Interviews

BUILDING INDIA WITH PRIDE

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We got talking to Global Road Technology CEO, Ben James about Indian roads, technology and his vision for holding the company!

 

1- You have been associated with Global Road Technology (GRT) India for almost two years now. How has your experience been? Also, as the CEO & R&D of GRT, what changes have you brought to the company, in terms of market expansion?

The experience has been a challenging one. India, especially in the road sector, is not that inviting to outsiders. However, things have improved markedly in the last year or so through demand for our services and products. As the CEO of a fast-growing road technology provider I feel that the Indian market is very exciting. There are many opportunities to introduce new and proven technologies that can vastly improve the quality of road construction and the speed of construction. The initiatives that we have launched so far are:

 

Cold-In-Place-Recycling – This is a method of recycling in-situ material with road crust to create stronger roads – without the use of borrow material.

 

Concrete Treated Base – We use cement dust and homogenous it with in-situ materials to create a stronger road base.

 

Polymer Reinforcement – We use our proprietary technology of polymer blends for the strengthening of base and binding materials, while also water proofing.

 

Dust Suppression – Use of blend of our polymers for erosion control and dust suppression for all side Blatter and medium strips for road developments.

 

Hot-In-Place-Recycling – We plan to launch new technology in HIPR later this year that incorporates state-of-the-art thermal bonding for potholes and patching works.

 

DLC Replacement – We are about to announce a major contract in PQC that will be incorporating GRT’s latest technology to replace the traditional method of laying DLC for concrete highways. Using GRT’s technique the process time can be cut in half!

 

 

2- GRT has its hands in various distinguished verticals. Could you share GRT’s product portfolio?

Apart from our road technologies, we have a suit of unique Chemical Dust Control Solutions;

 

GRT: WET-LOC (hardstands, pads & yards / warehouses) is an environmentally friendly, clear, highly refined synthetic fluid designed as a long lasting dust control agent. It has been designed to handle heavy and damaging traffic movements.

 

GRT: HAUL-LOC (kachha roads) is a specially formulated liquid polymer that reduces overheads and extends the life of water and dust control effects by up to 1200% (when compared to water alone).

 

GRT: ENVIRO-BINDER (short & long term material stockpiles / exposed slopes) is a tough, durable and environmentally friendly, erosion control polymer product designed for exposed slopes and areas at risk of erosion by rainfall and overland flow.

 

GRT: SOIL-LOC (exposed kachha areas, land subdivisions, land banking & broad acre farming) is a cost effective, broad-scale wind erosion technology designed to protect sensitive exposed surfaces. High seasonal winds or storm events can remove as much as 50-100mm of materials from exposed surfaces causing land degradation and transportation of unwanted dust and contaminants.

 

GRT: ACTIVATE (process & production optimisation / transfer points - conveyors, hoppers & crushers) is used to super-activate water sprayed to control dust in material crushing, transfer & handling operations. Most fine dust is by nature hydrophobic (water hating) and at the microscopic level repels water – so despite the volumes used, the finest particles simply bounce off sprayed water.

 

GRT: ORE-LOC (material transport - dumpers, tippers & rail cars / bulk material storage) is a robust, liquid polymer that provides an exceptional surface coating solution on all ore and material surface types.

 

GRT: 7000/9000 - Micro- Stabilisation (long term haulage & land subdivision roads) is a highly effective polymer soil reinforcement agent. Used on its own or in conjunction with traditional stabilisation agents, it achieves high UCS results with relatively low dosage rates.

 

GRT: LONGWALL (underground mining) is used to super-activate water sprayed to control coal dust in Long-Wall and continuous miner operations. These products have a huge future in India and we forecast significant revenue streams from same.

 

 

3- The road sector in India is in desperate need of new technologies. Not only to improve speed and quality, but also to introduce more environmentally friendly road construction techniques. What role GRT is playing in providing state-of-the-art technology?

Our Company ethos is to bring new technologies to India, to do just that. We are at the cutting edge of new technologies for road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance. Our role has been one of a pioneer – it is not easy to introduce new technologies in India and there is a lot resistance from the existing market place. We hope that our experience and leadership will do away with the misnomers that change is bad and that our technologies are can only strengthen the market and create new opportunities for everyone in the space.

 

4- Your first ever national highway project, Varanasi-Aurangabad Toll way has become a huge success story for the organisation. Would you like to brief us on your upcoming projects?

Yes, NH-2 has been a major success for us and our Client SOMA Enterprises. We now have several National highway projects coming up in Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, MP and Andaman’s. We are also pricing projects in Nepal to assist with the reconstruction of roads damaged by the recent earthquakes.

 

5- GRT is a recognised world leader in soil stabilisation and innovative dust control products. How in your opinion this technology can be a boost for a growing economy like India suffering from pollution?

Dust pollution is the main air contaminant and environmental hazard, having extensive health, safety and environmental consequences, and is posing significant risks to everyone and everything. Airborne dust particles can pass through the nasal passage and travel to the deepest regions of the lungs. When anyone breathe in this dust over a prolonged period of time, it can cause a number of respiratory conditions, including breathing difficulties, respiratory pain, diminished lung function and even cancer. However, because these conditions often take several years to develop, both employers and regulators don’t take them as seriously as workplace injuries, until now. GRT’s environmentally and safety friendly products result in excellent dust prevention and higher quality, more durable roads. Compared to conventional processes, GRT’s dust suppression solutions offer a set of distinct advantages and lucrative benefits, including easy application and long life protection across extreme climatic conditions. Our products also offer the toughness and flexibility to be applied across a diverse spectrum of industries, improving safety and eliminating dust complaints from staff and surrounding landholders.

 

6- Do you think there is a need to revive the PPP model in infrastructure projects? What are the main challenges and opportunities in the infrastructure sector of India?

I am a proponent and I think that the PPP model should be continued with further focus. It is critical in our sector and a lot of good highway projects have been built under the scheme. Money is pouring into the roads sector and we can see the revival of the space and the end to a lot of the legacy issues faced by some of the top players. This is also alleviating stress on the banks and we are starting to see a better attitude on debt funding in some areas.

 

Private money should also follow suit – the industry, especially the Private Equity market has been disappointing so far and have a refractory view on the space even though strong fundamentals are presenting across the board. Issues such as; construction delays, clearances and other contentious issues like; land acquisitions will always be there. However the PPP model can work and I believe it is critical to the success of the industry if we are going to attract the key players back and entice them to invest and scale up again.

 

7- How technology has evolved and contributed to GRT’s growth? Brief us about your technological collaborations.

GRT is fundamentally a technology provider and it is through our technologies that we have been able to sustain such fast growth in the contracting space also. We have many key collaborations including with our parent concern in Australia, equipment manufacturing giant Wirtgen and other technology majors like Freetech Limited based out of Hong Kong.

 

8- How the company fared in the last financial year? What is the outlook for this year?

The company has successfully reached growth stage and we have been in profits for last 9 months. We have posted substantial growth month on month and we are looking forward to our best quarter ever. In terms of topline we should easily meet our AOP targets of 150Cr plus this year. We aim to take the company to a 1000Cr topline over the next 24 months and we are currently talking to a number of strategic and financial investors for possible tie-up to accelerate our plans.

 

9- A significant outgrowth of the new global forces taking shape is an increased spotlight within the industry on R&D. What is your view on R&D investment by GRT?

We do not see a lot of research investment going into our sector. This is the initial opportunity factor we recognised and therefore invested heavily in R&D. This has proved to be a winner for us, as our technologies are now becoming accepted and more so, some, on the verge of becoming mainstream. We are extremely excited to launch our new technology for PQC work or concrete highways. Traditionally the base layer was fortified through the use of Dry Lean Concrete (“DLC”). Our new PQC stabilisation technology will replace the traditional DLC method with our advance Cement stabilisation, revolutionising the construction of PQC jobs and cutting construction times in half. We are proud of our strong R&D programme and our reputation in the industry.

 

Interview by: Kanchi Batra

 

 

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