By Sohrab Darabshaw
There's been a shift in one of India's biggest steel company's plans.
Steel giant Tata Steel will now focus more on India, its home base, than on global markets. Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran has said Tata Steel's priorities will be to focus on the Indian market, achieving operational excellence, and delivering value-added and differentiated products to its customers.
He told shareholders in the company's Annual Report for 2016-17 that steel demand in India was set to witness a "significant growth in the future," considering the current stage of development of the country's economy and its expected growth path in the next decade.
Protectionism and Political Uncertainty
The global steel industry continued to witness challenging times, though the performance of the industry has been better this fiscal year.
While most in this sector, including Tata Steel, are keenly aware of the slow growth in global steel pickup for the last several years, they are also too aware of the fact that only China and India, where infrastructure development is the fastest, are the two places on earth where steel will continue to be used at a faster rate than the rest of the world.
The global steel industry continues to face structural overcapacity, but we see recovery in developed economies such as Europe, gradual improvement in demand in India and better industry conditions in China.
At the same time, risk of uncertainty was likely to remain at elevated levels due to structural issues such as geopolitical uncertainty, especially in the U.S. and U.K., and the rising trend of protectionism, Chandrasekaran said.
In March 2016, Tata Steel announced plans to sell its U.K. business as the company battled to control its "deteriorating financial performance." In February, the company inked a pact to sell its Specialty Steel business, which employs 1,700 people, to Liberty House Group for £100 million.
Tata Launches Graphene-Coated Stirrups Products
What's more interesting is the fact that Tata Steel was working on the commercialization of superconductor graphene, an advanced material. The company has launched ready-made graphene-coated stirrups called Tiscon Superlinks+.
Explaining this, Peeyush Gupta, vice president of steel marketing and sales at the company, said when four columns are built, the support link was normally made of steel. However, the link normally starts rusting after a while. Tata Steel has changed that by coating it with graphene.
The company has said Superlinks+ comes with enhanced corrosion resistance and better bonding strength than other stirrups in the market. Incidentally, Tata Steel has filed seven patent applications in this area of work. It is said to be contemplating other areas where graphene can be used. For this, a graphene development cell has been set up at Jamshedpur to identify applications and establish new businesses. In addition, two advanced material research centers of excellence have been established.
According to other media reports, Tata planned to start manufacturing graphene, which can be used in filtration systems, batteries, and smartphones. The company is also working on drones and hydrogen fuel cells.
Graphene is ultra-light, 200 times stronger than steel, and yet highly flexible. It is a superb conductor and is also transparent. Graphene research is focused on applications in energy, membranes, composites and coatings, biomedical, sensors, and electronics.
Tata was working on using graphene in highly targeted wearable technology products, including a smartwatch meant for yoga enthusiasts.