Michael Thiemann, CEO, ThyssenKrupp India

ThyssenKrupp India, the diversified German multinational which had recently voiced its interest in pitching for India’s upcoming submarine contracts, has now expressed plans to make super critical boilers for the domestic power sector through strategic collaborations with a foreign company.

The Essen-headquartered engineering conglomerate will make the high-grade environment-friendly boilers, which use less fuel, either at its Pune or Hyderabad plants and is currently scouting for an ideal international partner to collaborate which will soon be its future growth area, CEO Michael Thiemann said in an interview.

“We are looking at all potential partners. It could be a Finnish expert or any other company. This is still at the planning stage but very much a part of our growth program for India,” he added. Boilers are an integral part of thermal power plants and constitute almost a third of the cost of such projects which typically have a benchmark of about `6-8 crore for generating one megawatt of power.

Boiler manufacturing caught up fast in 2006 when Indian companies rushed to join hands with foreign companies to tap India’s growing needs for power. The trend also saw the government announce a multitude of so-called mega power projects – with a minimum capacity of 4,000 MW – that later was scaled down due to fuel scarcity and liquidity problems for power distribution companies. Indian engineering giant L&T tied up with Japan’s Mitsubishi in 2007 and is now one of the leading private contractors for power projects, apart from state-owned NTPC and BHEL.

ThyssenKrupp which had entered India by acquiring Raymond’s steel unit near Nashik in 2000, now wants to bet more on high value industrial solutions including defence, aerospace and elevators, while reducing the exposure on steel. This is part of a unified global plan for ThyssenKrupp which has also identified India as a growth area that could also house increased manufacturing operations for the group. In fact the global board of ThyssenKrupp is slated to meet in India next year.

The shift in focus is paradigm. “Five years back, steel was 60% of ThyssenKrupp’s business. Today it is at 30%,” said Thiemann, signaling how one of the world’s largest steel makers is adapting to address price volatility and leveraging on engineering expertise to grow in the defence sector.

ThyssenKrupp had recently expressed interest in collaborating with Indian partners to pitch for the `60,000-crore upcoming submarine contracts and has been talking to private shipyards including L&T, Anil Ambani’s Pipavav and state-owned Hindustan Shipyard and Mazgaon Docks.

To bolster its ageing underwater combat fleet, the Indian government will soon issue tenders for the construction of six stealth submarines, through the ‘buy and make in India’ process that allows Indian companies to tie-up with foreign collaborators. This is in addition to the six Scorpene submarines currently being constructed at Mazgaon Docks.