We should have a policy to encourage investment in this industry segment
There is a lot of focus and investment by the equipment manufacturers to build energy -efficient crushing units as the fuel cost and power consumption is a significant portion of the overall material cost in our industry, says J Balaji, General Manager ? Marketing & Strategy, RoboSilicon. In an exclusive chat with Equipment India, Balaji elucidates on the trends in the sand manufacturing industry. Excerpts from the interview

How do you assess the demand-supply scenario for manufactured sand?
We have an internal team to gather available data on the performance of the related industries as well the economy and forecast the quantity demand situation. In case of the quantity supply, we have a close watch on the local policy decisions and new investments from the crusher operators. We vet our internal reports with certain syndicated ones, wherever available. Many of our investment decisions are based on the structured data we generate.

To what extent has the construction and building industry switched over to the use of manufactured sand? Also, brief us the role played by RoboSilicon?
The level of usage depends on the cities and market segments addressed. We have a pronounced level of acceptability in the RMC, projects and builder segment, whereas in case of the individual homes segment, there is a good level of awareness due to concerted efforts by Robo Silicon to disseminate the benefits of using manufactured sand.

We conduct technical seminars and end-users meets for highlighting the benefits of using the manufactured sand. Our registered product brand, namely RoboSand, has become the generic name for manufactured sand.

What are the major challenges faced by the industry?
There are quite a few challenges as prevalent in any industry or product moving towards a growth phase, present in our business too. Some of them are:
  • High inflation and interest rates, leading to relative slowdown of investment in the real estate sector (a short term phenomenon).
  • Increasing fuel costs.
  • Liquidity crunch in the market.
What are the growth enablers for the sand manufacturing industry?
If we are able to counter the challenges mentioned above, the very same can become growth enablers. We should have a policy to encourage investment in this industry segment and create an environment for more organised players to make an entry.

Brief us on the technical advantages of manufactured sand over river sand.
Primarily, excessive dredging of the river base for river sand causes environmental damage, hence a need for viable substitute in form of manufactured sand. Where the technical benefits are concerned, all factors remaining the same, the concrete mix produced from manufactured sand is seen to have a good compressive strength and it is also seen to optimise the consumption of cement in the mortar. Manufactured sand has no impurities and follows the IS383 gradation as laid out by IS standards.

How do you assess the availability of the equipment available in the market for sand manufacturing?
We have manufacturers outside India as well as some indigenous equipment manufacturers. We work on long-term associations with strategic vendors from whom we source the high value items, hence adequately keep them informed of our investment plans. Now, there are quite a few manufacturers of the crusher units with a manufacturing base in India.

How environmentally friendly and energy-efficient are the available equipment?
There is a lot of focus and investment by the equipment manufacturers to build energy-efficient crushing units as the fuel cost and power consumption is a significant portion of the overall material cost in our industry.They keep upgrading the product range.

What are the latest technology/product trends?
We see a good quantity demand for specialised products for plaster and brick-working applications. We on our part at RobSilicon, are focusing on launching this product in the market and we are working on test-marketing the product for feedback on performance, workability, convenience and novelty of the product.

Brief us on the features in-built to bring down dust pollution.
As a part of EHS regime that we have in place in 14 plant locations across India, we have put in a lot of effort to reduce the dust emanating from the plants while the manufacturing activity is on. We have established hoppers, put in place the sprinkler mechanism and regularly water the plant premises for suppressing the dust particles.

How updated are our codes and specs with respect to the use of manufactured sand and the use of equipment and machinery?
The codes and specs for the manufactured sand and aggregates are objectively established by IS standards and stringently being adhered to by us.

What differentiates RoboSilicon from the others?
The sand manufacturing industry is highly competitive, dominated by the unorganised manufacturers. We in RoboSilicon have certain USPs: one of the most valued by the customer is the consistent quality and delivery of our services, continual improvement in product performance and new product development, trouble-free ordering process (with online and a toll free number) and the technical competency of the front-end team.

What is your taken on the rising input cost, the devaluation of the Indian rupee, and excise duty increase in the recent budget?
Well, all the above factors have definitely affected manufacturing growth and the service industry growth trends. They are all inter-related and we as an industry cannot remain insulated though we may not be directly affected.

How do you look at the performance in the last fiscal and what is the growth percentage expected?
We have had a good performance for the financial year FY11-12 though the growth was more reflective of the economic slump in Q3 and Q4. We sense an improvement this financial year.