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Indian stainless steel industry – Some policy suggestions


The per capita consumption of steel in India is between 1.2-1.5 kg only when compared to a global average of about 7 kg. Policy initiatives by the government are necessary in order to boost consumption.

By PPFI Team

January 15, 2010

Since the discovery of the relatively non-corrosive nature of the low-carbon iron and chromium alloys around 1923 by British scientist Harry Brearley, the stainless steel has become an integral part of human existence.

Though the manufacturing of stainless steel products involves complex production techniques and stainless steel products are almost twice as costly when compared to the iron products, the advantages that stainless steel provides over the conventional galvanized iron, as a base material, are manifold – 


Corrosion resistance 

Lower alloyed grades resist corrosion in atmospheric and pure water environments, while high-alloyed grades can resist corrosion in most acids, alkaline solutions, and chlorine bearing environments, properties which are utilized in process plants.

Fire & heat resistance

Special high chromium and nickel-alloyed grades resist scaling and retain strength at high temperatures.

Hygiene

The easy cleaning ability of stainless makes it the first choice for strict hygiene conditions, such as hospitals, kitchens, abattoirs and other food processing plants. 

Aesthetic appearance

The bright, easily maintained surface of stainless steel provides a modern and attractive appearance. 

Strength-to-weight advantage

The work-hardening property of austenitic grades, that results in a significant strengthening of the material from cold-working alone, and the high strength duplex grades, allow reduced material thickness over conventional grades, therefore cost savings.

Ease of fabrication

Modern steel-making techniques mean that stainless can be cut, welded, formed, machined, and fabricated as readily as traditional steels. 

Impact resistance

The austenitic microstructure of the 300 series provides high toughness, from elevated temperatures to far below freezing, making these steels particularly suited to cryogenic applications. 

Long term value

When the total life cycle costs are considered, stainless is often the least expensive material option.

(Source - http://steelfabrication.ae/ss.htm)


The scenario in India - 


The stainless steel industry in India has not been able to achieve the kind of success, which the industry experts believe it can, if given a more favourable environment. According to the figures of the Indian Stainless Steel Development Organisation (ISDO), the per capita stainless steel consumption in India at present is just 1.2-1.5 kg while global average is about 7 kg. 


Hence, there is a need to find ways to generate more demand of the stainless steel which, in turn, will give a boost to the industry. At present, around 70 per cent of the stainless steel manufactured in India is used for making kitchenware. The following segments provide immense scope for increased consumption of stainless steel so as to generate more demand for the material – 

  • Transport – Manufacturing of two-wheelers and railway coaches and wagons using stainless steel. Delhi Metro already uses coaches manufactured from stainless steel.

  • Architecture and construction – The buildings constructed using stainless steel bars will have a far longer life than the iron bars currently being used for construction purposes.   

  • Plumbing purposes – The Indian Plumbing Association has suggested that the pipelines carrying potable water should be manufactured using stainless steel instead of galnvanised iron. 

  • Household LPG cylinders – These will not only weigh almost half the conventional LPG cylinders but also have a far better aesthetic look with bright and shiny outer surface.  

Roadmap to take the Indian stainless steel industry forward - 

The following policy initiatives should be taken by the government in order to boost the consumption of stainless steel in India and give impetus to the stainless steel industry – 

  • Stainless steel must be made mandatory as the manufacturing material for the vessels in which liquid food content is stored. 

  • Permission should be given for the production of LPG cylinders using stainless steel. Despite higher initial costs, the cylinders manufactured from stainless steel will not only be lighter in weight with a much longer life but will also be aesthetically more appealing.

  • The import duty on nickel, an important component required in the manufacturing of stainless steel, should be brought to the minimum possible level. High volatility in the cost of nickel in the international market always remains a cause of concern for the industry. 

  • Maximum restrictions should be imposed on the export of the chromium ore that is available in India. 

  • Only finished stainless steel products should be exported out of the country and there should be no export of the raw materials required in the manufacturing of stainless steel.  

  • New iron ore mine lease should be given to big companies and efforts should be made to reduce the fragmentation in the steel industry.

  • Apart from using stainless steel in the manufacturing of railway wagons and coaches, the laying of railway tracks made from stainless steel is another area that is needed to be explored. These tracks will have far longer life than that of galvanised iron tracks being used by the Railways at present.


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