In a recent article published in the Stainless Steel World magazine, Nirmal Mathur, President of the Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA) stated that “At a time when the world stainless steel industry is in an era of depression with over production, low-cost dumping, and a lack of scrap and raw materials, there is indeed a light on the horizon – that of India where predictions are that per capita consumption will only continue to rise during the coming years and its uses will become even more manifold.”
Fig. 1. (Left) Overall production of stainless steel mill product by grade (%) in India; (right) distribution of stainless steel mill products in India.
Fig. 2. Current Consumption of stainless steel in the country.
Trends in end-user consumption
In the last three decades India has seen a complete transformation in the end user application of stainless steel. In the beginning it was primarily used for pots and pans in kitchens with some exception for engineering use. Over the next two decades this trend continued, whereas western and other developing countries started using stainless steels in an increasing number of applications such as rail coaches, tanks and tankers, pipelines for carrying oil, gas, liquids including potable water, various products for architecture, building and construction. But with the unremitting efforts of ISSDA and the stainless industry, a change in end user patterns was made possible which is quite visible today. Figure 3 shows a dramatic change in end user profiles of stainless steel consumption in the country within a short period of time.
Fig. 3. Consumption patterns in stainless steels in India
Today we see that stainless steel usage has increased exponentially in the architecture, building and construction (ABC) sector and automotive railways & transport (ART). Stainless Steels have become the preferred choice for coaches, wagons and other utilities in the Indian Railways and we are likely to see good growth considering the expansion plans of Indian Railways in the coming years. Applications such as stainless steel roofs, facades and plumbing are likely to emerge in addition to other products for ABC sector.
The process industry, which has historically been a consistent consumer of stainless steel in a wide range of processes including refineries, petrochemical, chemicals, dairy, power, textile, sugar, food processing, distilleries, fertilizer, cement, drugs, paper & pulp and others, has adopted stainless steel for many of its applications where maintenance on account of failure of material has been their big concern. Here also many new grades of stainless steels with improved mechanical and corrosion properties have replaced conventional materials.
The tremendous changes in perception of stainless steel within the country have also opened many new areas of applications in sectors where earlier the country was dependent on imports. A lot of credit also goes to the technological upgrading of stainless steel mills which enabled us to produce some innovative new grades as well as high quality grades for niche applications. Today Indian producers have upgraded their technology in the field of melting with intelligent refining systems, high quality continuous casting and rolling machines. They are capable of producing almost every grade of stainless steel, matching world quality standards. For the full article on this topic, please see the December edition of Stainless Steel World magazine, pp. 71–74 or the PDF version.