‘China is somewhat disappointing in its recovery, and slow growth, and India is reporting strong growth numbers.’

Photograph: Kind courtesy Linde Plc

Linde Plc is bullish on India’s growth story and has investment plans of $1 billion for three to five years.

Sanjiv Lamba, chief executive officer, Linde talks to Amritha Pillay/Business Standard in Mumbai about the global chemical company’s blueprint for India, which ranges from an AI campus and more manufacturing facilities, to service semiconductor makers and plans to explore green hydrogen production.

 

What does the global picture look like before we get to India as a market?

Overall, the world is slowing. The US has been a very resilient market. I can see it flatten off. Mexico is a bit of a bright spot in Latin America.

And beyond that, things are all stable. Europe is a story of a continued small decline but has been more resilient than expected.

I don’t see any catalyst that’s going to change that. The Middle East is a different story. I see that as a growth story.

I always say Asia is a story of two countries – China is somewhat disappointing in its recovery, and slow growth, and India is reporting strong growth numbers.

India is the bright spot. We’re seeing consistent growth in India and that gives me a lot of hope for the next two decades.

How much of the China-Plus-One strategy has played out?

I see a China-Plus-Two policy or strategy. Essentially China-Plus-One comes into Asia, and Plus-Two goes into the Americas, primarily Mexico, and a little bit of reshoring back in the US.

As far as Asia goes, you hear about Vietnam, but it is not in the same league as India.

A bulk of these investments are coming into India, and that momentum will only grow. So, we are pretty bullish from that point of view.

What kind of investments are you planning for Indian market?

The growth trajectory in India is very strong for us. I’d be disappointed if we don’t make investment decisions of more than $1 billion in the next three to five years in new plants and facilities, creating employment and building the ecosystem.

This would be the highest-ever investment we have made in that time span in plants, facilities, creating employment, and developing an ecosystem.

And which are the industries in India where you see this growth coming from?

Our traditional end markets, and clean energy. India needs more steel, refining, and petrochemicals.

I am also very excited about the potential for growth in electronics and semiconductors.

On the semiconductor investment cycle, we will be right there and we are pre-investing in facilities to be prepared for that investment cycle.

We are also in the advanced stages of prospecting for a global AI campus in India, our investment in that will sit outside the $1 billion investment plan.

On servicing the semiconductor business, would most of your planned new facilities be in Gujarat?

Gujarat is very important to us. We were in Ahmedabad this week, and I’m excited about the prospects for us.

On the new energy segment, you have an interesting view, where you are not bullish on green hydrogen. Why so?

For our world, and in India, we should not talk about colours because it’s misleading and misguided.

We should be focused on carbon intensity and see hydrogen in two buckets, low carbon intensity hydrogen and renewable hydrogen.

To build scale with electrolysers, there is some way to go.

The capital cost of electrolysers based on the technology roadmap that we have needs to come down by about 60 per cent.

Electrolysis needs a lot of water; the world is headed for a water crisis.

So, if you’re going to produce renewable hydrogen with electrolysers, you have to be thinking potentially of infrastructure line desalination and that’s added to the investment cost.

India right now is heavily focused on green hydrogen, so where does Linde fit in?

My view is we will build small-scale electrolysers because it allows us to test the technology.

We want to kick the tires and see if the thing is going to run long enough for us to get the confidence that we can invest and not worry about it.

So, from an Indian perspective, we will invest in electrolyzers in India.

We are happy to produce green hydrogen and its derivatives for supplies to refineries, fertiliser, and others.

As soon as we have an off-taker, you will see us announce investments.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com



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