Macro Economy

‘Make in India can be the catalyst for sustainable growth’

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on March 12, 2018

Incorporating innovation: Rajasthan Chief Minister at the inauguration of the World Glass Complex at Bhiwadi on October 28. This is Saint Gobain’s fourth manufacturing unit, set up with an outlay of Rs1,000 crore. - PTI   -  PTI

Saint Gobain chief ays the country’s affordable labour is the key

B Santhanam knows a thing or two about making in India. For, the French glass maker, Saint Gobain, of which he’s the South Asia, Egypt and Malaysia head, recently invested in its fourth manufacturing complex at Bhiwadi, Rajasthan, pumping in ₹1,000 crore.

Santhanam believes the ‘Make in India’ slogan is a good thing to inspire and engage the world community of current and potential investors and the fact that the government is promoting it is a welcome departure.

“Making in India has the usual challenges. But, having invested ₹3,600 crore over the last 14 years in multiple locations, we believe that making in India is eminently achievable. I will say India may be better suited for making advanced products than the basic ones, especially if they are energy- and infrastructure-intensive,” he says.

Therefore, any large player such as Saint Gobain necessarily has to have the entire suite of products, basic to advanced, to balance its portfolio. “Today we are a base for producing advanced products for insulated glazing and fire-safety glazing, where the disadvantage of energy cost is offset by the higher technology content,” he explains.

The glass maker exports advanced products with value addition out of India and for the rest there is a vast Indian market.

Engineering hub

Santhanam points out counter-intuitively, that “the manpower cost arbitrage that India offers is even more relevant when it comes to manufacturing high value-added products. India, with its ability to deploy large numbers of engineers at moderate cost and thanks to the availability of collaborative and design tools, can be the hub of frugal engineering.” Saint Gobain’s Managing Director says India is grossly underestimating the benefit of high-tech manufacturing in the country. India’s tech manpower advantage can be leveraged the way IT has done over the last four decades.

“There’s a wrong notion that IT is taking away our engineers from manufacturing. The IT industry has recruited engineering and science graduates and through structured processes, quality systems and continuous training created a world-class service industry,” he elaborates. India is just the place for it.

Overall development

He says for Make in India to make a difference to India it must mean more than just manufacturing and it must incorporate innovation, engineering design, allied services and research. Saint-Gobain, for instance, has established a large research centre in Chennai, which will eventually employ 200 people.

In its ramp-up phase, the centre has already attracted over 35 PhDs, many of whom have relocated from the US, Europe and Japan, and who research materials for hot and humid climates. Santhanam says one needs to give the government time to kick-start manufacturing since things have been stagnant for so long.

“We have to suspend our judgement and skepticism and await the impact of several actions. I am optimistic that Make In India will catalyse actions and propel the country in the right direction.”

Published on November 07, 2014

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