An exclusive interview from Mr.Ganesh Bhadti, Director – Operations of Seshasayee Paper & Boards LTD.
Seshasayee Paper and Boards Limited (SPB), the flagship company belonging to ‘SPB-ESVIN GROUP’, owns and operates an Integrated Pulp, Paper and Paper board Mill at Erode, Tamilnadu and another Paper Mill at Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu, India.
Paper Desk : May we know about the history of SPB?
Ganesh Bhadti : SPB, incorporated in June 1960, was promoted in association with a foreign collaborator M/s Parsons and Whittemore, USA. Main promoters of the Company as on date are a group of companies belonging to the SPB-ESVIN group headed by Chairman Sri N Gopalaratnam.
SPB commenced commercial production in December 1962, on commissioning a 20000 tpa integrated facility in its Erode unit, comprising a Pulp Mill and two Paper Machines (PM-1 and PM-2), capable of producing, writing, printing, kraft and poster varieties of paper. The capacity of Unit : Erode was expanded to 35000 tpa in 1967-68, by upgradation of PM-2 and addition of a third Paper Machine (PM-3).
In the second stage of expansion in Unit : Erode, undertaken in 1976, capacity was enhanced to 55000 tpa, through addition of a 60 tpd new Paper Machine (PM-4). The Company embarked on an Expansion / Modernisation Project in the year 2000 to enhance its production capacity from 55000 tonnes per annum, to 1,15,000 tonnes per annum by addition of a pre-owned Paper Machine – PM-5 The Company in the year 2011, on a detailed techno commercial evaluation, decided to acquire a sick unit in Tirunelveli (Subburaj Papers Limited (SPMPL) – which had a capacity of 90,000 tonnes per annum.
In 2015-2018, our company increased the production of Paper to 132000 tonnes per annum and the production of Unbleached Wood Pulp to 145000 tonnes per annum. In 2018-2021, through upgradation and modernisation of the RDH Pulp Mill, capacity was increased to 154000 tonnes per annum.
PD : What are the mission & vision and culture of SPB?
GB : All the employees from the top management to the worker level believe and implement the Mission and Vision, and work for the values we are committed. Our Vision is “To excel as a trusted, socially responsible and customer driven Organisation providing maximum value to all stake holders”. The Mission is “To manufacture quality products at competitive costs through technology and teamwork”.
Our Values are ethical practices, customer focus, commitment to society, safety and environment, professional and transparent management, empowerment and accountability, adaptability to “Change”, innovation and creativity. We emphasis on Human Resources development, cost reduction, productivity enhancement and resources conservation. We strongly believe & practice our values.
PD: What is the secret behind of SPB’s successful 62 years in the industry?
GB : We have been producing fine papers and quality & reliability have been our by-words for over five decades. Our lean manufacturing practices, unique and innovative energy management practices, cost reduction measures are placing us ahead of others and earning us a special place in the industry.
We are constantly in touch with the market & stay in tune with the industry standards, regularly improving ourselves to meet the ever growing demands of our discerning customers. In this age of digital communication our fine papers hold their own, making lasting impressions.
PD : Your basic and premium products for the current paper market?
GB : SPB predominantly manufactures Printing & Writing grade papers. SPB’s basic products are Non-surface sized MF white grades like Creamwove, NSS Maplitho, Schoolmate etc. to cater to segments like printing, exercise notebooks etc. Other product in P&W segments is high end Surface sized Maplitho grades meant for superior quality multicolour printing jobs, high end premium notebooks, note pads etc.
SPB also manufactures some niche/premium products such as Book Printing with a very high bulk of 1.65 cc/g (min) to cater to publishing segments. Suitable for different kinds of printing viz. sheet offset, web offset and Digital printing. Color Printing paper from 47 gsm onwards which are used for making receipt books, notices, tickets etc.
ColorSprint, 70 & 75 gsm, a Copier grade quality product manufactured in pastel colors and used as separators in reports, notices, photo copying etc. Bristol Paper/Board, MG Maplitho, MG Pulp Board in white, Natural shade and in 4 standard colors (Blue, Green, Pink & Yellow) to cater to wedding card, educational segments. MG poster (Light Green) is a special product used for manufacturing cloth-lined envelopes.
Also manufactures Poster papers in white, Natural Shade and Colors from 28 gsm onwards and MG Ribbed Kraft papers in Orange/Yellow/Natural Shades from 48 gsm onwards. SPB also manufactures Chromo Paper (C1S) from 70 gsm onwards. SPB manufactures Copier papers in several brands with GSM of 70,75 & 80.
PD : Do you agree that laboratory and R&D facilities are important for a paper mill?
GB : We agree that R&D is critical for business to stay competitive and get ahead of competition. We also agree that we lag behind developed nations in R&D. But there are compelling reasons. Given the low per capita consumption of paper in India and the small size of our units, it is impossible to allocate sizeable resources for R&D. Paper units have a core R&D team, undertaking applied R&D though not fundamental R&D.
We do have a core R&D team, manned by competent professionals, well-experienced in paper manufacturing. Our R&D concentration is on new product development, process improvements and optimization of products, often utilizing the vendor’s expertise. Our concentration on R&D also extends to adoption of green manufacturing and clean production concepts in our operations as well as our supply chain.
We have been able to make sustained improvements in our products, develop new products to meet the specific need and requirement of our customers, reduce use of fossil fuel and minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emission through our R&D efforts.
PD : What is the speciality of your sprint plus 80 GSM papers?
GB : Sprint Plus in 80 gsm is SPB’s superior quality Copier paper characterised by high Stiffness and Brightness. This paper is a curl free and jam resistant paper for trouble free photo copying. This paper is ideal for Laser and Inkjet printing besides general office purposes. Precision cut and packed in automatic A4 liner and available in A4, A3 & Folio sizes.
PD : What kind of Technical Features & Trading facilities do you have?
GB : SPB has two manufacturing units presently. The parent unit is located at Erode, Tamilnadu (SPB – Unit: Erode) and the other unit is located at Tirunelveli, southern part of Tamilnadu (SPB – Unit: Tirunelveli).
SPB Erode unit has got five paper machines (3 MF machines, 1 MG Machine and 1 Yankee machine) with a total capacity of 1,65,000 tpa and can manufacture various kinds of SS and NSS Maplitho, Colored Maplitho, Bristol, MG Maplitho, Posters in lower gsm and Copiers in white as well as in colors.
SPB T Veli unit has got only one paper machine with a capacity of about 85,000 tpa and can manufacture only SS and NSS Maplitho grades and superior grade of Copier for domestic and US Markets. Has got the facility to convert Copier into American A4 size for exporting to American Markets. The combined total capacity of both the units is about 2,50,000 tpa.
Trading Facilities : SPB like most of the other Paper mills in India ismarketing its products through dedicated Channel network of Indentors, Dealers and Stockists. SPB has got Marketing Branch offices in various cities across India viz. Madurai, Bangalore, Ernakulam, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi with Marketing Head Office at Chennai to cater to customers across India.
SPB has about 55-60 Channel partners in many cities covering most of the states in India. With the availability of SPB Channel Partners across India, marketing of SPB’s products are carried out efficiently and smoothly. However larger proportion of products are marketed in Primary markets viz. Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka as they provide higher realisation compared to upcountry markets.
SPB also market about 20-25% of its products in overseas markets through Overseas Agents located in various countries viz. United Arab Emirates, Singapore, USA and Srilanka. SPB is exporting to over 30 countries mainly in Asia, Africa and a few European countries apart from USA.
PD : Can we expect any new paper launch from SPB in near future?
GB : In order to meet the customer demand, new products for packaging segment were developed and introduced in the market. There is a good response on quality from the consumers and order quantity is increasing.
To high light, our new products are in multilayer products like MF Plain Kraft from MF1 which are received well by the customers and we are receiving repeated orders too in this product segment. Then Multilayer Cup stock (Prime) for manufacturing paper cups. Entered into new segments viz. Paper bags, Corrugation, deep colored wedding cards, paper cup (for wall), mono cartons, rigid cartons, packaging, match Industry, notebook cover etc. with our new products stated above. Manufactured and supplied Tablet Paper to US market and orders received for the same product from Ivory Coast too.
Also started marketing cut size Copier with a new attractive multicolored laminated wrapper and carton.We have developed suitable wrappers and cartons to market Sprint Plus 80 gsm in A3 and Folio sizes.
We are supplying Stationery items (pads) for the first time to “Dollar Tree”, a popular chain of stores. To add, for the first time, we have supplied Copier grade reels to US (to be converted into branded copier at US) and entered into new overseas markets viz. Chile and Mexico. We are in the process of developing some more new multilayer products viz. Carton Board, Kraft Liner Boards for different and new segment. Received orders for these products after the first commercial run, we expect to get more orders.
PD : Could you explain us your projects on-going at Erode unit?
GB : Further developments planned in MG m/c to improve quality & production volume. Increase in Pulp production volume from 500 to 550 tpd. Bagasse pulp handling equipment to transfer more pulp to our T’veli plant to substitute imported pulp, augmentation of waste water treatment, a new PCC plant by SMI, augmentation of the waste paper plant to handle more NDLKC are the ongoing projects.
PD : How were you able to de-bottleneck your Thirunelveli unit and turn it around into a profitable operation?
GB : De-bottlenecking system limitations like refining requirements, introduction of speed sizer, commissioning of top reformer, speed increase, upgradation of converting sections, introduction of new products, developing flexibility in system to use different kinds of furnish, preventive maintenance practices etc., significantly improved performance of T’veli unit & turned the table.
PD : What is your current goal?
GB : Below are our goals.
- We want to strengthen our market positions in the newly developed products.
- The Production capacity increase from 1,65,000 to 2,00,00 TPA in Erode.
- Entering in to coated ART paper segment.
- Water conservation initiatives to bring down water consumption to less than 35 m3/ton of paper.
PD : Industry barriers you face in Indian Market?
GB : The biggest challenges the Paper Industry facing now are significant price hike in the cost of input materials like Coal, Raw material (pulp & waste paper), Furnace Oil, Chemicals etc. The paper mills which depend on imported pulp and waste paper are facing serious challenges as their operations have become economically un-viable due to very high and volatile prices of the same.The availability of containers and port congestion at some of the major ports in Asia makes the cost of imported material very high and economically non-viable. Despite many recent price increases announced by SPB, the significant cost hike of input materials could not be covered fully and thus putting pressure on SPB’s profit margins. Another challenge is the introduction of “Extended Producer Responsibility for Plastic Packaging” under Plastic Waste Management (Amendments) Rules, 2022.
Though it is definitely a welcome move which will have significant impact on protection of environment with reduction in plastics, the implementation of the same in terms of following the guidelines & procedures, maintaining proper records, collection of waste from consumers and meeting the year-on-year target would be a challenge at least in the initial few years. One more challenge would be to identify suitable alternate for poly coating process used in paper cup and paper plate segment.
Another biggest challenge is the ever increasing truck freight. With fuel price increasing every day, the truck freight is also increasing more frequently. Higher freight component is restricting SPB’s sale in farther markets viz. Northern, Eastern and Western Markets. This indirectly forces SPB to focus more on closer markets like Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka to the extent possible.
In future the sale of products might become more regionalised with mills having their manufacturing unit in a particular region might focus mainly in that region unless it is a special product with higher realisations and with limited players who can supply these products.
PD : What is SPB’s CSR activities?
GB : Few are listed below.
- Promoted and establishment of three lift irrigation schemes to bring 1500 acres of dry lands under irrigation and crop cultivation using mills treated trade effluents thus turning a waste into wealth.
- Running of three schools from the Primary upto higher secondary level and contribution to other educational institutions.
- Supplying of protected and treated drinking water to nearby villages through a net work of about 240 water taps and 4 overhead tanks.
- Running of 4 Rural Primary Health Centres with full time qualified physician,paramedical staff and free medical facilities.
- Contract Farming : SPB launched the contract farming programme under which SPB provides technical expertise for growing Eucalyptus and Causarina wood by marginal farmers with buy back guarantee over 20,000 acres of land are expected to be covered under the scheme in the next five years.
- Providing infrastructure facilities in nearby villages including laying of Bitumen Roads.
- Land donation for construction of Government Higher Secondary School.
- Contributions to charitable institutions, rural development programmes.
- Covid-19 relief activities including vaccination to nearby villages.
- Contribution to research scheme with TNAU Coimbatore.
- Contribution to various state Relief Funds on disasters.
- Promotion of Sports & Games and conduct of State level tournaments.
- Construction of rain water harvesting structures, public toilets, village roads and culverts.
- Contribution for enhancing the quality of life in and around Erode.
- Sponsorship for higher education.
- Educational assistance to deserving students.
- Medical assistance and organising medical camps.
- Skill development of educated youth.
- Every year more than 500 students are benefited by acquiring technical as well as professional knowledge and skill, when they are undergoing in plant training/ project work in our factory.
- The unit has helped to establish an ESI Dispensary for the benefit of neighbouring public by providing its land.
- The unit has helped to install a 110 KV Sub-station of State Electricity Board for supplying uninterrupted power for the benefit of the public in the neighbourhood, by providing its land.
- Assistance to Government Schools.
- Assistance for conducting cultural programmes in near by villages.
“IPMA – Mill of the year award – 2020”
“Excellence Award in Energy Management for four consecutive years”
“National Energy Leaders for two consecutive years”