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Mastering the masterbatch business: Interview with Welset's Arvind Mehta

Arvind Mehta is a renowned and esteemed personality among plastics industry circles in India and hardly needs an introduction. Popularly regarded as veteran, visionary and stalwart of the Indian plastics industry by the plastics fraternity, Mr. Mehta has played a pivotal role in promoting, strengthening and developing the industry. Over the years, Mr. Mehta has played leading roles in various plastics associations and trade bodies. Notably, he served as President of Plastindia Foundation during 2006–2009, All India Plastics Manufacturers Association (AIPMA) during 1998–2001 and Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Indian Section during 1995–1996. In 2012, Mr. Mehta was elected as Executive Director of Council of International Plastics Associations Directors (CIPAD) and became the first Indian to be inducted in the Executive Committee of the international association. Furthermore, Mr. Mehta plays an important role as Chairman of the governing council of AIPMA in encouraging government support for the growth and modernization of the plastics industry.

Welset, Mr. Mehta's own company, is a well-known and highly trusted name providing a wide range of colouring and compounding solutions to the plastics industry. Under Mr. Mehta's guidance, the three-decade-old company has entrenched its name as a high-quality manufacturer and supplier of a wide range of masterbatches, PVC compounds, niche medical grades and specialty products. Just recently, Welset was awarded the Plasticon Award 2015 - Silver - for Use of Plastics in Healthcare/Personal Care. The prestigious award was presented during Plastindia 2015, commending Welset's efforts in the development of PVC compounds for medical disposables—blood bags.

In an interview with Lekhraj Ghai of POLYMERUPDATE, Arvind Mehta elaborates on the masterbatch and compounding business and provides useful insights on various pressing issues such as plastics recycling, environmental impact of plastics use and the outlook for the plastics manufacturing sector in India.

Interview of Arvind Mehta (AM) with Lekhraj Ghai (LG):

LG: Tell us more about your company Welset Plast Extrusions. What products are offered and where are the manufacturing locations?

AM: Welset is a manufacturer and supplier of a wide range of high-quality colour, white and black masterbatches, filler masterbatches and specialty additive masterbatches for the plastics industry. Furthermore, Welset offers a wide range of PVC compounds, masterbatches, niche medical grades and specialty products.

Welset is equipped with technologically advanced ISO 9001-2008 certified facility with an installed capacity of over 20,000 MT consisting of state-of-the-art high-dispersing equipment. Welset is backed by a highly qualified and dedicated professional and technical team in running its business operations and innovation centres. The installed capacity at Welset can easily meet the growing demands of high-end markets. There are separate plants for different product lines, and all are located at Silvassa. The facility is fully automated with Cleanroom having class 100,000 environment.

One of the most comprehensive specialized product profiles of Welset is PVC compounds for the wires and cables industry. Products range from standard insulation and jacketing compounds to specialty applications like low-temperature cables, railways signaling cables, lead-free PVC compounds, wiring harness compounds and Fire Retardant Low Smoke (FRLS) compounds. In addition, Welset manufactures standard and specialty PVC masterbatches for rendering identity of shades and functional characteristics for the wires and cables industry. Manufactured to meet standards such as IS and BS and of the RAL and Pantone color matching systems, these masterbatches rank high in performance and offer better dispersibility, processability in high-speed lines, colour strength, weather resistance and performance. In addition to standard products, tailored solutions such as PVC tailored compounds in plasticized and unplasticized grades for applications such as shoes, automobile bellows, water stops, rigid pipes, fittings and profiles are also available. Specialty products as DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate)-free compounds are designed to meet European norms, high and low temperature applications and food-contact applications.

LG: Tell us about the expansion being undertaken at Welset Plast Extrusions Ltd? When is the expansion project expected to be completed?

AM: A capacity rationalization and expansion project is underway at Welset. The project will result in a focused manufacturing capacity in terms of separate modernized plants for masterbatches, poly-modifiers, PVC and black masterbatches. Other highlights include re-engineered cost effective masterbatches for different applications. We are also looking at high-end PVC masterbatches for the wires and cables industry. The overall project, which will almost double the current capacity, is on track for completion by the end of 2015.

LG: Which markets does Welset Plast cater to?

AM: Welset has thousands of customers across India and has achieved impressive growth in global markets as well. Welset tailor-made and niche grades are being used by leading names in various industries like oil and petrochemicals, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), healthcare, power, infrastructure, buildings and pipes.

LG: How is Welset Plast contributing towards the healthcare sector?

AM: Welset Plast Extrusions is one of the leading manufacturers of PVC compounds for medical disposable applications such as blood bags, blood administration systems, sheetings, continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) kits, IV sets, scalp vein sets, nose masks and catheters. In addition, Welset manufactures PVC tubings for healthcare and other specialized sectors.

Welset PVC compounds for the healthcare sector meet stringent industry requirements and comply with the following regulations and criteria:

  • ISO 9001:2008 Certification
  • Manufacturing in Cleanroom facility under class 100,000 environment
  • FDA, European Pharmacopoia, US Pharmacopoia
  • Phthalate-free compounds meeting EU directive 2005 / 84 / EC, EN 14372, ASTM D3421 & CSPC-CH- 1001.09.2
  • Radio opaque compounds – meeting USP class VI & ISO 10993 for system toxicity invitro cell cytotoxicity

LG: Which are the specialized masterbatch compounds that Welset Plast has on offer?

AM: In general, masterbatches and compounds are highly competitive, price-sensitive products. However, there are specialty, customized and value-added masterbatches and compounds that are not so price sensitive and competitive. Pearlized and metalized masterbatches are examples of high-end masterbatches. Fluorescents and night-glow masterbatches used for identification are examples of added functionality. Likewise, masterbatches used in medical and healthcare applications provide high product value. Apart from the main functions, masterbatches can contribute to properties of the polymer like good fastness to light and weathering, improved feel and better pellet forms.

Pearlized Masterbatches
Pearlized Masterbatches

LG: How is the masterbatch market faring in India in comparison with international markets? Please comment on the competition in the masterbatch industry of India.

AM: Exports have helped manufacturers like us to look at the latest global trends. Exports not only add to the available markets but also help in extending the prevailing product mix and bring about more quality awareness, thereby bettering the supply chain from producers to distant global customers.

In India, the market for masterbatches depends on the growth of the plastic industry. As is well known, India was a late starter in developing the plastics industry. However, with the opening up of the Indian economy in the 1990s the scenario totally changed. Today, the large-scale domestic production of polymers is driving growth in the processing industry.

LG: How intense is the impact of polymer price fluctuations in the Indian markets on the masterbatch business?

AM: The masterbatch industry is closely linked to the plastics converting industry and in turn to polymers. Any change in polymer prices affects the masterbatch industry whether as input or end user.

LG: Please comment on the recyclability and eco-friendliness of polyethylene masterbatches offered by Welset Plast.

AM: Linked to the main carrier polymer, most masterbatches can be recycled and are ecofriendly.

LG: What is the total number of masterbatch processors in India? What kind of machinery is involved in the production of masterbatches?

AM: There are around 70–80 main masterbatch manufacturing companies. These are mostly concentrated in the western part of India. Primarily, high-dispersion twin-screw extruders are required in the production of masterbatches.

LG: How supportive is the present government of India towards innovative ideas put forth by plastics associations such as AIPMA? Is AIPMA able to influence policy decisions related to the plastics industry?

AM: AIPMA is able to influence government policies. It has submitted a structured growth path targeting 20 kg per capita growth by 2020 from the current 11.5 kg and is interacting with the Government of India to achieve the target. Moreover, AIPMA has made representations to the Government of India for pre-budget taxation streamlining and technology upgradation for the modernization of plastic industry. AIPMA also addresses environmental issues and has proposed several solutions to the government to reduce environmental pollution. It also convenes All-India Association meets, which also include raw material associations, for discussing growth opportunities.

LG: You were inducted in the Council of International Plastics Associations Directors (CIPAD) as Executive Director. How important is having a representative from India in such international plastics bodies?

AM: It was a delightful experience and provided an excellent opportunity for networking at an international forum where global association leaders meet and present their country papers, exchange ideas and information and get updated especially from converters' and machinery producers' point of view. Having a representative from India in such international bodies is crucial as it provides an opportunity to dispel fears that foreign investors may have regarding the Indian economy. At this moment, with a steady new government in place, we expect a major upswing in the Indian economy.

LG: How is the Indian plastics converting industry expected to fare in the near future? Is India on track towards the projected 20 million tonnes by 2020 target?

AM: At present, the plastics consumption in the country is approaching 12 million MT. Plastics consumption in India is supported by the diverse capabilities of the processing industry, which can boast of world-class capabilities in terms of scale and economical production. The plastics consumption is definitely expected to reach 20 million MT by 2020 and the present levels offer a great opportunity for rapid growth. Sectors like automobiles, consumer goods, infrastructure and irrigation are expected to drive the growth. Besides, the main factors triggering plastics consumption growth in India are:

  • Rising middle class and purchasing power
  • Low per capita consumption
  • Retail revolution
  • Sharp rise in domestic manufacture of automobiles and consumer durables
  • Ample raw material availability
  • Growth linked with the Indian growth story

At the same time, our industry is yet to come to terms with the general perception of plastics being low-value and environmentally unfriendly materials. The processing industry requires more up-scaling and consolidation. The industry also needs to increase exports of value-added products.

The recent market hiccups are due to the fluctuating global energy prices, the slowdown in many parts of the world and the fact that the Indian economy is yet to gear up in 2015-2016.

LG: What is your take on plastics causing environmental degradation?

AM: Of late, plastics has attracted a lot of adverse attention owing to its visibility and waste management issues. Waste management challenges become more pronounced in developing economics like India because of factors such as increasing industrialization, increase in per capita packaging and migration from rural to urban societies. However, efficient waste management can result in clean, eco-friendly living. It also offers opportunities for profitable activities, which could range from segregation and collection to the production of utility products like furniture, luggage, fibre fillings and floor carpets to name a few. Managing plastics waste efficiently however requires collective effort, not just from the industry but also from municipalities, NGOs, consumers and households.

Mr. Arvind M. Mehta is a B.Sc. (Hons.) graduate in Science from the University of Kolhapur. He is the Chairman of M/s. Welset Plast Extrusions P. Ltd., Mumbai, one of the leading manufacturers and exporters of PVC Medical Compounds, Thermoplastics Elastomers and Colour Masterbatches in India having two separate plants at Silvassa.

Currently, he is Chairman Governing Council of AIPMA and Chairman of Empowerment Committee of Plastindia International University at Vapi, Gujarat.

Apart from the selfless service from the platform of Associations, Shri Mehta has been associated with the development of the Indian Plastics industry and trade for around four decades.

He has conducted, attended and presided over a number of exhibitions, seminars and conferences at the national and international levels.

He has published more than 80 articles and authentic reports on the plastics industries of many competitive countries he has visited, such as Germany, China, Russia, Iran, Korea and US, which throw light on the progressive growth of the Indian plastics industry vis-à-vis global plastics fraternity.

His vision is to facilitate export-led growth of the Indian plastics industry and make India a global sourcing hub for plastics.

For further information, commentary and interviews, please contact us on +(91-22) 61772000 and info@polymerupdate.com