Last year was quite eventful one for the Indian iron & steel sector, full of ups and downs and filled with enormous uncertainties. Let’s have a look.
Though the availability of vital raw materials has improved over past 2/3 years, depressed oil prices and overall subdued environment on a global level has to have its effect on every country’s economy. In today’s networked world, no country can progress in isolation. India too was affected by the global slowdown which has now been referred to as ‘New Normal’.
Nevertheless, India’s auto sector has been putting up an impressive performance for the last few years and continues its upward path this year too. We all know that only about 12 % of steel produced in India goes for auto industry and majority (about 60 %)is consumed in infrastructure building. Thus it is evident that the fortune of iron & steel industry in India is firmly tied up with the infra and construction sectors. Building of roads, bridges, ports, airports, metro projects, dams etc. will consume huge amount of steel and thus will give a boost to steel demand in the country. For India, most period in the last year was under the influence of demonetization and implementation of newly framed Goods & Services Tax (GST). Though one can argue on the long term benefits of these steps, they naturally affected the performance of atleast first three quarters of the fiscal 2017-18. The industry somewhat recovered and stabilized by the end of 2017 and thus the Indian economy grew at the rate of 7.5 % during Jan-Mar 2018. Further, during this period the steel industry went through a huge transition as regards financial and ownership restructuring. This uncertainty too played a sizable role in slowing down the pace of the industry.
Now that the Indian steel sector has crossed most of these hurdles in the growth path, one can be little more optimistic for the coming period. Also, the central government’s focus on MSMEs and Steel Ministry’s efforts to upgrade and help secondary steel sector should put the Indian mills in a position to cater to the growing steel demand in the country. As such India is seen as one of the few growing economies in the world and a lot of overseas companies want to enter into this growing market. I feel that India is in the right place at the right time. Only time will tell how much benefit it can extract out of this situation !