Three important batons were passed on to new incumbents in less than a year in the steel industry. The two most recent being, of course, the installation of the new Union Minister of Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, and the very next day, on June 1, 2019, Alok Kumar Mehta assumed charge as Director (Commercial) of NMDC Limited. On September 22, 2018, P. K. Rath had taken over as the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL). As with any change of guard, new ideas and focus areas emerge with new personalities. Steel360 tries to get a closer look.
‘Will Strive To Achieve All Goals of NSP, 2017’
The Union Minister of Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, took charge on May 31, 2019 afternoon, from his predecessor in the erstwhile government, Chaudhary Birender Singh. As per sources in the Ministry of Steel, the new minister has been exceptionally busy meeting with the chiefs of all the steel public sector units, starting with Steel Authority of India (SAIL) and NMDC to MOIL, MSTC India, MECON Limited, RINL and KIOCL.
On taking charge, the new minister seems to be stressing on the three key areas of increasing per capita productivity, enhancing value-addition and cost-effectiveness. He said: “…Steel is a strong pillar of development. We have to take this pillar to new heights. Steel will remain a priority sector of the government.”
Speaking to reporters while assuming charge, the minister said the steel sector plays a very important part in the growth of our economy and symbolises strength of the manufacturing sector. He further said that he will strive to achieve all the goals of the National Steel Policy (NSP, 2017) after understanding the intricacies of the sector.
More recently, during a joint meeting with Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and members of the Steel Manufacturers Association, Pradhan deliberated upon ways to increase per capita productivity, enhance value-addition and increase cost-effectiveness to boost presence of the Indian steel industry in India and abroad.
Where SAIL is concerned, the minister discussed a strategic roadmap to further enhance productivity of the steel behemoth to make it a dominant player. He deliberated on ways to increase per capita productivity, value-addition and cost-effectiveness to make SAIL a dominant player in both the domestic and international markets. To NMDC, he suggested enhancing the scope of mining explorations and adoption of new technologies to increase production and transparency in mining operations.
For MOIL, Pradhan’s recipe was increasing production to reduce imports and enhancing cost-effectiveness of manganese ore produced by MOIL. Where MSTC India is concerned, the minister suggested several strategies and roadmap around e-commerce, trading, e-waste management and recycling. He further discussed exploring of untapped markets, business expansion, organising the metal scrap market and bringing in transparency and enhanced cyber security in future projects.
The minister reviewed a presentation from MECON India, a prime consultant in the steel industry. Strategies around metals, energy and infrastructure, strategic business verticals and the future roadmap were discussed.
To RINL, the minister suggested striving for better financial management, production of value-added steel, technological upgradation and HR reforms. For KIOCL, his formula was investing in capacity building to strengthen its business, creating a value chain for competitiveness and optimising its blast furnace unit for more efficient operations.
Born on June 26, 1969, and a post-graduate in anthropology, Pradhan has previously served as the Minister for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship from 2017-19 and held the Petroleum & Gas portfolio in the previous tenure of the present government and still does.
Priorities: Enhancing Sales, NMDC’s Brand Presence
Alok Kumar Mehta assumed additional charge as Director (Commercial) of NMDC Limited on June 1, 2019.
Speaking exclusively to Steel360, Mehta said, as Director (Commercial), his key priorities are to enhance sales volumes, increase customer base and enhance NMDC’s brand presence in the iron ore and steel markets. “As Director (Commercial), I have been given the responsibility of sales, marketing and material management. I am also responsible for Engineering, Contracts and Projects activities of NMDC Limited. I am also serving as Director in three subsidiary companies and one joint venture company of NMDC Ltd,” Mehta said.
“Working two jobs, managing two roles can be refreshing. I can take better decision with superior knowledge and information available while coping with two roles. I prioritise tasks based on importance and urgency and set a time limit to complete tasks. I manage time so that it leads to more opportunities and less time wasted on trivial activities. One who understands the value of time is never overburdened and enjoys each and every job assigned. I always believe in hard work, perseverance and learning,” Mehta opined.
Talking about the challenges in his new role, Mehta said: “The iron ore industry has been dynamic and is due to witness changes in the coming times. The international market is witnessing a surge in prices on account of supply uncertainties. At the same time, the domestic merchant mining scenario is also anticipated to be undergoing change after the mine auctions in the year 2020, as a part of the amendment in the MMDR Act, 2015. The upcoming auctioning of mines is likely to create anxiety in the domestic market.”
“NMDC is a Central PSU with a proven track record of catering to the demands of the domestic steel makers and I hope that we would continue to supply the best quality iron ore to our customers,” Mehta emphasised.
Dwelling on the opportunities, Mehta said, being the major end-use industry, the fortunes of steel play a major role in the dynamics of the iron ore industry. “I see opportunities with the growth of the steel industry. A huge scope for growth is offered by India’s comparatively low per capita steel consumption. Infrastructure projects continue to provide lucrative business opportunities for steel producers. Iron and steel make up a core component of this sector. Demand for these metals is set to continue, given the strong growth expectations for infrastructure projects. The metals and mining sector in India is expected to witness major reforms in the next few years, owing to reforms such as the Make in India campaign, smart cities, rural electrification, Bharatmala project etc,” he said.
He further said that “the rise in infrastructure development, thriving automotive production and the railway sector are driving growth in the steel sector… India ranks 4th in terms of iron ore production globally. India has around 8% of the world’s deposits of iron ore. India became the world’s second-largest crude steel producer in 2018. These situations present great opportunities to NMDC.”
A graduate in Mechanical Engineering from NIT Raipur, Mehta has more than 35 years of experience in iron ore mining, the iron and steel industry and copper industry in India and abroad.
In 2006, he joined NMDC Limited and was entrusted with the responsibilities of bringing up the 3.0 mtpa steel plant at Nagarnar.
Prior to taking over as Director (Commercial), he was responsible for the execution of all the engineering, contracts and project activities of NMDC as Executive Director.
Production & cost-economics focus at RINL
P. K. Rath took over as the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL), the corporate entity of Vizag Steel Plant, on September 22, 2018. Speaking to Steel360, Rath said, his sole objective is to keep up production at the expansion units as well as at the revamped ones. “Ramping up of production – that is what I am concentrating on…” he stressed, indicating that the emphasis is now on taking the plant from 6.3 MnT to 7.3 MnT.
Rath reiterated that among his major targets, the first is to come to that 7.3 MnT of liquid steel production level, which would enable 100% production capacity.
Secondly, he wants to substantially increase the value-added steel tonnage. “In 2018-19, there was a growth of around 9% to 9 lakh tonnes from 7 lakh tonnes (in 2017-18) in this category, and around 28% increase in value-added yield. We want to sustain that growth in 2019-20 as well and increase production to 1.3 MnT in 2019-20,” he said.
Thirdly, Rath said, he was aiming to concentrate on the cost economics. Or, what he would call the techno-economic parameters. “Our cost economic parameters are mostly decided by iron-making units or blast furnace operation and that is the reason we concentrate on the tech-economic parameters of the blast furnace. In 2019-20, in particular, I am concentrating on the blast furnace parameters and these are a) blast furnace productivity and b) pulverised coal injection or the PCI rate,” Rath said.
“Our blast furnace productivity was around 1.64% by the end of 2018-19 but I want to increase it to 2% by FY20. Secondly, I want to bring the PCI quantity, which was hovering around 65 kg per tonne of hot metal, overall, up to 100 kg per of tonne of hot metal, to increase my PCI parameters,” Rath added.
Rath’s fourth aim is stabilisation of the mills. The special bar mill and structural mill were moving at 60% of their rated capacity in FY19. The production capacity of the special bar mill is around 0.8 MnT per annum and the structural mill’s is around 0.9 MnT per annum. Rath wants to increase the capacity utilsation of both to 100% this financial year. Rath started his career in RINL-VSP as a management trainee in 1983 and worked in various capacities during his 35 years in VSP, including serving as Director (Operations) and Executive Director (Works) I/c of RINL.
He has a rich experience in steel-making, continuous casting processes and other operations of the plant. He has contributed significantly to the stabilising and ramping up of production from the new expansion units and modernisation of the plant to the 7.3 MnT stage. Rath graduated from REC, Warangal in Metallurgy and holds an MBA (HR & Marketing) from Andhra University.