Mr. Nikunj Dhanuka, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Lalbaba Seamless Tubes, has been heading the operations at Lalbaba Seamless Tubes for more than 5 years now, and under his able leadership, the company has become one of the leading suppliers in the cold drawn seamless segments to various industries, as well as establishing the company as a reliable supplier with foreign clients. The company has also forayed into the stainless steel segment under his guidance. In an interaction with Tube & Pipe India, he shares Lalbaba Seamless Tubes’ journey, technology, and business roadmap, recent developments, and future plans.
Tube & Pipe India: Could you please give us a brief outline of the business journey of your company along with its crucial milestones?
Mr. Nikunj Dhanuka: What started as a micro-enterprise in 1964 with a small pneumatic forging and fabrication unit in Howrah, went on to become a leading and preferred supplier to the Indian Railways as well as other OEMs. Lalbaba Engineering Group has a global presence in more than 20 countries, and the name is synonymous with quality and reliability.
Lalbaba Seamless Tubes, our flagship unit, was established in Haldia, West Bengal, in 2009. Initially focused on carbon alloy steel seamless pipes, we expanded our portfolio in 2021 to include stainless steel seamless pipes and tubes. This strategic decision has catapulted us to become the largest producer of cold-drawn seamless tubes in India, with an installed capacity of 72000MT or 50,000 km per annum. Our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and cutting-edge technology have played a pivotal role in our success.
TPI: Please share details about your product portfolio, including its key strengths and applications.
ND: Our product portfolio consists of cold-drawn seamless tubes & pipes, which are utilized in a wide range of applications such as heat exchangers, boilers, the oil & gas industry, automobiles, bearings, hydraulic cylinders, mechanical tubing, mining, and precision tubes.
The key strengths of our products include:
- Achieving precise wall thickness and diameter measurements
- Exceptional surface finish
- High durability
- Superior mechanical properties
- Particularly suitable for critical forming processes like 1D Bends
- Bright Annealed pipes for select customers in India & abroad
With a total installed output capacity of 72,000 metric tons per year, we operate a mother plant consisting of five bays, a semi-automated Udaan plant, and PEW engineering for railway products.
TPI: We would appreciate it if you could shed some light on your company’s market footprint and clientele, as well as any expansion plans.
ND: LALBABA SEAMLESS (“LBST”) is a prominent worldwide manufacturer of Cold Drawn Seamless steel pipe products, boasting a strong track record and extensive industry connections. The company offers a diverse range of products, including Carbon Alloy Seamless & Stainless Pipes and Tubes.
LBST operates multiple manufacturing facilities throughout India and caters to various sectors. Its products are widely utilized in oil and gas exploration and transportation, power generation, water supply for drinking, drainage, irrigation, automotive industry, mining, and other industrial applications. The company’s esteemed clientele comprises renowned global oil and gas producers such as IOCL, Reliance, BPCL, Haldia Petrochemicals, both government and private entities, as well as notable engineering and procurement firms like L&T Hydrocarbon, Toyo, Technip, Tata Projects, and Megha. Additionally, LBST serves the power sector, collaborating with esteemed companies like BHEL, GE, L&T MHPS, ISGEC, Thermax, Thyssenkrupp, among others. At the same time, LBST services the requirements for the largest Heavy Commercial Vehicle Industries including, MAN, Daimler, Mahindra, and Tata through their ancillaries.
It is our belief that the seamless tube market has been restricted due to a lack of options. With the changing global landscape, customers are looking at near-shoring their critical vendors. Thus LBST intends to expand its presence by establishing facilities in close proximity to major markets in the automobile, hydraulic, and hydrocarbon sectors, with the eventual goal of becoming the largest cold-drawn seamless tube manufacturer in the world.
TPI: What is your perspective on the future of the tube and pipe industry? How do you anticipate the market evolving?
ND: LBST’s primary objective is to provide value to its customers and stakeholders through the delivery of high-quality products. The company plays a crucial role in the global supply chain by leveraging information technology and its strong management capabilities.
Based on the April 2022 report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), it is anticipated that the Asia region will continue to experience robust GDP growth of 5.3 percent in 2023, thus it is expected that the demand will continue to be robust in the pipe segment as well.
While the Indian economy is gradually recovering from the contraction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still risks associated with the ongoing pandemic and geopolitical tensions, particularly with the Russia-Ukraine conflict. These factors contribute to an uncertain future for the economy. However, despite the challenges, India has the potential to become one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. Positive business conditions, robust industrial output, and healthy export growth are expected to drive India’s GDP growth in 2023-24, which is forecast by RBI @ 6.5%.
LBST operates with a well-diversified business model, strategically located in different markets and serving various industries and customers. This approach helps mitigate risks and enables the company to perform well even in challenging economic and geopolitical situations. The company maintains a balanced presence in both domestic and export markets and operates through four strategic business units.
As for the future of the tube and pipe industry, it is a product that finds application in every walk of life, from water lines to sanitation, oil and gas to renewables, automotive – both ICE and EV, the list is endless. As such the industry will continue to grow rapidly. However, I strongly believe that fast-growing economies like India will start to migrate more towards Seamless Pipes and Tubes instead of welded ones as safety and life cycle costs become a bigger factor, similar to western economies and also China. It is our goal to be at the forefront of this change.
I strongly believe that fast-growing economies like India will start to migrate more towards seamless pipes and tubes instead of welded ones as safety and life cycle costs become a bigger factor, similar to western economies and also China. It is our goal to be at the forefront of this change.
TPI: Could you outline your technology and business roadmap?
ND: At Lalbaba Seamless Tubes, we have a clear technology and business roadmap in place to guide our growth and development. Our focus is on leveraging advanced technologies and industry best practices to enhance our manufacturing processes and deliver high-quality products to our customers, with the intention to become the World’s Largest Cold Drawn Seamless Tube manufacturer.
In terms of technology, we continually invest in state-of-the-art machinery and equipment to ensure efficient production and maintain our competitive edge. We stay updated with the latest advancements in tube manufacturing technology and strive to incorporate them into our operations. By embracing innovative techniques and automation, we aim to enhance productivity, improve product quality, and optimize resource utilization.
Furthermore, we emphasize research and development to foster innovation within our organization. Our dedicated team of engineers and experts consistently work on developing new products, improving existing ones, and exploring new applications for our tubes. This enables us to stay at the forefront of industry trends and cater to the evolving needs of our customers.
On the business front, our roadmap focuses on strategic expansion and diversification. We aim to strengthen our presence in existing markets while actively exploring new market opportunities. By expanding our geographical reach and customer base, we aim to drive growth and increase our market share.
Additionally, we are committed to building strong partnerships and collaborations with key stakeholders across the supply chain. This includes working closely with our suppliers, distributors, and customers to foster mutually beneficial relationships and ensure seamless operations.
Overall, our technology and business roadmap align with our vision of being a leading global player in the seamless tubes industry. Through continuous innovation, strategic expansion, and strong partnerships, we are confident in our ability to achieve long-term success and deliver value to our customers.
TPI: Could you please elaborate on the infrastructure, manufacturing capabilities, and machinery installed at your facility?
ND: Lalbaba Seamless Tubes Pvt. Ltd., a subsidiary of Lalbaba Engineering, is a prominent manufacturer of Cold Drawn Seamless Tubes and Pipes. Our facility has a comprehensive infrastructure spread across more than 16 acres, equipped with state-of-the-art machinery. With a total installed output capacity of 72,000 metric tons per year, we operate a mother plant consisting of five bays, a semi-automated UDAAN plant, and PEW engineering for railway products. Our presence extends throughout Eastern and Western India, serving various industries such as railways, oil & gas, automobiles, hydraulics, boilers, and power plants.
In terms of equipment, we have five piercing mills, three STP plants, multiple draw benches, and pilger machines, all of which enable us to meet the requirement of our customers. We operate round-the-clock with over 1200 employees and have both LPG and electric reheating furnaces, as well as annealing, solution annealing, and bright annealing furnaces for heat treatment purposes.
At LBST, we prioritize quality and strive to maintain a reputation for delivering seamless tubes of exceptional quality at competitive prices. To achieve this, we employ the latest technologies, highly trained personnel, and ample resources. Our testing facilities include advanced equipment such as a Spectrometer for chemical analysis, Brinell Hardness Tester, Universal Tensile Testing Machine, Hydra Tester, ECT, and Ultrasonic Testing. Moreover, our labs are NABL accredited, ensuring the highest standards and product excellence.
We manufacture a wide range of grades to cater to different requirements. For carbon steel, we produce grades such as SAE 1012, 1018, 4130, T5, T11, ST52, and more. Additionally, we manufacture Stainless Steel grades including SS304, SS304L, SS316, SS316L, and SS316Ti.
TPI: What recent developments have taken place at your company? Additionally, what are your future plans?
ND: In our company, we have recently made significant investments toward achieving our ambitious growth plans for the future.
- In 2022, LBST successfully commissioned a new automated manufacturing line, an industry-first Piercing-to-packaging setup, with the intention to reduce manual intervention and ensure the delivery of top-quality products to our customers. The facility operates as a high-end Continuous Drawing System (CDS) automated plant, offering online facilities with a 70% reduction in manufacturing lead time
- New Stainless-Steel Division: In response to growing environmental concerns, we have installed an Electric Induction Furnace for billet heating in our new Stainless Steel (SS) bay. This furnace operates with zero carbon emissions, making a positive impact on the environment. The new SS bay allows us to supply 6000 metric tons of SS tubes annually, further reinforcing our commitment to sustainable practices.
- GURUKUL: To foster skill development and enhance industry knowledge among our newly hired employees, we have introduced a comprehensive Learning and Training Program named GURUKUL. This program spanning over three months combines two months of classroom training and one month of on-the-job training under the guidance of industry experts. GURUKUL covers 12 subjects in detail, equipping participants with essential knowledge and job skills. Through interactive sessions and engaging activities, GURUKUL intends to equip young engineers with the skillset required to contribute and grow within the company.
Our future vision revolves around establishing a remarkable presence in the seamless industry and expanding our operations.
- SS Plant Development: We also aim to focus on the production of SS seamless tubes, targeting a production capacity of 12000 metric tons per annum. To achieve this, we plan to invest in improved machinery and enhance the skillset of our personnel. The ongoing process includes the installation of two new parallel piercing machines with modern technology, as well as additional Pilger machines, draw benches, a bright annealing furnace, and an online solution annealing furnace. These upgrades will enable us to meet our desired production targets while ensuring the quality of our SS tubes through improved testing facilities.
- Nagar Plant: We are in the process of operationalizing a newly acquired Nagar Plant in Pune. This division of LBST will specifically focus on the production of small-diameter tubes, and catering to our customers in the Western region.
- Global Expansion: To meet the demands of our global clients and gain more recognition in the Western markets, we are planning to establish new manufacturing units in both European and Western countries. This expansion will allow us to cater to a wider customer base and strengthen our position in the international market.