BulkSolids India 2010

BulkSolids India – taking place in Mumbai March 2-3, 2010 – aims at establishing a platform for the engineering knowledge exchange and networking necessary for a sustainable growth of the Indian economy. Vijay Agarwal, Conference Chairman, and David Mills, member of the Conference Board explain what makes the Indian economy so special.

Organizer of BulkSolids India: Dear Mr. Agarwal, dear Mr. Mills, a lot has improved since the economical liberalization initiated by the Indian Government in 1991. Where do you see the most important changes and what are the challenges for the Indian Government for the years to come?

Agarwal: The two important changes witnessed after liberalization are firstly the emergence of a vast and growing middle class which has money and purchasing power, and secondly, an increasing consumerism and a shift towards quality products away from low cost products. There is, however, still a number of challenges that have to be tackled. Compared to international level, agricultural productivity needs to be improved and the same goes for cost competitiveness in the manufacturing sector. It is also important to create and expand existing physical infrastructure, which is fundamental for a sustainable growth, as is education and health of the Indian population, an area where there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed.

Mills: India has done remarkably well to get where it is today, primarily because English is the main language for communication and education. Education is the key and the driving force is generated by parents who want their children to do well and get into the best universities. This driving force will maintain the momentum. Keeping up with the building of power stations to generate enough electricity will remain a challenge, but more so with the perceived global problems of burning carbon, since coal is one of their main natural resources. They have a well established nuclear industry but there are global political pressures here. Population is another major problem and since India has a democratic government, population control measures, such as those imposed by China are not a possibility. Mechanisation of farming and better food production methods have met the challenge to date but could be a major problem in the future.

Despite of the worldwide economic crisis, India is still one of the fastest growing economies – what makes the Indian market so special and where do you see its biggest potential for further development?

Mills: India has vast reserves of minerals such as iron ore and bauxite. The Indian state of Orissa alone, on a world-wide basis, comes about fifth in the world for bauxite deposits and so aluminium, via alumina, is a major industry. In agriculture India is a major world producer of sugar and if the agricultural sector could be improved, they could be in a similar position with numerous other crops, for growing conditions are far superior to those at European latitudes.

Agarwal: India was indeed affected by the recession but it was not so in any substantial manner, mainly because it has a large domestic market and there is little dependence on exports due to relatively smaller share of exports in the GDP. Another factor that helped to keep the effect of recession low is that India's economy is primarily cash based and consumers do not bank heavily on credit. However, capital flight and subsequent stock market crash had a great psychological impact, and other sectors were affected due to credit crunch by banks which could also be attributed to psychological fears such as fears of losing jobs which fuelled the fire.

Would you agree that India is one of the markets of the future?

Agarwal: Yes, with its large population below the age of 25 and growing incomes of the people, it is a market of the future.

Mills: India must be a market of the future as it has such potential for growth. They are also very keen to collaborate with others and this seems to be part of their culture. In the thirty years that I have been lecturing and working in India I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked by Indian companies for names of potential companies in Europe and the USA with whom they might collaborate, in order to expand and to take on larger contracts. Many European and US companies, of course, have set up businesses on their own, such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut, and others, like Coca Cola have taken over and absorbed existing Indian companies. It is a similar situation with engineering companies.

The Call for Papers for the conference of BulkSolids India 2010 got a very good response from Indian and international speakers alike. Why do you think so many people are interested in presenting their knowledge at this event?

Agarwal: Bulk solids handling is a common requirement in most manufacturing industries. The conference theme covers a very wide spectrum of topics associated with bulk materials handling, transportation and storage. Moreover, there are very few conferences on this subject held in India. Hence the interest in BulkSolids India 2010.

Mills: There is a lot of engineering work to be undertaken in India in the years to come, even if such opportunities in Europe and the USA are in short supply. Therefore, India has an increased need for knowledge exchange and net¬working opportunities. This is particularly the case in the area of bulk solids with the building of coal fired power stations and port terminals. India has an incredibly long coast line and because of the size and shape of the country they are essential for both importing and exporting, and national distribution. The Indian railways, built by the British, have reached capacity and the Indian government have only recently embarked on a national road building programme and so ports will continue to have a high priority for many years to come.

The conference covers a wide range of topics concerning transporting, storing and handling of dry bulk materials. Do you think this programme will meet the interest of the audience?

Mills: Yes, undoubtedly so. Apart from the transport and distribution of the major bulk particulate materials, the manufacturing industries based on food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc, have increased considerably in recent years, and industry has been struggling with fly ash, cement and alumina for many years. There are not many journals devoted to this subject and there is little education, by way of short courses, on offer. It never ceases to amaze me that Dr. Agarwal can attract forty or fifty delegates to a short course on Pneumatic Conveying at his Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi when his mailing list probably only has 250 names on it.

Agarwal: I certainly feel that the variety of papers will meet the expectation of the delegates attending this event. The accompanying exhibition with approximately 40 booths adds another interesting aspect to this event – this will be an ideal platform for Indian and international companies to showcase their products and technology to a large number of delegates expected to attend.

For foreign companies interested in doing business in India – is there anything special they need to know about the Indian business culture?

Agarwal: The foreign companies may find strong cultural differences as compared to their own country. At times the procedure for various clearances may be slow but once they establish the business, they would not face much problem in dealing with potential customers.

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