Editorial – January 2021
As mentioned in my last piece, the steel demand lies outside the steel industry and hence if the government spends and pushes the steel user sectors such as infra, construction, auto etc., it will automatically boost the steel demand in the country. There may be very little direct benefit to iron & steel industry in the recently announced union finance budget for the fiscal 2022-23, but the fact that it has a bigger outlay for infrastructure than the last year, emphasis on domestic purchases of defence equipment will surely benefit our industry. Further, thrust on MSME sector coupled with PM Awas Yojana, Gati Shakti Yojana would certainly go a long way in creating employment and thus helping the economy wheel move. All this will enhance the purchasing power of the population and will also indirectly support the steel demand curve.
Friends, we must also understand that only creating demand is not enough to drive such a complicated and multi dimentional industry forward. Iron & steel industry has a very long (perhaps the longest) process chain. One has to study the loose links, disruptions at every stage, find a workable, feasible solution and fix them. This will ensure a seamless growth of this elephant like industry of ours. First of all, there are not enough consulting and designing companies which can erect and commission a steel plant. There is a big vacuum in this area. Also, for the last so many years, our industry has been crying for the shortage of technical manpower. Not enough number of metallurgists are produced in the country to support this growing industry. Right from the engineering colleges, the emphasis is to the streams like Computer Science, IT, etc. and most of the engineering colleges don’t have metallurgy stream. Fact is even today, many of the metallurgical plants are run by unqualified workforce. (God bless them). One more important area is technology. I do agree that the big plants are quite updated in this regard but most of the melt shops, rolling mills and processing units are still using primitive technology. In developed countries, iron & steel industry has the mindset of adopting latest technologies. Industry 4.0 or digitalization, which is struggling to enter our industry, is already in use elsewhere. Last but not the least, the spending on research in our country is negligible. Most of the steel plants don’t even have a research department.
How can our industry progress without all these tools ? is only demand enough for the progress of the industry ? How can we compete in the global marketplace employing unqualified workforce and outdated technology ? Any government can help the industry in only a limited way. The real push has to come from within the industry, isn’t it ?