The cyclone Vayu was earlier predicted to land on the west coast between Dwarka and Porbunder on 14 June. This landfall point was directly west of the Tata Chemicals’ extensive salt pans and chlor-alkali facilities at Mithapur coast. Remember, Tatas account for nearly two-thirds the sale of packaged salt sold in the country as also has a large share of soda ash vital for the manufacture of textiles, paper, glass, detergents, pharmaceuticals….
I had occasion to spend a couple of days at Mithapur in 2006 when IE was working on a comprehensive special issue on Gujarat released by the Chief Minister Modi at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit 2007. More recently I also had occasion to pass through the region on a Panch Dwarka visit and was worried over a possible strike by Vayu. I was, therefore, surprised to meet that evening R Mukundan, Managing Director, Tata Chemicals, at the Madras Management Association. (He presided over the release of Shashank Shah’s book, The Tata Group). A much-relieved Mukundan showed at his cell phone the Vayu cyclone changing course and moving towards Dubai. What a relief!
Tata Chemicals is a geographically diversified producer of chemicals with operations in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in India as also in Morocco, Kenya and the US.
Tata Chemicals was a large producer of chemical fertilizers, both urea (at Babrala, UP) and phosphatics (at Haldia, West Bengal). The operations have been profitable; more importantly, the company has done extensive work in doing a vast range of research, development and extension work in an UP and other northern markets. In my visits to several of the farm support services, I was impressed by the deep involvement of the company in enhancing farm productivity. I was, therefore, sad over Tata Chemicals selling off its fertilizer business and expressed this to Mukundan.
The TCL MD said that at the request of the buyer, Yara Fertilizers, TCL will continue to extend its rich expertise in farm services; also through another unit of the Tatas’ Rallis India Ltd, widely involved in farm chemicals. Mukundan is a Director in Rallis.
Divesting non-chemical businesses…
A more recent restructure is resulting in Tata Chemicals transferring its food and beverages business to Tata Consumer Products re-named as Tata Global. Tata Sons’ Chairman, N Chandrasekaran, has been re-structuring the operations under ten verticals. In the recent de-merger the vast business of Tata Salt and Tata Sampann, which is into spices, pulses and snacks business as also the detergent powder Tata Dx would be transferred to Tata Global. So, one would witness Tata Chemicals as a company sharply focused on chemicals.
TCL’s nutraceuticals plant set up at Nellore at an investment of Rs 275 crore is in the final stages of commissioning; its Cuddalore plant is expected to start production of specialty silica early next year.
Tata Chemicals is also considering entry into the lithium-ion battery sector to develop cell chemistry to meet Indian applications. The company recently entered into a MoU with CSIR – CECRI (Central Electrochemical Research Institute), Karaikudi to explore collaborative technology for scaling up the manufacture of cathode materials for lithium-ion cells.
During 2018-19, the company reported income from operations of Rs 11,296 crore, with a net profit of Rs 1395 crore. On a stand-alone basis, income from Indian operations was at Rs 4081 crore, with net profit at Rs 918 crore, up by 47 per cent.