Biodegradable Cutlery: Attractive business opportunity

India uses nearly 10,000 tonnes of single use plastic every day including plastic bags, multi-layer laminates and disposable cutlery. Imminent ban on single use plastic is likely to create huge demand for alternatives that can replace such products.  One such opportunity is emerging in the tableware segment, where use of plastic plates/takeaway boxes/bowls is rampant.

Bagasse based tableware, an eco-friendly substitute to single use plastic, is rapidly gaining market acceptance, and a number of new enterprises are contemplating entering this field. In this blog, we answer key questions that you may have about starting such a business.

What is Bagasse and can it be directly used to make Tableware?

Bagasse refers to the waste from sugar cane after its juice has been extracted by the sugar mill. it is generally used as fuel in the sugar mills or brick kilns.

Bagasse cannot be directly used to make the tableware. It has to be first converted into pulp, by a paper mill. There are two suppliers for such pulp in India; Yash Papers Ltd and Century Paper and Board Mills Ltd. Pulp can also be imported from Thailand and Iran.

What’s the manufacturing process and minimum viable capacity?

Bagasse based pulp is first mixed chemicals that make it oil and water resistant. It is then fed into forming machine, where it is poured on to moulds and heated for nearly 30 minutes. The finished product is inspected for quality, its edges are trimmed and then it is packaged and dispatched.

The machinery comprises a pulp homogeniser along with several moulding machines, where products of different shapes can be obtained. Minimum viable capacity would be 1 tonne per day.

How does bio degradable cutlery work vis a vis plastic?

Bagasse based cutlery works perfect for disposable applications in terms of its ability to hold oily food as well as hot and liquid products (See Table1). However, since it is made in small volumes, it is at least twice as expensive compared to plastics. Other eco-friendly products such as tableware made from Areca nut leaves also cost as much.

opportunity-table

How big is the opportunity?

Market for plastic based tableware is estimated to be nearly 3 lakh tonnes per annum, assuming that biodegradable cutlery can initially replace 25% of the plastic based products, its market could be around 70,000 tonnes per annum.
The product finds acceptance in quick service restaurants, schools, cinema halls, temples and organisations such as Railways that provide catering services to their passengers. In addition it could also be bought by caterers, who are currently using plastic table ware.

What is the capital requirements and return on investment?

The capital requirement for a minimum viable capacity (1 tonne per day) would be up to Rs. 2.5 -3 crores, depending on the pulping capacity and product mix. The capital requirement per tonne of capacity decreases as the capacity increases as large part of the capital expenditure is towards pulp mixing capacity, whose cost doesn’t increase significantly with rising volumes. For example a pulping machine for 6 tonnes per day of capacity may cost only 30% higher than a pulper that has a capacity of 2 tonnes per day.
The return on investment would be a function of the ability of the company to sell large volumes. In order to breakeven (recover the fixed cost such as interest, depreciation, labour), one needs to operate the plant at 50% utilisation.

What are the key challenges in this business?

Marketing remains the most important challenge across all businesses and Tableware is no different. While demand scenario remains favourable, the product needs across clients are very different. For example product offering required for a QSR may be very different from temple that only needs bowls for prasadam, or an udipi restaurant that would need takeaway container to hold hot liquids. Therefore one must first decide target clientele before finalising the product mix and ordering machinery.
The second important aspect would be to manage raw material supplies and minimise wastage. Pulp has a short shelf life of around 15 days after which it may attract fungal infection, therefore raw material inventory needs to be optimised. Further, product quality should meet user’s specifications, thus minimising rejections.

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Business opportunity : Natural gums and Resins

Introduction

Natural gums are plant products, formed by the disintegration of plant cellulose. These are typically extracted from seeds of plants like Guar, Tamarind, Cassia tora, etc. These are polysaccharides that increase the viscosity of solutions even when added in very small quantities. Natural gums are preferred over synthetic gums in food applications.

The natural resins, gums, gum-resins (NRG) and balsam’s global market are estimated to be about 1358.44 million USD. India is the second largest supplier of natural resins & gums in international market, with a share of 16.8%, next to France, which has a market share of 26%[1]. In India, the Guar gum has a lion’s share in total NRG production as well as in exports. Therefore, the focus of this blog is on guar gum.

Guar gum-Industry at a Glance

India enjoys monopoly in the Guar gum industry with a market share of over 80%, as it has the most suitable climate for Guar gum cultivation. The Guar industry is driven by the export market, as more than 70% of domestic production is exported. The major export destinations are USA, China, Canada, Germany & Russia. Rajasthan is the largest guar producing state followed by Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab. Rajasthan alone accounts for 70% of the total production in India.

Guar Seed Cross – section and Process flow

The guar seed has 3 parts – Germ (40-45% of the weight), Endosperm (38-45%) and Husk (14-16%), as shown in figure – 1. The gum powder is produced from endosperm in a two stage process. In the first stage, the guar splits are produced and the by-product is Guar Meal (67%) (Korma – 37% & Churi – 30%). The splits are then pulverized into gum powder, and the powder is further processed into various derivatives.

Figure 1: Guar gum seed break up

Derivatives of Guar Gum & Industry specific application

Guar gum has wide range of applications in Food Industry, Textiles, Oil well drilling, Cosmetics & Pharmaceuticals, Paper, Mining, Construction and Explosives. The derivatives of guar gum powder are grouped into Non-ionic, Anionic and Cationic.

Figure 2: Derivatives of Guar gum

The applications in various industries are listed in Table1.

Table 1: Applications of Guar Gum
IndustryUses
FoodThickening, gelling, emulsifying agent and stabilizer
TextileSizing & Finishing agent
Oil well drillingFluid loss controlling agent, additives in fracturing fluids. Fast Hydration Grade is used
Pharmaceuticalstablet binders, disintegrants, emulsifier, suspending agent, gelling agent, stabilizing agent, thickening agent, film forming agent, sustaining agent and coating agent
CosmeticsConditioner and viscosifier, thickener in toothpastes & shampoos
PaperTo get better finish, improved sheet formation, increased bursting & fold strength and denser surface for printing

Demand & Supply

Guar consumption was been around 22.7 lakh tonnes in the year 2016-17. The consumption is volatile and varies depending on the export market, which accounts for more than 70% of the domestic production. The graph depicts the trends in consumption of guar seed in the past decade.

Chart 1: Consumption of Guar seed in export and domestic markets from India

Globally, oil and gas industry is the biggest user and domestically food industry is the largest consumer of Guar gum. (See chart 2&3). The sector wise demand of guar gum powder in international & domestic market is shown below in Chart 2 & 3.

Chart 2 & 3: % application across industries in Domestic & International markets

On the supply side, there are more than 600 guar processing units in India with an installed capacity of around 10 lakh tonnes. The present capacity utilization of the industry is less than 50%, due to weak demand from the export markets. However, the demand is expected to increase due to increasing oil prices, which result in higher capital expenditure on oil exploration related activities.

Price Volatility of Guar Gum

The prices of guar gum powder is highly volatile (see chart 4) and are a function of factors such as crop cultivation, shale oil and gas exploration, availability and price of substitutes, etc. The users shift to the substitutes based on price competitiveness. But guar gum has its own advantages, for example: Guar gum is soluble in both hot and cold water as against Tamarind Kernel Powder (TKP), which is soluble only in hot water. The various substitutes to guar gum are discussed in Table 2,

Table 2: Substitutes to Guar gum
IndustryUses
TextileCMS (Carboxy Methyl Starch), CMTKP (Carboxy Methyl Tamarind Kernel Powder) and Sodium Alginate
PaperTKP, Potato Starch, etc
FoodXanthan Gum, Agar , CMC (Carboxy Methyl Cellouse)
CosmeticsTKP
Shale Oil& Gas ExplorationSynthetic Polymers

Chart No.4: Per kg [2] variation of Guar gum prices over a period of years

 

Guar Gum v/s TKP

Among natural gum, Guar gum faces competition from TKP. TKP is derived from the tamarind seed. It has excellent water absorption property and high viscosity as well. The application includes, thickening agent in sizing process of textile & printing industry and binding agent in pharmaceutical industry. The detailed comparison of Guar Gum & TKP is shown in Table No.3,

Investment

The minimum viable capacity is 6TPD (6 tonne per day) and the investment required to setup guar gum powder from Guar splits is INR 4 Cr, including the civil structure, machinery and working capital. The capital cost would increase by INR 2-3 Cr, if one is manufacturing the powder directly from the seed due to the additional investment in plant & machinery and working capital. The Breakeven period is more than 5 years.

Profitability & Governing factors

The profitability depends on the conversion margins, or the spread[3] between the guar gum and guar seed price. The spread has been volatile and has ranged between 1.4 times to 3 times over the past decade.  The profit margin can be increased by having control over the seed price, by engaging with farmers in contract farming. The profits/high returns can also be improved by making value added products for specific industry such as dairy/oil.

Why Guar Gum is an interesting opportunity?

The international demand for Guar Gum from oil and gas sector is likely to increase following higher oil prices.  The demand from food sector from both domestic and international markets is likely to remain strong.

Given the availability of idle domestic capacity, one could look at purchasing or leasing existing units, thereby reducing the initial capital investment. Instead, the investment could be made towards research and development to develop new derivatives for food and other applications.

How Can We Help?

If you are interested in starting up natural gum manufacturing unit, we can assist you in the following:

  • Identifying potential markets including domestic as well as international.
  • Detailed project report preparation – Financial analysis, Profit & Loss statements for a period of 7 years, calculation of ROI, etc.
  • Identifying existing units that are available for sale and in valuation of such units

[1]As per ICAR – Indian Institute of Natural Resins & Gums report

[2] In the year 2012-13, the price of guar gum hit all time high, this is due to the huge demand from the oil exploration companies.

[3] Spread is the ratio of guar gum to guar seed prices

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Business Opportunity: Pre-Stressed Concrete Sleepers

PSC sleeper refers to steel reinforced concrete sleeper, commonly used on railway tracks. Besides Indian Railways, power plants, refineries and cement plants also use sleepers for their rail tracks. Demand driver

Indian Railways has a network of over 65,000 kilometers encompassing length and breadth of the country.  The growing population and increasing economic activity has resulted in over-utilization of its existing network.  So much so that the trunk routes of the railways comprising merely 16% of the network carry about 50 percent of the work load. The Indian railways has been routinely upgrading its network (see Table 1), however the capacity upgradation has been far below the actual requirements and the network continues to remain congested.

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The pace of railway infrastructure upgradation has picked up over the past one year, driven by the government’s initiatives to improve quality and safety of Indian railways. The Railways has committed to building 7 kms of infrastructure per day in 2016-17, which will increase to 13 Kms per day in 2017-18 and 19 kms per day in 2018-19.  Railways have identified following priority projects (See table 2) to be taken up in the medium term.

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In addition to these, Indian Railways has also proposed to create a high speed corridor network of around 10,000 kilometers. In light of the above mentioned plans, the railways are likely to develop at least 5000-8000 kilometers of rail network per year, almost 30-40% more than in the past. Assuming that per kilomer of rail would need 1600 sleepers, these plans are likely to result in an annual demand of about 1.3 crore of sleepers.

Key suppliers

The sleeper industry is dominated by a few players who are present across the country. The current capacity of the industry is around 1 crore sleepers per annum. More details on the players are provided below.

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Given the expected increase in demand by 30% to 40%, there seems to be enough room for new capacities to come up. However, one needs to analyze the regional demand and supply balance carefully.

Govt approvals and Budget

Setting up a railway sleeper unit would require approvals from Railway RDSO (Research Design and Standards Organization) as well as the Zonal Railway office.

The process of manufacturing the PSC entails strengthening of concrete, casting it into pre-defined mould and curing it. There are two popular technologies: Long line and Short bench manufacturing, with short bench manufacturing being more popular in India.

The budget requirements for a capacity of 3-4 lakh sleepers per annum could be upwards of Rs. 15 crore. Further, one needs to consider the cost of the land, the sleeper plant would need to be located in the vicinity of a railway station for the ease of transport of sleepers.

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We can help you assess techno economic feasibility of a sleeper manufacturing plant including the market assessment, regulatory compliance framework, capital requirements, machinery evaluation and profitability and return on investment.

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Business opportunities in Telangana

The State of Telangana is the 12th largest economy with a GSDP of around Rs. 4.68 lakh crores[1] and a growth rate of 9.2% during 2015-16. Telangana includes 10 districts, with its capital in Hyderabad. Telangana is land locked with its neighbouring States of AP, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Telangana is home to large industries in IT/ITES, pharma, engineering goods and defence. The industrial activity is currently concentrated in Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy and Medak Districts, these three districts contribute to almost 50 per cent of the State GDP. Medak and Ranga Reddy are also the fastest growing districts.

The opportunities in Telangana can be broadly divided into a few sectors; agro based industries, textiles, chemicals, engineering, and pharmaceuticals. The district wise opportunities are described below.

Business profile of districts of Telangana

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Upcoming opportunities

Small enterprises can become a part of the vendor network /ancillary to the large industries that are planned in and around Telangana. The figure below describes the projects across various industries that are currently being planned. These include a number of bulk drugs intermediate and API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) units,   food park by ITC, an LED bulb unit by Syska labs, Soft drink bottling plant by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, and Mobile handset manufacturing facility by Micromax informatics Ltd.   A detailed list of upcoming projects is available upon request.

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Source : Projects Today

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[1] Source: GSDP at constant prices, Socio Economic Outlook, Telagana, 2016

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