Amid the economic slowdown, where construction as well as auto sales have taken a hit, zinc metal, which finds strong application in both these sectors is looking at newer domestic consumption segments to grow.
“Solar panels, power storage batteries and fertilizers are the three new areas where zinc market has ample scope to grow in India. There is more than 100 per cent growth scope in fertilizers,” Andrew Green, executive director of International Zinc Association told Business Standard.
Zinc coated (galvanized) steel is the most effective and inexpensive way to protect steel from the corrosive effects of weather, temperature, and oxygen. Due to this, the base metal finds wide application in both in auto as well as construction segments in India.
“Solar is the fastest growing power production segment in the world including India and hence the solar panel requirement is also strong,” explained Green. “Another area is zinc batteries which help in storage of power. The storage market for electricity is expected to grow a 100 percent in the next 8-10 years so when these two areas of power segments are combined, there is major growth area,” he added.
India's solar installed capacity reached 30.709 GW as of August 31, 2019. The cost of construction of solar power plant is the lowest capital per MW. India connected 6.5 GW of new solar power capacity to the grid in 2018-19.
India had added 3 GW of solar capacity in 2015–2016, 5 GW in 2016–2017 and over 10 GW in 2017–2018, with the average current price of solar electricity dropping to 18 percent below the average price of its coal-fired counterpart.
In the fertiliser segment, zinc utilisation can grow 200 per cent in India. “Zinc deficiency is a global issue. It improves food and nutrition quality,” said Green. About 4,500 children under the age of five die every year due to zinc deficiency.
"Use of micro nutrients like zinc can raise agri production resulting into higher realisations for farmers. It is also fit and in fact healthy for consumption, by both human being as well as livestock. Since its cost is negligible, the overall agri input cost would not go up but will certainly fetch better returns," Vijay Sardana, an independent commodity expert.
Zinc utilisation is the automobile sector, too, has potential. Of the total cars manufactured in the country, galvanized zinc is used only in about 15-17 per cent of the production. “Carmakers in India currently use galvanized zinc only for vehicles that are exported which forms 15-17 per cent of the total production. Domestically sold vehicles do not have galvanized car bodies. Due to this, there is big consumption growth potential for zinc in domestic car segment alone,” said Green.
However, the domestic car consumer prefers non galvanized vehicle for cost benefit purpose and instead is given an option of making this addition after the car is finished.
“It’s a myth in the Indian market that car costs will go up on galvanizing the vehicle. For a Rs 10-lakh vehicle, galvanizing would cost additional Rs 5,000-13,000 while cost for doing under spray after car is finished comes to Rs 20,000. Moreover it is an inferior material compared to galvanized car. But due to lack of awareness consumers are opting for the second option,” explained Green.
Slow down in the automobile market is, however, a concern. Major automobile makers on Tuesday reported double-digit decline in domestic passenger vehicle sales in September. The decline in registered sales was for the tenth month in a row in September.
The country's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India saw its domestic sales decline by 26.7 per cent at 1,12,500 units last month as against 1,53,550 units in September 2018.
However, with the onset of the festive season, many brands are expecting the market to improve in the coming months.
Maruti Suzuki India, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Bajaj Auto, Hyundai Motor India, Tata Motors and Honda Cars India are among the top car producers in the country.