Century makes big entrance into top quality tissue sector in India

The Indian tissue market, by most calculations, seems ready to grow. And Century Paper’s decision to make large quantities of prime grade tissue may help push it along even faster.

Hugh O’Brian

Century Pulp and Paper in India, under the dynamic chairmanship of Mr. B. K. Birla, is entering the tissue business in a big way through the installation of what will be India’s largest and most modern tissue machine. In November this year the company, which is part of the influential B. K. Birla Group, will complete a INR1.75 billion (USD45 million) investment project which includes a new 100 ton per day DCT tissue machine and stock prep lines from Metso, as well as rewinders from A. Celli.

Century’s management comes across with quiet confidence, thinking big and ready to act rapidly when it senses an opportunity. And it is doing just that. After studying the Indian tissue market, the Century board decided to enter the Indian tissue business in a major way through the installation of PM 5 that will be capable of making over 30,000 tons per year of high quality soft tissue based on 100% virgin fiber.


DIFFICULT MARKET TO GET SOLID NUMBERS. By Century’s estimates, the market demand in India for high quality tissue paper today amounts to about 40-50,000 tons per year. Most of this top quality tonnage is imported either as jumbo rolls or finished product. There is also approximately 50-60,000 tons per year of mid-quality or semi-soft tissue made by the existing main players in the market.

The Indian tissue market analysis is difficult, Century says, because it is hard to get a good grip on true supply and demand data in India. A complicating factor is the large amount of lower grade ‘Flat’ tissue like high density MG tissue that is made by very small mills that do not report their production figures to any trade association. Thus the total production of tissue in India is unknown but there may be as much as 100,000 tons a year of this low quality flat tissue being made by hundreds of small mills around this vast country.


GROWTH OF PRIME GRADES AT 40-50%.”As a comparison,” Century adds, “demand in China is estimated at about 800,000 tons per year of prime grade tissue for a population which is slightly higher than India. We are only at maybe 50,000 tons and it is all imported. So it appears that China is using something like 13 times the per capita amount of India.”

“The truth is we really don’t know the numbers but we see soft high quality tissue growing at 40-50% per year. Thus we are very positive about the market growth possibilities for prime tissue in India. Today there is no one making top quality tissue, so this is a great opportunity that we do not want to miss. The Indian economy is growing, the middle and upper middle class are expanding rapidly and people want their lifestyle and comfort levels to rise as well. Tissue plays a great role in the comfort of people’s lives and we are confident that the new Century brand tissue will be very successful as a part of this.”

“We intend to develop the market in a very positive manner through creative marketing and promotion. By starting the new tissue machine, we will be able to feed our own brand for finished products, while also displacing some of the jumbo roll imports into the country.”


CONVERTING AROUND THE COUNTRY. The tissue machine will be the mill’s number 5 PM and will use virgin pulp as the raw material to achieve top quality product. The idea is to make tissue on the machine at the Lalkua mill and ship jumbo rolls to converting plants around the country near the large population centers. Finished product, using the Century brand for household paper, will then be shipped to distributors and retailers. The company also plans to sell jumbo rolls to other converters in India and for export, as needed.

Century Paper has been making pulp and paper at its mill site in Lalkua, 270 km north-east of Delhi, since 1984. Over the years it has successively added paper machines and fiber lines so that it today has a capacity of about 700 tons per day or close to 200,000 tons per year of various grades. Paper grades presently made at the mill include printing and writing papers, industrial papers, security papers and other specialties, as well as copy paper.

The mills fiber lines produce what must be a unique combination of pulp qualities in the world. There is a bagasse line making 80,000 tpy, a recycled fiber line producing 75,000 tpy, a hardwood kraft line, using mainly eucalyptus, making 40,000 tpy and a rayon grade dissolving pulp line which has an output of 30,000 tpy.


BIG EXPANSION PROJECTS MOVING AHEAD. Besides a possible second tissue machine coming along in the not too distant future, the mill management team is already moving full speed ahead with a giant expansion set for startup in late 2009. This includes a big new 500 tpd paper machine to make high quality coated board as well as a large ECF hardwood pulp line. The pulp line will produce 450 tpd in a batch process while the paper machine will be making very high quality coated board for packaging applications such as foods, liquids, medical items and various consumer products.

Looking further down the line, Century is planning a greenfield printing and writing paper mill in West India in 2010. This 500-tpd facility, which will be based on recycled fiber as the raw material, is being planned on a 250-acre site recently purchased near Bharuch, located on India’s west coast 400 km north of Mumbai.


EMPHASIS ON THE ENVIRONMENT. Over the years the Century mill has received numerous awards for both energy and environment achievements. The mill has taken an interesting approach to its effluent treatment plant, making it into a beautiful area of the mill. It has been landscaped into a park-like area where workers can relax in a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere. Century wanted to make a statement by stressing the importance of the effluent treatment plant instead of simply hiding it at the back of the mill which happens so often in paper mills.


A GROWING CHILD. As far as the future of its tissue business, Century is very confident. The newly constructed machine hall for PM 5 is all set up for a second tissue machine, a mirror image of the first. When that will happen remains to be seen. The confidence is reflected in the whole mill, which is very modern with new projects such as the coated board and fiber line project planned for start in 2009. Growth is certainly the future path for Century, the company says.

“If you have a child and it is not growing, you are worried. In the same way, we want Century Paper to be continually growing so we can be sure of a bright future.” This is the clear philosophy of Century and it is assuring a proper upbringing in the whole organization with all the necessary characteristics for good success and development all through its long life.

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