Leveraging the growth opportunity offered by the Indian market: Unnathan Shekhar, MD, Galaxy Surfactants

  • July 04, 2022

Our current Capex – one at Jhagadia and the other at Tarapur is expected to become operational by the end of this financial year

How do you see the evolving trends in Personal and Home Care products?

Sustainability has become an important aspect of FMCG products amid a growing concern of climate change issues with consumers taking active steps in curbing their personal impact on the environment.

Consumers can be seen moving to ‘purpose-driven’ buying of home and personal care products that advocate sensitivity to global issues. We can see global FMCG players also make a move towards greener products.

Consumers prefer products that offer sustainability as well as product functionality that seamlessly fit into their ever-changing lives. We have seen a boost in the sale of mass and massive beauty & personal care products. Amidst the volatile economic situation due to the pandemic, consumers also indulged in affordable luxuries through premium beauty products and therefore, the premium beauty segment has also performed well in the past year.

With the rise in numerous D2C brands, e-commerce remained a preferred medium of purchase for the consumers in India as well as abroad.

The pandemic has given homecare considerable boost due to a comprehensive shift towards disinfection and the sense of security consumers get from having a clean-living environment for themselves and their families.

Post-Covid consumer sentiments have not changed drastically in home care. They are still looking for products that combat bacteria and microorganisms while also focusing on sustainability of homecare products by having natural ingredients. Products launched with anti-microbial claims have been steadily growing in APAC. In India specifically, there is a growing focus on hard surface cleaners and dishwashing products with anti-bacterial claims.

What is the growth mantra for Galaxy Surfactants in targeted segments – Performance Surfactants and Specialty Care products?

Galaxy Surfactants has been consistently delivering growth both in the Performance Surfactants as well as Specialty Care products.

Our strategy has been to drive growth in the mature markets with Specialty Care products. The emerging markets remain important for Performance Surfactants. In today’s fast changing environment, it is imperative that brands are quick in recognising and addressing consumer needs. Galaxy continuously strives to grow ahead of the market by anticipating consumer trends, focusing on path-breaking innovations, delivering value and offering customised solutions through its ‘Consumer to Chemistry’ approach.

Today’s consumers are globally shifting towards sustainable products; aligning infra[1]structural needs with sustainability, innovation, application, regulatory, technology support and business development has always been our mantra.

Sustainable and innovative solutions are not just restricted to Specialty Care products but also relevant to Performance Surfactants.

One such example is the low Dioxane variant of FAES, ‘GalEcoSafe’, developed by Galaxy Surfactants Limited. GalEcoSafe is specially designed Fatty Alcohol Ether Sulphates with ultra-low 1,4-Dioxane levels that not only make end products compliant with the new US regulations but also make them safer for consumption.

Galaxy has a technologically advanced and well-equipped Innovation Centre for new products and application development. How is the company planning to leverage this facility?

The consumer is becoming increasingly aware of what they need and have clearer expectations of the brands they use. The change in consumer demands are quite rapid given the overall increase in the pace of information exchange due to the internet. Galaxy partners with various customers to provide tailor-made solutions for its consumers. We ‘Customise with Care’ for our customers and accordingly deliver innovations that power brands.

The amino acid-based surfactants or mild surfactants such as Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate and Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate are derived from basic amino acids and palm oil[1]based fatty acids are sought after ingredients for today’s personal care formulations.

These surfactants are safe for the people and the planet and have been on the market for a while. Galaxy’s award-winning green technology platform enables us to offer a range of amino acid surfactants which are manufactured using a green catalyst making not only the product green but also the process green.

We have also developed easy-to-use sulphate-free surfactant and sunscreen blends that provide great formulation ease and the required functionality for the customers who want to leverage on our four decades of expertise in making effective ingredients.

What are the new products that you are working on to diversify your innovation funnel?

Today’s mantra is extensive collaboration with customers for end-product development.

 Non-toxic Preservatives - Galguard LipoG is ‘non-toxic’, biodegradable, nature-derived and safe ingredient for consumers and the planet. It is a multi-functional ingredient that can be used for rinse-off, leave-on and wet-wipes application. Its solid nature and flexibility with the particle's size makes it suitable for water-less or concentrated formulations.

With Galguard Tetra, our preservative technology uses Lipidated Glycines, Caprylol Glycine and Undecylenoyl Glycine which are multifunctional cosmetic ingredients made by our unique patented green process.

 Mild surfactants - In the field of green chemistry, Galaxy has done significant work on mild amino acid surfactant technology. With an aim to provide natural, green and sustainable cleansing solutions and as a responsibility towards the environment, Galaxy has come up with a unique mild and green amino acid-based surfactant system ‘Galsoft GLI 21.’ The product is a modern, ultra-mild sulfate-free cleanser. It is a combination of one of the mildest amino acid surfactants and is based on Galaxy’s Green Amino Acid technology.

Galsoft SLL, a condensation product of lactic acid and lauric acid, is a mild and multifunctional molecule. It provides an excellent foam profile, improved emollience, moisturisation and sensorial properties in both rinse-off and leave-on formulations while being readily biodegradable. The ingredient can be used in skin care, hair care and baby care products. Galsoft SLL can also be used to enhance the delivery of ingredients into personal care products such as creams, lotions, baby products, body cleansers, hair cleansers etc.

GalEcoSafe - GalEcoSafe range of surfactants are specially designed Fatty Alcohol Ether Sulphates with ultra-low 1,4-Dioxane levels. The low dioxane levels help to formulate Personal and Homecare products to comply with stringent and upcoming NY S4389B regulations. GalEcoSafe has 1,4-Dioxane content at 5 ppm max, making formulations safe while keeping them functional.

Galaxy Hearth - We have recently launched specialised homecare brand Galaxy Hearth focused particularly for the new normal world demands of consumers. Galaxy Hearth is also based on the fundamental premise of pioneering high sustainability enabling considerations of FMCG brands catering to homecare solutions.

The Hearth range comprises surfactants, wetting agents, viscosity builders, emulsifiers, preservatives, foam enhancers, pearlisers and many more such solutions.

Combined with four decades of formulation expertise posed by Galaxy Surfactants, these ingredients are a perfect solution for all homecare manufacturing needs.

These products are the result of extensive collaboration with customers for end-product development.

How is Galaxy striking a balance between environment-friendly policies and sustainable growth? When is the company planning to achieve net-zero?

With Sustainability - a way of life, Galaxy has embarked on a journey of sustainable growth across all geographies of the operations. Galaxy is committed to integrating sustainability into its business and continues to improve sustainable performance and practices by adopting globally applicable management systems. Galaxy strives to minimize environmental impact by setting long term sustainability goals.

To enhance integrated thinking, decision making and actions that support long term value creation for Galaxy and all its stakeholders, we are focusing on better inclusion of ESG issues into our strategy and operational management through the process of materiality.

We have initiated interaction with suppliers for mutual value creation on sustainability aspects. We have engaged continuously with our supply chain partners to improve operational efficiency and integrate sustainability considerations into our value chain.

Galaxy’s environmental performance are: Committed to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for setting a highly ambitious target to transition to a low carbon economy; All Indian manufacturing units are zero liquid discharge; Gold Rating 2022, awarded by EcoVadis for Galaxy Group; Responsible Care logo for a period from February 2021 to January 2024; Assessment of risks and opportunities related to climate change using TCFD Recommendations; ESG Summit & Awards 2021 under the category of ‘Best ESG Initiative to improve to access to clean water’; CDP Score – Supplier Engagement (A), Climate Change (B), Water (B-), and Forest (C); and Galaxy Surfactants Limited is now 1.4x water positive.

Galaxy’s environmental targets are: Natural gas as main source of fuel; Renewable energy – 40 per cent as a source of electricity in India by 2026; Science based target at group level –committed to comply with the Paris Agreement; Net Water Positive and ZLD at Galaxy Chemicals, Egypt by 2023; 100 per cent waste circularity by 2030; and strong commitment towards product stewardship and life cycle assessment.

Working towards strong ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) parameters has been in the DNA of Galaxy. We firmly believe that sustainable growth, in the long run, can be achieved by striking the right balance between both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the business. Galaxy’s robust performance and strong presence worldwide is testimony of the fact that sustainability does not have to come at the cost of profitability. At Galaxy Surfactants growth is considered effective when it is inclusive.

What factors will drive current and long-term demand, especially in view of supply chain constraints amid continuing Covid-19 pandemic globally? What are your expectations for FY 2022-23?

Galaxy is strategically placed to cater to the home and personal care space. Given the current consumption patterns, demand has been steady. During the worst Covid waves also, the demand for essentials such as toothpaste, soaps, detergents remained stable. Over the past year challenges faced are majorly due to supply-led turmoil in terms of inbound and outbound logistics, steep freight rates, rising energy costs due to Russia - Ukraine conflict. The political instability in the European region is expected to at least continue till H1 of FY 2022-23. We therefore expect demand to remain higher than supply in the coming quarters.

What's the Capex plan for FY 2022-23 and projects and products where you are investing?

Galaxy has always been investing for the future. Our current Capex – one at Jhagadia, Gujarat, and the other at Tarapur, Maharashtra, are expected to become operational by the end of this financial year. These Capex are made for expanding capacities in our Specialty Care product range. 

How is Galaxy Surfactants, India’s largest manufacturer of Oleochemical based surfactants and Speciality Care products for Home and Personal Care industries (HPC), poised for increase in its market share with the emergence of biotechnology-based raw materials and surfactants?

Surfactants that are sustainably sourced, have a low environmental impact, are mild, natural and have low impurities, will dominate the future. These are the attributes of green and bio-surfactants and we have already established our position in green surfactants i.e., mild surfactants category. At Galaxy, bio-surfactants are at a development stage and we are progressing well on the same.

How is Galaxy Surfactants positioned in the domestic and international market vis-a-vis competition?

Galaxy’s unique basket of offerings exclusively caters to the home and personal care space. This product range is effectively leveraged to address the requirements of customers in a comprehensive manner, especially in the Indian market.

Galaxy is an established player in surfactants and specialty care with global presence through its infrastructural capacities in India, Egypt, and the US.

Galaxy’s sourcing capabilities, value chain and customer centricity enables it to create its unique position in the international market. Hence, we believe that we are well positioned to leverage the growth opportunity offered by the Indian market and meet the growing global demand of our leading customers.

Note: This interview has also been published on Chemical Industry Outlook 2022 and here's the link to view full version of the annual compendium.

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