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Changing face of Bhiwadi
For centuries Bhiwadi was like any other sleepy, faceless Indian village, with little to attract attention. With a small population and with little access to water or other resources, villagers of Bhiwadi had hardly any avenues for livelihood. In recent decades, the village has come to life. Its geographical location has been its biggest advantage. Just 70 km from Delhi on the National Capital Region (NCR), Bhiwadi is on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and is slated to receive massive investments. For starters, the Rajasthan government has set up an industrial estate. Thus, a culture of business and enterprise has begun. Importantly, these have also helped spawn educational facilities from primary and secondary schools to polytechnic and colleges.

And now the face of Bhiwadi is all set to undergo a spectacular change.

A state-of-the-art float glass manufacturing facility of Saint-Gobain Glass India (SGGI) is being inaugurated by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on 27 October in the presence of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Pierre-André de Chalendar of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain and French Ambassador to India, François Richier.


Glittering glass

At this point, a slice of history would read fine.

At the turn of the millennium, in year 2000, Saint-Gobain, the French glass major, set up its first modern float glass-manufacturing unit in India at Sriperumbudur, 40 km off Chennai.  Soon SGGI emerged a leader in glass manufacture; more importantly, the company set the trend for massively upgrading the market for glass. From sheet glass produced in large quantities, SGGI introduced, in quick succession, a rich variety of value added glass, at a pace the country had not witnessed till then. These ranged from tinted glasses, reflective glasses, and eco-friendly mirrors, to lacquered glasses for interiors, advanced solar and thermal control glasses for façades, automotive safety glasses, and advanced fire retarding glasses. Production at the sophisticated plant was stabilised in record time and the products also enjoyed large custom for export, right from day one.

In just about six years, in 2006, SGGI set up a second float line also at Sriperumbudur, taking the capacity to 1450 tonnes per annum. In 2011, it acquired a glass manufacturing company at Jhagadia in Gujarat. After streamlining and upgrading the facilities, this plant helped SGGI to cater to the large markets of Maharashtra and Gujarat in western India.

Strategic position to meet demand

The new facility at Bhiwadi, established at a cost of Rs 1000 crore, has the biggest float line for producing close to 1000 tonnes per day of glass with thicknesses from 2 mm to 12 mm and up to the size of 4880 mm x 3660 mm.

The NCR is the largest consumer of high quality glass in India. The Bhiwadi plant is thus poised to meet the huge requirements of the North, Central and East Indian markets. This will mean substantial reduction in moving glass over long distances. The average distance moved will more than halve from around 1300 km to around 600 km bringing along with it huge economies. Mark it, the cost of logistics, transportation and delivery of glass accounts for a significant portion of consumer price.

Environmental concern at the core…

The innovations at SGGI have never ceased to amaze me. Among the most striking, are the focus on harvesting rainwater and in developing techniques to transport glass without packaging. B Santhanam, President Flat Glass for Saint-Gobain India, in-charge of operations in India, Egypt and Malaysia, referred to the enormous advantages that flowed from such focus: “our water storage areas are large; these exceed a lakh of square feet each at Sriperumbudur and Bhiwadi.”

Initial expectation of water supply to the Tamil Nadu plant from the nearby large Chembarambakkam lake did not come true after a couple of years of scanty rainfall. SGGI constructed a large pond with 55,000 KL capacity and harvested the rainwater. This good quality water meets a third of the requirements of the plant and another third of the need is met by bore well water.

At Bhiwadi too such a system of constructing water ducts and pipelines for collecting rainwater has been put in place. This is even more important; for Bhiwadi gets an annual rainfall of 50 cm only. Also of significance is the fact that the factory taps natural daylight, thanks to the roof constructed at 40 feet.  The high roof helps in lowering the hot temperature of Rajasthan.

Santhanam, with his vast experience of global industrial organizations, decided to adopt and improve upon transporting glass at low cost. The research team introduced special systems and practices that enabled movement of glass over long distances without packing. Can you beat this: such practice is followed even for delivering glass in distant Australia!


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