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HEADLINE Interviews

Ruchira Papers: Translating its Dynamic and Forward-Looking Approach into Growth

Ms. Ruchica G Kumar, Vice President, Marketing, Ruchira Papers Ltd.

Over the years, Ruchira Papers has reinforced responsible growth through a number of pertinent initiatives. One, the Company has made a fundamental choice towards responsible growth through the consumption of renewable agro-based raw materials, reinforcing its positioning of being – ‘Committed to the Earth’.

In an exclusive interview with Paper Mart, Ms. Ruchica G Kumar, Vice President, Marketing, Ruchira Papers Ltd. talks about the company and the manufacturing capabilities, the recent upgradation project and its related advantages. Going ahead, she also delves into the product range of Ruchira Papers, sustainable raw material sourcing strategies, and the future goals of the Company.

PM: To start with, could you please present an overview of Ruchira Papers Limited? Kindly cast some light on the – infrastructure and the manufacturing capabilities of the Company.

RGK: Ruchira Papers is a contemporary paper farm in the heart of Himachal Pradesh. Since our launch in 1981, we have endeavored to be one of the greenest papermakers in the industry. We take great pride in creating a quality range of tree-free papers for writing, high-volume print and packaging. Ruchira Papers is actively involved in integrating earth-friendly practices at every stage of the production cycle. Our materials come from the earth. Locally sourced agricultural waste – sugarcane bagasse, wheat straw, and wild grass create the fibers of our paper. Our plant is equipped with modern power and water-conserving features that keep the consumption of natural resources to a minimum. Our processes are engineered to carefully treat any byproducts before they make their way back into the environment.

The Company started its operations on 14 August 1983 with the production of kraft paper and with an installed capacity of 7 TPD. Over the years, the company has expanded its capacity from 7 TPD to 160 TPD of kraft paper unit. The ever–increasing demand for writing & printing paper in the domestic as well as international markets has brought a plethora of opportunities for the Company to diversify into the writing & printing paper segment and set up a new unit having a capacity of 100 TPD. The said unit had started its operations in March 2008 along with the chemical recovery plant to meet out the norms of the pollution control board along with 8.1 MW power co-generation. Presently, the company is producing about 450 MT of paper per day. The Company utilizes agro wastes such as – wheat straw, bagasse and sarkanda as the main raw materials.

PM: The Company had recently executed an INR 44 crores modernization and upgradation-project in the areas of – Recovery Boiler, ETP, Power Turbine, and Size Press; could you please outline the significant details about this project? Also, what has been the progress attained in this regard and the advantages attained from the said upgradation?

RGK: We have upgraded the paper machine of the writing & printing paper unit by replacing its existing size press with the latest film size press including the size kitchen. With this upgradation, we are being able to manufacture surface sized paper required by publishers for printing job at four/five color latest high-speed machines by improving surface strength and stiffness of paper. Besides this, the quality of our regular writing & printing paper has improved further and has attained better competitiveness in the notebook segment too.

We have modified the chemical recovery plant to improve the efficiency of the unit. The main objective of the present modification was to increase the firing capacity of black liquor up to 250 TDS/day. By executing this, the co-generation of power has increased.

The Company has proposed to replace the existing 5.6 MW turbine with a new turbine of 6.1 MW having better efficiency which will facilitate us to generate more power with the same steam. With this, the overall efficiency of turbines will also be increased.

Regarding ETP upgradation, we have installed a full-fledged Effluent Treatment Plant to take care of the process requirement of water. The Company’s ETP is based on the activated sludge process, adopted internationally all over the world in the pulp and paper industry. With the existing ETP, we have already achieved the necessary guidelines and conditions as specified in the charter with respect to the quality of water and its recycling. Now, the company has undertaken the modifications and upgradation in the existing ETP for the de-colouring of discharged effluents. For this, the Company has adopted the Fenton system. This Fenton system removes colour and COD from treated water and degrades all the pollutants in the wastewater to ensure the stability of effluent quality. This is a state-of-the-art technology process for any kind of colour removal from effluent.

We have upgraded the paper machine of the writing & printing paper unit by replacing its existing size press with the latest film size press including the size kitchen… With this upgradation, we are being able to manufacture surface sized paper.

PM: In 2017-18, Ruchira Papers had proposed a Greenfield expansion in Punjab; could you please brief us up on the same and share its status?

RGK: The Company has already acquired around 140 acres of land in Chamakur Sahib, Punjab. We are closely monitoring the present market scenario and shall take a call accordingly.

PM: Please talk about the product range of the Company along with the strengths which present the company with the competitive advantages. It is quite noteworthy that the names of the products have Indianized names such as – Safeda, Kora, Maati, and so on; so, could you please elaborate on the idea behind selecting these names for the product range?

RGK: Ruchira Papers manufactures and markets two product segments, namely, kraft paper as well as writing & printing paper. The Company is a prominent player in these segments in Northern India. The Company diversified its product mix from kraft paper to a wide product range of writing & printing paper de-risking in the event of volatility in demand or prices. Our tagline “Committed to the Earth” itself explains that we are dedicated towards sustaining the environment and natural resources and our passion engenders the distinctive brand names of the products.

PM: Since the mantra of the Ruchira Papers is “creating a quality range of TREE FREE PAPERS”; how do you ensure the proper availability of high-quality raw materials? Also, how do you enhance the Company’s capability in sustainable resource sourcing?

RGK: We have made a fundamental choice towards responsible growth, reinforcing our positioning of ‘creating a quality range of TREE FREE PAPERS’. The Company uses different combinations of tree-free raw materials mainly comprising wheat straw, bagasse, sarkanda besides small quantities of other raw materials like fillers and waste paper (in kraft paper). The Company is located at the Border of Haryana and just 60-65 KM away from Punjab, which is the main hub of agriculture and where the raw material is available in abundance. In addition to the locational benefit, Ruchira Papers keeps sufficient stock of bagasse for its availability throughout the year.

PM: What is your outlook on the recent price volatility in the pulp and paper industry — how do you think this impacts the overall paper industry in India?

RGK: During the last months of Q4 of FY 2021, the situation had started improving and was showing good signs of recovery and the offtake as well since the pricing had improved substantially. At that time, it was anticipated that FY 21-22 shall have a better pace of growth. But during the last 10-15 days, all of a sudden, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased which has forced different states to put some restrictions which has started affecting the mindset of consumers as well as the demand for our products. Keeping in view the second wave of COVID-19, it is very difficult to assess the overall impact of COVID-19 on the paper industry.

Ruchira Papers has already acquired around 140 acres of land in Chamakur Sahib, Punjab. We are closely monitoring the present market scenario and shall take a call accordingly.

PM: Ruchira Papers affirms that it produces “paper with lowest carbon footprint”; could you please elaborate on the said assertion and how do you go about achieving the same?

RGK: Over the years, Ruchira Papers has reinforced responsible growth through a number of pertinent initiatives. One, the Company has made a fundamental choice towards responsible growth through the consumption of renewable agro-based raw materials, reinforcing its positioning of being — ‘Committed to the Earth’. Two, the Company has invested proactively in equipment and processes such as – chemical recovery system, effluent treatment plant and power cogeneration unit.

Three, by using agriculture residue as its main raw material, the company eliminated the use of harsh chemicals, consuming less energy and less water on the one hand, and on the other hand, promoting the use of renewable resources. The result of this forward-looking commitment has translated into a moderated consumption of water, energy and raw material resources – the ability to reduce carbon footprint.

PM: What are the future plans of the company going forward? What are the initiatives that will take the Company ahead?

RGK: We believe that by doing small de-bottlenecking of existing facilities we can achieve growth in volume as well as in topline. Our existing track record itself is evident of the fact that there has been a consistent growth of the Company. Such de-bottlenecking does not require major Capex as it generally remains a crucial part and parcel of maintenance capex.

PM: Is there anything else that you wish to add to the interaction?

RGK: As the demand for packaging papers continues to grow, we have introduced ROGAN, i.e., a lightweight packaging paper that is an optimal choice for a wide variety of applications such as – food boxes, quick service restaurant, consumer packaging and sterile packaging for the medical field.