Headquartered in Brussels, Solvay, a multi-specialty chemical and materials company, quietly touches the lives of millions of people every day. It has 27,000 employees in 58 countries, and reported a net sales turnover of 10.9 billion euros in 2016.
Solvay has had a presence in India for more than 50 years. With 700 employees working on seven production plants and administrative sites in India, Solvay produces engineering plastics, polymers, surfactants, and consumer and mineral chemicals that have a wide application in planes and cars, building and construction, consumer and electronic goods, agro foods and healthcare devices, besides the energy sector for promoting sustainability and a cleaner environment. The company generated revenues of more than Rs 2,000 crore in 2016.
Mukesh Malhotra, country manager and managing director, Solvay India, spoke of the company’s long history and special relationship with India. “One joint venture in India goes back to 1962, when the company cultivated guar beans into gum together with a local input. Today, we help local farmers in Rajasthan to grow these beans sustainably together with a non-governmental organisation. In the last five years, we have expanded our footprint in India with two acquisitions, setting up a global Research and Innovation centre in Vadodara and several capacity expansions in Panoli, Gujarat, for the production of high-performance materials for demanding applications such as smart devices or membranes for water filtration or healthcare.”
The company’s revenue from India has grown in double digits, which has been shared with employees along with the recently introduced welfare measures. “Yes, we introduced some minimum social protection standards, earlier this year, like co-parenting and adoption leave for all our employees, wherever they work, including India. Our employees are happy to work at Solvay and what is more, they are loyal and we enjoy a low employee turnover in India,” says Malhotra.
He acknowledges the significant opportunities for future growth in India, especially given the government’s resolve to develop infrastructure and high tech industries. “The government’s focus on smart cities and infrastructure is feeding into all our major markets including automobiles, Aerospace, Agro and energy. We estimate that the Indian speciality chemical market will grow from USD31 billion in 2016 to USD85 billion by 2025, a CAGR of 12 per cent per annum,” Malhotra stated. However, on a more serious note, he opined that some challenges, like safety, faced by the company could do with government intervention.
“For us safety is key to the safe transportation of goods, especially hazardous products. The government could really make a difference by developing waterways – given the vast coast line and rivers. It could be a game changer for industry in general.” Another future challenge is the availability of skilled labour. He adds, “Labour reforms and faster resolution of disputes also require attention, as it still takes years to resolve contractual disagreements through our judicial system. More specifically, our industry shall benefit from development of real chemical clusters with related infrastructure at par with international levels that will allow us to compete better globally,” he suggests.