by B.H.S. Thimmappa
Chemistry has a pivotal role to play in understanding everything from viral vaccines to the development of smart materials used by researchers. This paper provides a brief overview of the impact of covid-19 on the chemical industry after the pandemic. The perspectives provide insight into multiple challenges and approaches in scientific research/business in the context of the current socioeconomic conditions to become a more developed economy in the world. The global game changer in specific lines of business such as home-schooling, home-working, and home-entertaining via fixed wireless access or fiber optic cables will certainly benefit the large population and the average user. Contemporary advancements in science and technology must be reflected in the curriculum of the higher education system and industry-academia collaborations for practical exposure to the students to gain a new understanding and work on solution-based initiatives. We can stay relevant through continuous learning and the upgradation of skills that become more important with changes in technology. Indian chemical industry is the sixth largest chemicals manufacturer (> 80,000 commercial products) and exporter in the world and expects to reach a market size of 383 billion USD by 2030.
The pandemic has forced people to think in different directions. This has resulted in several grassroots-level innovations that simplify technology for the benefit of the common people, particularly in rural areas. For instance, a basic blood marker diagnostic tool to detect hemoglobin levels that help in the early identification of anemia, diabetes, and hypertension. We can assess the general health status of the public through devices/tools that can detect glucose/creatinine/hemoglobin levels that can help manage common disorders and improve rural healthcare in the country. The development of an electronic nose (e-Nose) device for early detection of the signature of lung cancer by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) we exhale is required in India where normally patients reach hospitals in late stages and the use of simple devices helps avoid complex procedures used to detect such cases. The design, development, and applicability of new diagnostic tools or screening devices for other diseases or disorders like asthma, anemia, diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis (TB), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer can revolutionize rural healthcare in a resource-limited setting. One of the most significant aspects of the post-covid scenario is online counseling by medical specialists through collaborative efforts of central and state governments many common conditions can be managed medically with a comprehensive care program to reduce major health risks by the end of this decade. Considering the pandemic impact through various lenses and certain key trend analyses across the chemicals and materials ecosystem indicate strategic business planning, supply chain management, and implementation of the action plan for market participants. Enablers in the journey of accelerated recovery and ensuring business continuity include the use of governmental stimulus packages, creating strategic alliances, collaboration for innovation, the use of mergers and acquisitions opportunities, and transforming to gain competitive advantage.
The recent discovery of lithium resources in Jammu and Kashmir is a welcome energy source based on the development of efficient extraction technologies, alternative energy storage solutions, and designing highly resource-efficient products. The pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, electronics, and automobile sectors have the potential to become global manufacturing and export hubs. India is on the right track, but accelerated transformation through improving ease of doing business, innovative measures to increase investment, establishing industrial infrastructure, communications infrastructure, production-linked incentive schemes, and engaging the future-ready workforce by leveraging demographic dividend would go a long way in becoming a five trillion-dollar economy. Indian economy showed a growth of 6.3 % in quarter 3 of the financial year 2022. Consistent focus and action are required to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth while becoming a leading global economic powerhouse. We have to reimagine and redefine renewable and clean energy, green initiatives (green farming/fuel/technology/vegetation cover), alignment of businesses with global marketing networks, reconfigure supply chain management, and build a strong culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. The chemicals and materials sector is in the recovery phase after the covid-19 impact when the postponement of investment and consumption took place. Now, significant opportunities for growth and transformation allow it to become a thriving business as indicated by scenario analyses. It is essential to achieve sustainable chemical production using resources efficiently and reducing waste generation substantially through prevention, reduction, recycling, and reuse. The latest trend, however, is that of cost-cutting and vendor consolidation because of global macroeconomic uncertainties coupled with rising inflation.
The services sector in India contributes significantly to its GDP (66 %), export, and large-scale employment generation (28 %) and chemicals touch nearly all products we use. This sector includes a variety of activities like construction/business/trade services, hospitality/healthcare/professional services, finance/insurance services, and personal/social/communication services. The knowledge-based services with unique skills and competitive advantage and the GoI support for digital ecosystem, clean India, citizen-centric welfare schemes, and smart cities initiatives make India an emerging market in the world. The demand impact across chemicals end-markets such as agriculture (crop protection/surfactants), automotive (polymers/fuel additives), construction (pigments/solvents), consumer (dyes/polymers), energy (polysilicon/epoxy), nutrition (vitamins/amino acids), pharmaceuticals (pharma excipients/active ingredients), hygiene (emollients/toothpaste), and packaging (plastic/paper) require a shift in their service offerings. The chemical companies provide a broad range of services including product-based, value-added, process optimization, and outcome-based services. The collaboration of citizens, corporates, non-governmental organizations, local bodies, and the GoI matters a lot in bringing greater efficiency to the economy. The critical transport infrastructure projects, digital public infrastructure for different sectors, and support for the growth of the agri-tech industry and startups will contribute to a virtuous cycle of development enabled or impacted by chemicals. The creation of a world-class industrial infrastructure across India as industrial development blocks (IDB) acts as a catalyst to speed up industrial development by attracting business houses and employment generation. India has a photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing segment with a cumulative installed capacity of 63.3 GW. The high demand for solar modules and solar cell manufacturing in domestic and international markets coupled with the revised production-linked incentive schemes of GoI will push solar energy adoption on a large scale (mega expansions), and it is estimated that solar energy will be India’s largest source of electricity generation by 2030. It is important to realize that new tools such as ChatGPT must be integrated into the higher education system to enhance our efficiency, creativity, and productivity in the future. Promoting excellent air, port, rail, and road infrastructure, business-friendly policies, and a digital economy makes India the land of opportunities and a global business hub. Hopefully, India will become the third-largest economy in the world by 2027 and a developed country by 2047.
6. American Chemistry Council, Guide to the Business of Chemistry, January 2020
About the Author:
B.H.S. Thimmappa is a writer from Udupi, India