"We aim to make our products affordable and accessible to customers in SEA by partnering with local distributors, except in Indonesia, where we will employ a direct market strategy, given the similarity in customer buying behaviors to India." 

Ravi Varanasi

GLOBAL COMMERCIAL HEAD, CHEMICAL BU, THERMAX LIMITED

June 05, 2023

Could you introduce Thermax Global to our international audience?

Thermax is a US$807 million organisation with two broad focus areas - Energy and Environment, providing clean energy generation, emission control solutions, and clean water to play our part in climate change mitigation. The chemicals business acts as a bridge that spans our clean air, clean energy, and clean water businesses. The other common thread connecting our businesses is digitalisation. Our Thermax Edge Live portal provides customers with real-time visibility, enabling them to make informed decisions and take proactive steps to enhance their asset's efficiency and reliability.

How has Thermax’s chemical portfolio evolved over the years?

We started producing ion exchange resins for demineralisation plants to complement our boiler business. Recognizing a gap in the market, we expanded into supplying water treatment chemicals to prevent corrosion in boilers. We then further diversified by adding chemicals for cooling towers, reverse osmosis membrane plants, and municipal water treatment to help companies meet local discharge regulations. Our success in the chemical industry led us to venture into the O&G sector, creating chemicals that improve oil extraction from the rigs. Our latest foray is in construction chemicals, where we currently supply concrete admixtures, surface treatment chemicals, protective coatings and other materials.

What are the main demand trends you are observing in the chemicals business?

Manufacturers worldwide are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and water usage, creating a constant need for Thermax's environmentally-friendly solutions. Thermax recorded a global consolidated operating revenue 27% higher in the last quarter of 2022-23, and profit after tax (PAT) up 59% compared to the same period last year.

Could you map out Thermax Chemicals’ global presence? How important is Southeast Asia in this sense?

We export over 60% of our chemicals, produced in three plants in India, primarily to the US and Europe, followed by the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. In the long term, SEA presents an opportunity to become our second manufacturing base, so we plan to focus on scaling our operations in the region over the next three to five years. Our goal is to increase our current value of US$2.5 million to US$25 million by 2030. To achieve this, we will leverage our established footprint in the energy space, with a plant in Cilegon, Indonesia, and facilities in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. We aim to make our products affordable and accessible to customers in SEA by partnering with local distributors, except in Indonesia, where we will employ a direct market strategy, given the similarity in customer buying behaviors to India.

Where do you identify the main growth opportunities for Thermax moving forward?

As part of the broader energy transition trend, many customers are shifting from fossil fuels to biomass, but they are not replacing the boiler. Thermax is supplying chemicals to help our customers address the issues emerging from the change in the fuel mix so that they can try out different fuels and reduce their carbon footprint. Moreover,Thermax has developed solutions to optimize the performance of solar panels, particularly those located in remote areas where dust accumulation can reduce efficiency over time. As the transport sector shifts towards electric vehicles, there is an increased demand for battery metals such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt. Thermax has responded by developing products that not only recover these metals but also address energy metals like uranium. Furthermore, Thermax has developed resins that remove PFAS and PFOS (carcinogenic chemicals) from groundwater and water streams to enable access to safe drinking water. Finally, we also see ample opportunities for our construction chemical portfolio. Our concrete admixtures help fast-track construction schedules and reduce water use by reducing setting time from 28 to 20 days and minimizing the need for water.

Do you have a final message to share with our audience?

Before the nuclear family concept, the joint family prevailed in Indian culture wherein brothers, sisters, parents, children, and grandchildren lived together in the same household. In that collective setting, one was expected to return any item they used to its original place, so that others can also use it later. In line with this analogy, my message is to restore what you take from nature in the same state, if not in a better condition. Leave the world a better place than how you found it.

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