Saint-Gobain to export refractories from India, sets up new R&D centre

Chennai, Jan 29 (IANS) French construction and high performance materials maker Saint-Gobain SA’s new refractories plant in Tamil Nadu, inaugurated by Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Friday, will cater to global markets, said a top group official.

Saint-Gobain group chairman and CEO Pierre-Andre de Chalendar also said the group’s seventh global research centre will innovate and develop products for Indian and other markets.

“The new refractories plant in Perundurai will cater to global markets. The other new investments announced by the group recently (expansion of float glass capacity at Rs.1,000 crore) will be for the Indian market,” he told reporters after Jayalalithaa inaugurated the group’s Rs.300 crore refractory plant for the glass industry in Erode district and Saint-Gobain Research India’s (SGRI) new research centre.

According to de Chalendar, the group spends around 400 million euros annually on research and development (R&D).

Queried about the returns from R&D, he said: “The returns are measured in terms of new products launched replacing old ones. The new products launched during the last five years contribute around 25 percent of the total sales. They have better margins.”

Meanwhile the three year old SGRI – the seventh global research centre for Saint-Gobain – has already started contributing to the global product needs of its parent, said SGRi managing director Anand Tanikella.

“The Indian research centre has already launched 22 products out of which around four has been launched overseas including France. Patents for 15 products have been applied for,” he said.

Tanikella said the Rs.200 crore research centre spread over 120,000 square feet IIT-Madras Research Park now has around 100 scientists and engineers and the headcount will go up to over 250 over a period of time.

The research centre will work on developing innovative and sustainable solutions for the group’s existing business lines – abrasives, architecture and automotive glass, gypsum plasterboard and plasters, high performance ceramics and plastics and others.

According to de Chalendar, the group has not shifted any of the research projects out of its other six global research centres to India.

He said India is an important market for Saint-Gobain group and in 2015, the group logged a sales of Rs.5,100 crore in the country.

The group’s major businesses in India are housed in two entities – Grindwell Norton Ltd, a listed company and Saint-Gobain India Pvt Ltd.

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