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Published on: July 12, 2021, 3:05 p.m.
Ecolab sets goals for growth
  • Ecolab has a global RD&E centre in India

By Arbind Gupta. Assistant Editor, Business India

Ecolab Food Safety & Hygiene Solutions Pvt Ltd, a wholly-owned Indian subsidiary of Ecolab Inc, a global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services, is betting big on the rapidly-changing India market. Having entered India in 1987, the NYSE-listed $12-billion US major has established itself quite strongly here. India is considered to be one of the growth markets for the company’s global business. The company develops and offers services, technology and systems that specialise in water treatment, purification, cleaning and hygiene in a wide variety of applications across industries like power, steel, chemical processing, paper, mining, food & beverage and life sciences.

In the last decade or so, India as a market has undergone a transition, as the industries here, now becoming more responsible, look to put up more sustainable businesses. And, that changed approach has sprung huge opportunity for a player like Ecolab, which can help them achieve their sustainable goals (water & energy) in a more seamless manner.

Backed by more than 44,000 associates, the global major delivers comprehensive solutions and personalised service to advance food safety. It maintains clean and safe environments, optimises water and energy use and improves operational efficiencies and sustainability for its customers. It has 9,000 customers and caters to nearly three million customer locations, spread across 170-odd countries. India is one of the key markets for the company, being significant not only in terms of business growth, but also talent and resources.

In 2020, when the entire world was faced with pandemic-afflicted challenges, Ecolab helped its customers save 206 billion gallons of water, provided safe food to 1.3 billon people, cleaned 66 billion hands and avoided 3.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Smart water navigator

On World Water Day (22 March 2021), Ecolab launched an enhanced version of its Smart Water Navigator. The free online tool helps businesses understand the value of water in their operations so they can take action to achieve corporate water goals.

The smart water navigator, first introduced in 2019, supports Ecolab’s broader mission to help industry reuse, recycle and reduce water. Ecolab’s water stewardship efforts focus on identifying and supporting equitable and sustainable water use, and partnerships, like its founding membership in the Water Resilience Coalition, an industry-driven initiative of the United Nations Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate.

Ecolab India, headquartered in Pune, has scripted a transformational journey in the last decade, even as the Indian entity is now looking to accentuate this growth trajectory. The Indian operation, a part of Ecolab’s India Middle East and Africa (IMEA) market (which contributed 3 per cent to the company’s global sales of $11.8 billion in 2020), is looking to grow at over 15 per cent CAGR in the coming years.

Backed by over 600 associates, two manufacturing facilities (one each in Pune and Kolkata), a global RD&E Centre, as also a global System Assurance Centre (SAC) in Pune, Ecolab India serves 731 customers (over 1,300 customer locations) in India. The SAC centre, employing over 140 specialised engineers, is a global nerve centre of the company’s 3D TRASAR Automation Technology, through which it remotely monitors (24x7x365) customers’ water systems across the globe.

Ecolab India’s SAC centre handles 1.8 million alerts annually. Besides, the Indian operation also hosts a global supply chain analytics team. Last year, the company has added 100 associates in India.

Ecolab India’s Kolkata facility (installed capacity: 11,000 tonnes per annum) makes water treatment chemicals for various industries, while the Pune facility (10,000 tonnes) produces specialised cleaning and sanitising products. The company, which exports over 20 per cent of its products to Asia, the Middle East and Africa, is in the process of doubling its Kolkata facility.

With its commitment to delivering clean water, safe food and healthy environments, Ecolab India continues to serve its customers uninterruptedly through its digital water management and food safety and hygiene services. It has put up a strong diversified portfolio across a wide range of markets/segments, such as heavy industries (steel, iron, aluminium, chemical, power); food & beverages; mining; paper; life sciences (healthcare, pharma); and institutions (hotels, restaurants, IT park, facility management). The company boasts of a diversified clientele of large corporates like Tata Steel, JSW Steel, Nestle India and Hatsun Agro Products.

“India is a country of significant importance for Ecolab, where we have a huge untapped potential and numerous opportunities to scale up our business and introduce leading edge technologies and programmes to our customers,” observes Vishal Sharma, senior vice-president, India, Middle East & Africa, Ecolab. “Today, water availability and food safety are major challenges in India but the good news is that Ecolab is uniquely positioned to utilise its expertise, resources and experience, partnering with customers to address these challenges and help advance sustainable outcomes. Considered a key hub for global initiatives and talent development, we have been investing in the country and will continue to do so going forward; well-aligned with our purpose of making the world cleaner, safer and healthier.”

For a sustainable future

“By combining technology with innovative chemistry, Ecolab helps make the world cleaner, safer and healthier by delivering comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimise water and energy use,” affirms Geetha Srinivasa, managing director & country head, Ecolab India. “Partnering around the world, in virtually every industry, we work with our customers to develop solutions that save water, energy, waste and money and help put up a sustainable future for our customers.”

“Business growth in India will be based on our customers’ vision to help them achieve their sustainability and hygiene goals,” explains Srinivasa. “So, we are focussed on harnessing the power India has in terms of potential and the changing mindset. Over time, sustainability and hygiene have assumed significance in this country and it is going to be a growth engine for both our businesses (water and hygiene) at the global level. India is also a key country for Ecolab’s global operations for talent growth opportunities as well as resources and hence we have set up our global SAC centre in Pune, where we have our engineers remotely monitoring all our customers’ water & hygiene sites.” The Indian, as also the Middle East & Africa operation contributes sub-5 per cent to the global business, she admits. However, there are plans to expand this significantly in the coming years with the changing scenario in the local market. 

Ecolab’s SAC Centre is the global nerve centre of the company’s 3D TRASAR Automation Technology through which it remotely monitors customers’ water systems across the globe. About 140 engineers sitting at this centre monitor close to 30,000 devices of customers in 125 countries on a 24x7 basis. The engineers detect system upsets through IoT controllers at customer sites and determine what corrective action is required. In India, the centre, operational for over 12 years now, monitors over 800 water devices for many major companies.

Ecolab carries out its water management business under a separate vertical/brand NALCO Water. Ecolab acquired Nalco Holding Co, the world’s leading water treatment & process improvement company, serving industrial, institutional and energy market segments, in 2011. The largest acquisition (deal size: $5.4 billion) in the company’s history, it provided Ecolab with an instant market leadership in water management solutions to a wide range of industries, including the oil and gas markets. The acquisition was aligned with Ecolab’s long-standing strategic focus on industry’s growing need to do more with less fresh water.

Ecolab, through its Nalco Water business, provides water care management services to companies across a wide spectrum of industries. It employs innovative chemical technologies, real-time data monitoring, water management software tools and services to help customers use, re-use and recycle water, manage it to increase operational efficiency and reduce operational costs, and treat it to meet environmental discharge standards and to lower costs.

 Smart technology

“This SAC Centre is the crown jewel of Ecolab,” says Deeraj Kumar, global director marketing, commercial digital solutions, Ecolab. “Our experts and engineers support all the global footprints that we have in 125 countries. Our linked ecosystem of smart technology, connected chemistry, extensive expertise and actionable insights works around 3D TRASAR to support customers’ unique water needs and further optimise their operation. We provide an extra layer of protection to our customers’ water system. Basically, these controllers located at the sites, measure data and transfer them to the team in Pune and they do round-the-clock monitoring. In case of an update, the team not only alert them but also suggests remedial measures to overcome eventual glitches.”

The SAC Centre has been relentlessly working to detect problems in customer facilities and suggest measures to overcome them in a proactive manner. In one such incident, a major textile & engineering plastics manufacturer in India which produces fluorochemicals, had experienced an unexpected process leak in the middle of the night. This was not known to the plant’s operations staff until 3D TRASAR technology detected the abnormally low pH and alerted the centre. A system assurance engineer quickly investigated the problem and alerted the local Ecolab representative.

While analysing the situation, the engineer found that the pH had fallen to a highly corrosive level (below three), with conductivity and corrosion rates rising at the same time. He diagnosed it as a likely acidic process leak. A detailed alarm analysis was also sent to the customer. The plant’s operations staff immediately checked the impacted cooling system and found hydrofluoric acid leaking at a condenser into the cooling water. The plant operations quickly shut down the system in question to ensure the safety of personnel.

“With the immediate alert by the SAC Centre, we were able to save the condenser’s mild steel tubes, in which the hydrofluoric acid vapour is circulated to be cooled,” acknowledges a plant utility manager of the textile and engineering plastics manufacturer. “This quick action also prevented damage to other heat exchangers through their contact with the low-pH water. If the alert had not been sounded, the estimated replacement cost of the damaged equipment and pipes in this cooling circuit would have been about Rs1 crore. The plant was shut down for four to five days, but could have been down for 30-45 days, had the problem not been detected and resolved so quickly. 

Ecolab has been serving Tata Steel with its products and solutions for over a decade now. The steel major was interested in identifying opportunities to increase its yield of high-quality coal products in the steel making process. The ability to produce high-quality coal would help minimise imports required for steel making, which would help save costs and also support the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Ecolab’s Nalco Water team has been working with Tata Steel to optimise the process of removing ash from coal using its Nalflote flotation aid. Typically, when removing ash content from coal using the coal washing process, a portion of the coal becomes waste. Using Nalflote in the ash removal process not only helped improve the recovery of usable products but also reduce wastage. This helped Tata Steel minimise the amount of coal it needed to source, allowing it to make better use of local resources. The floatation solution by Ecolab is water-based, non-flammable and non-hazardous, which also helped support Tata Steel’s safety goals.

Since the implementation of the programme, Tata Steel has been able to reduce waste and natural resource use, enhance employee safety and reduce imports while increasing productivity. Taking all this into consideration, the steel major has been able to increase revenue by $500,000 per annum.

“Ecolab, through its 3D TRASAR technology, has not only increased our operational productivity, but has also helped us reduce water footprint by recycling water and saving energy, while maintaining water quality,” says Sanjay Bansal, engineering services senior manager, Nestle India.

Ecolab has also been playing a big role in the Government of India’s Covid vaccination programme, in tandem with the country's largest vaccine maker. Last year, the company helped the Covishield vaccine maker in maintaining the highest operational and quality standards during the vaccine manufacturing process.

Vaccine development is complex and requires the maintenance of optimum temperature levels during the manufacturing process, which can only be achieved by a well-functioning heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Apart from this, cooling water circuits and automatic surveillance of all processes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the final product. 

The Ecolab India team has installed cooling water treatment technology at the vaccine manufacturing plant facilities in Pune and also ensured that optimum temperatures were maintained that are mandatory for vaccine production. The integrity of the HVAC system was monitored 24x7 through Ecolab’s state-of-the-art SAC Centre, a remote digital surveillance facility with 140 chemical, environmental, and petroleum engineers powered by AI & Analytics to enable smooth operations at the vaccine maker’s plant.

SAC engineers and Ecolab experts constantly monitor the water management systems remotely. The benefits of Ecolab’s technology and solutions, along with constant surveillance and regular performance reports result in an efficient and accelerated vaccine manufacturing process along with significant RoI. The vaccine manufacturer has made energy savings to the tune of $50,000 in the past two years, with $20,000 saved in the past nine months.

Helping mankind

“It is a great feeling to be associated with this significant programme and help mankind,” says Srinivasa. “The partnership with Ecolab, which began in 2018, is also reflected in the fact that no water-related obstruction in operations was recorded during the vaccine production process, and no physical plant visits were required due to the efficiency of remote servicing enabled by the SAC Centre.”

“The pandemic has shown the importance of what we do and how we do it for the well-being of our people, our customers and the world,” remarks Christophe Beck, global president & CEO, Ecolab Inc. “We demonstrated the value of Ecolab’s product and service expertise, delivered essential solutions and strengthened customer relationships. And, we reinforced our position as the global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention. We are proud of what the Ecolab team accomplished in 2020 and enter 2021 a stronger company.” 

“With heightened focus on hygiene globally, we are responding with unmatched expertise, breakthrough solutions and a brand that inspires trust,” adds Beck. “With water and climate challenges becoming more urgent, we’re uniquely positioned to help customers achieve their sustainability goals at a high financial return. And with an unbeatable global team supported by innovative solutions and digital technologies, we look towards the future with great confidence.”

Ecolab develops proprietary technologies and services that provide and protect clean water, safe food, and healthy environments. The company operates across four major segments: Industrial, Healthcare & Life Sciences, Institutional & Specialty and Others.

In the industrial segment, the company provides water treatment and process applications, and cleaning and sanitising solutions primarily to large industrial customers within the manufacturing, food and beverage processing, transportation, chemical, primary metals and mining, power generation, global refining, petrochemical, and pulp and paper industries. The operating units within this reporting segment include water, food & beverages, downstream businesses and paper.

Ecolab offers specialised cleaning and sanitising products to the healthcare, personal care and pharmaceutical industries. Operating units within this segment include Healthcare and Life Sciences.

It also provides specialised cleaning and sanitising products to the food service, hospitality, lodging, government, education and food retail industries and the operating units within this segment include Institutional and Specialty.

The company also provides pest elimination services to the food service, food and beverages processing, healthcare, lodging, grocery and other commercial settings through the Pest Elimination business. Its commercial laundry wash process products and services are provided by the Textile Care business for uniform and linen rental, hospitality and healthcare laundries. Colloidal silica for binding and polishing applications is provided through their Colloidal Technologies Group for semiconductor, aerospace and other industries.

Globally, Ecolab has built up a well-diversified portfolio of offerings and solutions where, apart from organic efforts, it has also gone for a series of acquisitions. Backed by these acquisitions over the years, the company has expanded its capabilities significantly, extended its reach and has dramatically increased its overall market opportunity – its potential to meet customer needs is unmet by competitors. The company has also strengthened its key businesses and quadrupled its market opportunity, from an estimated $32 billion in 2000 to an estimated $125 billion in 2018. 

Among the company’s most significant acquisitions are Nalco in 2011, Champion Technologies in 2013, and Laboratoires Anios in 2017. Having acquired Nalco in 2011 in its biggest deal of $5.4 billion, Ecolab acquired Champion Technologies (and the related Corsicana Technologies), a global specialty chemical company delivering innovative and engineered programs for upstream, midstream, and downstream oil & gas markets, for about $2.2 billion to expand its energy services business, which makes products used to prevent corrosion in oilfield equipment and treat water for oil drillers and refiners.

In 2017, Ecolab acquired Laboratoires Anios, a leading European manufacturer and marketer of hygiene and disinfection products primarily for the healthcare market, for a total consideration of around $800 million. 

Global Centres

While Ecolab has built up a well-diversified portfolio of offering and solutions through these acquisitions, the company has also been proactive in ramping up its facilities and capabilities organically. In India, apart from building its global SAC Centre, the company has a global RD&E Centre as also a global supply chain analytics team. These facilities play a major role in the company’s global business. Its manufacturing facilities in Kolkata and Pune export almost 20 per cent of its production and plans are in place to increase this contribution.

“Our manufacturing facilities are quite robust,” claims Sujay Kumar, supply chain market leader, Ecolab. “Apart from treatment chemicals, we have also moved to value-added products, which help our customers optimise and run their business in an efficient manner. 

“Our team of chemical engineers and data scientists make sure that each technology is adopted by a region so that, during the process of adoption, there are significant intellectual inputs going in, to make them a better fit,” says Arup Nandi, Senior, RD&E Group leader, India and Asia Pacific, Ecolab. “At the end of the day, we bring value to our customers.”

“Our innovations remain our key differentiators,” says Srinivasa. “And, it’s important to understand what the customer wants and package our solutions for our customers accordingly. They usually look at efficiency improvement; productivity is also critical for them. So, as long as solutions and digital offerings are able to address that need of the customer, that is how we are able to grow our business and gain share much faster. The strategy for me is clear: it’s how I take innovations and digital solutions to help the customer be more productive and efficient.”

Geetha Srinivasa, who joined Ecolab India in June 2020, is all geared up to take the organisation to its next growth phase. A chemical engineer from RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru, with executive management degrees from IIM Kolkata and London School of Economics, she is vice-president & general manager of all Ecolab businesses in the sub-continent. She is responsible for driving operational excellence and the overall growth of Ecolab’s businesses in India.

With more than 18 years of experience, she has held increasingly complex and impactful business-focused positions in the industrial oil & gas sector. She brings a gamut of expertise in international sales, business development, P&L management, M&A, divestment and joint-ventures. Srinivasa began her career as graduate engineer trainee in Akzo Nobel Coatings and thereafter worked for global organisations like British Oxygen Company, Castrol BP and Sidvin Coretech.

With Srinivasa at the helm and other developments in place, Ecolab India is all prepared to expand its business significantly in India which in the last decade or so has undergone a major transition. With businesses now becoming more responsible and eager to follow their sustainability goals in more determined manner, opportunities are immense for a player like Ecolab India, which has a whole gamut of solutions and products. The Indian operation is not only significant in terms of market growth but also in terms of resources and talents, and by harnessing them, the company is looking to expand its footprint in a more efficient manner.

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