking at recovery slow, but steady. However, last year the group turnover was Rs.400 crore approximately.
Do you see the Indian economy bouncing back to its pre-2019 state? What’s your business out-look for the next 15 months?
The economy is recovering and we have started seeing the initial signs of it already. Whether or not it will bounce back to pre-COVID levels is yet to be seen. Typically, even if the economy recovers over the course of the next few months, we will still be lagging behind in terms of our percentage growth for this financial year. On a brighter note, the pandemic has also made India and the world realise a lot of things that were amiss otherwise. Having multiple options with reduced dependency on a single source, for instance, and that too aimed at furthering localisation is an outcome of the post-COV-ID aftermath. It is there to stay and benefit Indian economy and having said that, the business outlook is definitely positive.