Franck Rettmeyer, Chairman&CEO, Allimand, explaining the challenges that lay ahead of European companies, elucidated that the span of India’s extent i.e. its diverse language and cultural heritage, teeming masses, and its substantial geographical share in the Asian continent creates elaborate details for European companies to appreciate during their pan-Indian operations. In the context of our trade, the vast score of paper mills located over the sub-continent create new unfamiliar particulars for European companies like us. Allimand’s partnership with Link Engineers has made its Indian operations a success.
Instead of outsourcing orders from various other vendors, Allimand provides complete solutions to the paper industry from its integrated state-of-the-art facility. A superior team of engineers and technicians have helped Allimand earn good references all over the globe.
In an interaction with Mr. Franck Rettmeyer, Chairman & CEO, Allimand, Mr. S.K. Sikka, Chairman, Link Engineers and Mr. Siddharth Sikka, Managing Director, Link Engineers, we discussed Allimand’s operations in India, as well as future plans. These are the excerpts of the interaction.
Paper Mart: What do you think of India’s growth potential?
Franck Rettmeyer: India’s per capita paper consumption stands at a low of 7-8 kg, as compared to the international per capita consumption of 55-60 kg. Clearly, India’s growth is an opportune window to introduce modern paper machinery. India’s economic growth can be harnessed to create more growth potential. Consumption of paper is expected to increase to 14 million tons by 2015.
Writing & Printing grades will have a secure and positive market, which may not be the case for coated paper. India’s status as a developing country will drive its economy to produce more and more commodities, which will act as an implicit stimulus to the packaging industry.
PM: What type of interest and presence do you have in the Indian market?
FR: For Allimand, the Indian market is very important. We are currently working with major Indian paper groups. Recently, we supplied one complete Writing & Printing paper machine to Abhishek Industries Ltd. in Punjab, one complete machine for BILT, and few re-builds for ITC in the technical paper division. These major orders under Allimand’s belt show our interest and presence in the Indian market, with our partnership with Link Engineers.
PM: What is Allimand’s key focus with respect to the Indian market?
FR: Currently, our key focus is on big groups interested in the Writing & Printing paper segment, which is a very important market. Our specialty range of technical paper solutions is another significant aspect of our focus. We plan to increase our interests to packaging papers as well. Rebuilds are also very important for us. A paper machine has a long lifespan, and after a certain period of time, it requires an upgrade/rebuild.
PM: Can you tell us about R&D at Allimand?
FR: Every year Allimand invest 3-5% of its turnover on R & D. We have many pilot machines for press section, stock, calendar, coaters, curtain coaters, etc.
PM: What is your opinion on the Indian paper machines and technology?
FR: The Indian paper machines are old and need to be refreshed to be competitive in the market. However, new machines are being introduced, thus affecting the lifespan of existing machines. Manufacturers have to decide whether to opt for a new machine or a rebuild. It is evident that Indian customers are aware of, and ready to invest in state-of-the-art technology, due to mounting demand for better paper. Our customers are asking us for various solutions for problems like energy consumption, economic usage of resources, better shade of paper, and efficiency in operations.
Paper is more domestic than export-oriented in India. There will be inflow of domestic investments for the next 5 years. I think it is a good time for Indian paper makers to invest because the slowdown can not continue for long. The economy will ultimately boom.
PM: With regard to raw materials, what changes do you expect in the Indian paper scenario?
FR: Indian paper makers do not have forests to rely on for the greater part of their raw material. Therefore, recycling will increase, and though raw materials like non-conventional agro residues like wheat straw, rice straw, paddy, husk etc are not easy to use, they will form a major part of fibrous raw material for the Indian paper industry.