Anil Gupta, CMD - KEI Industries, in interaction with Industry Outlook, shares his views on how the wires and cables industry is evolving currently and how is the industry innovating to meet the changing requirements of diverse industrial clients.
Rising urbanization and growing infrastructure worldwide are creating a surge in demand for wires and cables. How do you see the wire and cable industry developing currently?
In an emerging economy like India, where there is huge scope for growth in the construction and infrastructure sector and increasing demand for real estate and other infrastructures such as hotels, hospitals, and residential houses, the demand for the wire and cable industry
is also increasing to a great extent.
While we know that other projects such as railways, metros, power transmission & distribution, and power generation have been there for quite some decades, the demand for wire and cables is robust, especially in India, and it will continue to grow significantly year after year.
With the ever-changing product preferences of the clients, staying on par with the changing demand pattern has been a major challenge for the cable and wire industry. How is the cable and wire industry innovating to meet the changing requirements of different industrial clients?
The changing needs of the wire and cable industry are due to the changing specifications of the end uses of the cable. Usually, the power cable specifications remain constant but in the case of special cables such as instrumentation cables or specialty cables, which go into some systems, the demand specifications change.
The pattern in the construction industry is changing now as the trend is towards using flame retardant low smoke and halogen power cables
or low smoke zero halogen products, owing to their better fire safety and better fire-resistant
properties. The other changes are mainly due to the end user specifications that include solar cables for solar power or cables used in wind power, thermal power station, oil & gas project, or petrochemical project. Therefore, the project specifications are usually prepared by the electrical consultants and the project developers and the cable industry has to manufacture or develop cables according to those specifications.
The specifications often differ in terms of the properties of the insulation and outer sheath materials, but the metals remain the same, there is not much difference in the metal specifications.
In order to reuse the metals from cables and wires, burning the outer layer becomes necessary. This in turn leads to the emission of pollutants like brominated and chlorinated dioxins as well as carcinogens into the environment. How is the wire and cable industry solving this issue?
At present, the trends have changed and today cables are not burned to take out the metal for recycling. There are machines developed by companies that help in separating the insulating and sheathing materials of the metal. Therefore, the metals are taken out separately and the insulating and sheathing materials are taken out separately. Furthermore, these insulating and sheathing materials are also reprocessed in order to use in some cheaper products and some non-critical items, which can be made from reprocessed or recycled plastics. Therefore, the issue of burning plastic materials is very less now, and it is almost non-existent.
As per statistics available on fire accidents in buildings, 40% of the accidents are attributed to electrical issues. How are the Indian manufacturers working to develop safer cables and wires?
40% of the fire accidents in buildings are indeed attributed to electrical products or electrical issues. However, the truth is that these accidents do not occur due to the failure of electric products, but mainly because of poor workmanship of the electrical contractor or electrician in jointing the cables or terminating the cables within the building which leads to these accidents. Therefore, there are failures in the execution of the job in the houses or at the sites which leads to fire accidents
While it is very difficult to point out the exact reason that caused a fire accident, it is always said that it occurred due to a short circuit. However, the reason for a short circuit is really difficult to define, and mostly wherever we have witnessed it, it has been due to poor workmanship on the part of the electrical contractor.
The price hike of the critical raw materials, such as zinc, aluminium, and copper, has created a lasting impact on the industry. How is the industry innovating to pass minimum impact to the client?
It is very difficult to reduce the impact of price rise in these critical inputs because the cable industry has standard specifications that are approved by the Bureau of Indian standards, IEC, or any standard specifications prevailing in any country. Therefore, we cannot reduce the specification parameters to reduce the cost. However, the only way is to improve the efficiencies of the plant or other costs such as overhead costs and transportation costs. One can reduce the impact by one or one and a half percent, but it is not possible to reduce the impact of the input prices increasing.
How do you see the wires and cables industry evolving in the future?
The electric wire and cable industry is an essential part of the economy of every country. No work or construction or infrastructure projects can be completed without using Wires and Cables because every piece of equipment in every house, factory, and infrastructure needs electricity, and it can be transmitted only through insulated wires and cables. Therefore, in the developing economies, we can witness good growth in the requirement for new products and a surge in replacement demand for the old infrastructure as well. There are two types of demands. The first is the new capital expenditure for the new projects and the second is the replacement demand for the old infrastructure or old houses. Hence, the demand for wire and cables will always be bullish and growing.