Will continue investment in R&D to drive innovation and develop new products and solutions: Ajay Popat, President, Ion Exchange (India)

Ion Exchange has contributed in shaping the water industry’s response by providing innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions for water and waste water management

  • June 24, 2024

Ion Exchange (India) Ltd. has completed 60 years of operations. How has the journey been so far? 

Ion Exchange completed 60 years of incorporation on March 6, 2024. We are pioneers of water treatment in India and over the years, have developed innovative solutions to address water-related challenges, contributing significantly to the industry's growth and development. 

Through our 60 years’ journey, we have also expanded our reach and product offerings to newer markets while serving every sector. We entered new markets with concepts like desalination, recycling, zero liquid discharge and affordable solutions for rural water treatment. Thus, we have created impressive global water references for total water and environment management solutions for industries, homes and communities.

Throughout our 60-year journey, Ion Exchange has continually invested in research and development to stay at the forefront of technological advancements in water treatment. This includes development of new products, processes and solutions to meet evolving customer needs and regulatory requirements. 

In 1976, Ion Exchange set up the first international plant in Malaysia. Since then, we have continued to successfully execute large number of projects globally meeting the exacting needs of our international customers. Last year, Ion Exchange acquired Portugal based company MAPRIL for penetrating the European market as part of our sustainable growth strategy.

Exports now account to 30% of our sales.  For nearly three decades, we have built a favourable position as a reliable exporter of quality Ion Exchange resins, water treatment plants, chemicals and services. 

Over the past decade, we have added many milestones to our legacy. Notably, our consolidated revenue crossed the milestone of Rs. 2,000 crore in FY 2022-23. We continued to invest in EESG practices as fundamental building blocks for our sustainable growth. We have committed ourselves to 14 of the 17 Sustainable development Goals and are on track to achieve new zero target by 2023.

We have also strengthened our CSR program aimed at addressing water scarcity, promoting water conservation and supporting community development initiatives.

As a six-decade old company operating in volatile, uncertain environments, we have faced challenges while we maintained our leadership position. Successfully navigating these challenges has been the key attribute to our long-term success.

How has the overall performance been for Ion Exchange (India) Ltd. in 2023 -24 and what is the expectation from 2024-25?

For 9 months of FY 2023-24, on a consolidated basis, our operating income increased 8% YoY. Profit after tax increased 8% on a YoY basis. We expect this trend to continue in subsequent years while treading with caution against global geo political, economic headwinds. However, considering good backlog of orders and increasing awareness on water security, we predict our growth in 2024-25 and the foreseeable future to be good. 

What are the key factors that have contributed to Ion Exchange India's success and growth in the industry?

As trailblazers in the water and environment management sector, we continuously seek innovative solutions, whether originating from our internal research or global strategic partnerships with experts. 

Amidst escalating competition, our strategy remains resolute: embracing innovation to enhance our performance. This ensures our ability to expertly address evolving customer needs. By consistently integrating new technologies, we not only maintain relevance but also lead as a premier global provider of water treatment solutions. We have honed expertise in delivering tailored water solutions for homes, communities, industries and institutions alike.

In addition, Ion Exchange has continued to diversify its offerings beyond traditional water treatment solutions. This includes the development of engineered products and process solutions for separation, purification, concentration and recovery using advance ion exchange resins, adsorbents and membrane technologies.


What are the key revenue growth drivers for the company and how are you planning to grow your business in the coming years?

Some of our key growth drivers are:

?          Innovative Product Development: Continuously innovating and developing new products and solutions to meet evolving customer needs and regulatory requirements drives revenue growth.

?          Expansion into New Markets: Expanding into new geographic markets and industries increases the company's customer base and revenue streams.

?          Strategic, sustained investments in manufacturing - capacity building to meet growing market demands for our products, solutions and services.

?          Focus on Sustainability: Offering sustainable and eco-friendly solutions aligns with increasing customer demand for environmentally responsible products and services, driving revenue growth

?          Digital Transformation: Our IonSite digital solutions leverage digital technologies and data analytics to monitor real time performance of water assets, enhance operational efficiencies and ensure continuity of operations without unplanned breakdowns. 

How do you optimize capacity utilization of your plants? What steps do you take to minimize downtime and ensure that the facilities are operating efficiently?

Ion Exchange optimizes capacity utilization of not only plants within our fence but also at our customer’s site through our digital 24X7 services to ensure that facilities operate efficiently with minimal downtime.  

?          Predictive Maintenance: Implementing predictive maintenance techniques allows us to detect potential equipment failures before they occur. This minimizes unplanned downtime and maximizes equipment uptime.

?          Scheduled Maintenance: Developing comprehensive maintenance schedules helps ensure regular maintenance tasks are performed at optimal intervals, reducing the risk of unexpected breakdowns.

?          AI-based Continuous Monitoring: IonSite Digital Twin is a cloud based solution that leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) and wastewater modeling technology to predict and avoid water quality issues, identify cost savings and provide real-time performance advice. This allows for early detection of abnormalities and proactive intervention to prevent issues from escalating.

?          Training and Skill Development: Providing ongoing training and skill development programs for plant operators and maintenance personnel ensures they have the necessary knowledge and skills to operate equipment efficiently and troubleshoot issues effectively.

?          Process Optimization: Continuously monitoring and analyzing process performance data allows for identification of opportunities for process optimization and efficiency improvements, leading to increased throughput and capacity utilization. 

With increasing concerns about water scarcity and pollution, how does Ion Exchange (India) address these challenges and provide sustainable solutions?

Ion Exchange’s strongest asset is its unique capability to provide 360° sustainable solutions for water & waste water treatment across industries, institutions, homes and communities - both urban & rural, to customers globally for six decades.

Ion Exchange has contributed in shaping the water industry’s response by providing the most innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions for water and waste water management. And we shall continue to channel all our strengths and efforts into doing this. I see Ion Exchange playing a dominant role particularly in bringing cost-effective, user-friendly solutions for waste water treatment and reuse, introducing technologies that require less energy & less use of chemicals.

The impressive countrywide and global infrastructure Ion Exchange has built - seven manufacturing facilities across the country, an assembly centre in Hamriyah Free Trade zone, Sharjah, UAE and a chemical blending unit in Bahrain, warehouse & assembly centre in Indonesia , the new acquisition in Portugal and sales and branch offices both in India and overseas backed a strong network of dealers and stockists have enabled our customers and prospects to benefit by our innovative, quality offerings to meet their ever increasing demand for water and meeting their sustainability goals. 

Supported by an extensive 24X7 Digital Service infrastructure, we are well placed to meet challenges faced due to scarce water availability, stringent discharge norms, increasing costs and demands for this limited and scarce resource - viz water. 

How does Ion Exchange (India) Ltd. differentiate itself from its competitors in terms of product offerings, customer service, and overall value proposition?

Ion Exchange (India) Ltd. distinguishes itself from competitors through several key factors in its product offerings, customer service and overall value proposition:

?          Innovative Solutions: Ion Exchange is known for its continuous innovation in developing cutting-edge water treatment solutions. We invest significantly in research and development to introduce new products and technologies that address evolving customer needs and regulatory requirements.

?          Customization: Ion Exchange offers customized solutions tailored to the specific requirements of each customer. By understanding the unique challenges faced by different industries and applications, we deliver solutions that optimize performance and efficiency.

?          Comprehensive Product Portfolio: Ion Exchange provides a comprehensive portfolio of water treatment products and services, including ion exchange resins, membranes, specialty chemicals and engineering solutions. This breadth of offerings allows customers to source all their water treatment needs from a single, trusted provider.

?          Quality and Reliability:. We adhere to stringent quality control measures throughout the manufacturing process to ensure consistent performance and customer satisfaction.

?          Technical Expertise: We boast a team of highly skilled engineers, scientists and technical experts who provide comprehensive support to customers. From system design and installation to troubleshooting and maintenance, we offer unparalleled technical expertise and assistance.

?          Digital 24X7 Service: We are committed to providing exceptional after-sales service and support. We offer maintenance contracts, spare parts availability and prompt response to customer inquiries and service requests, ensuring minimal downtime and maximum uptime for customers' systems.

Could you elaborate on some of the major projects or partnerships that Ion Exchange (India) has undertaken, highlighting the impact created?

Our acquisition of Portugal based company MAPRIL last year has strengthened penetration into the European market in line with our sustainable growth strategy. 

We have witnessed a steady order flow, both in the domestic and international market for engineering, chemicals & services. This includes a 40 MLD Seawater Desalination project for a leading EPC company in North Africa followed by repeat orders for even larger capacities following the timely and quality completion of contract within stringent time lines for the 40 MLD Sea Water Desalination Project. We also received EPC contracts for Desalination and Complex Waste treatment from one of India’s largest offshore oil exploration unit.

Other significant orders include a complete Zero Liquid Discharge plant and a turnkey contract for capacity expansion at Indian Oil Corporation, Panipat Refinery. 

We have also received several EPC contracts for Water Treatment Recycle and Complete Zero Liquid Discharge plants from leading companies in paint, food & beverages, steel, textiles, to name a few.

As a leader in the industry, how important is environmental sustainability for Ion Exchange (India) Ltd., and how do you ensure it is incorporated into all aspects of your operations?

The key aspects of Ion Exchange’s sustainability strategy are based on the purpose of our business i.e. to conserve the planet’s most precious resources through total water and environment management solutions. 

Our factories make all efforts to reduce the water footprint by efficient water usage in non-product applications such as cleaning activities, gardening, and for domestic purposes Certification under ISO 14001 ensures system adherence to environment protection guidelines and periodic reporting of compliance to senior management. Emissions generated are within the permissible limits given by CPCB. 

An example is the green manufacturing practice followed at our resins manufacturing plant at Ankleshwar.  This is the largest resins manufacturing unit in India.  Ankleshwar being an industrial area having a cluster of chemical units with inadequate treatment of chemical waste generated by them; the water table and natural water source is heavily polluted. Our facility has an effluent treatment system treating waste streams to acceptable levels for discharge. Our commitment to recover water from the effluent and reduce the load on the environment led us to initiate a first-of–its–kind project to extend the treatment of effluents by a series of state-of-the-art and sophisticated membrane systems.  

Ion Exchange has an extensive protocol/ mechanism to test our products for their impact on the customers and the environment. Measuring, monitoring and improving impact across the lifecycle of products and operations will continue to be another key factor of the strategy to achieve our goal to create a positive impact on nature and people’s lives and transform Ion Exchange into a water positive operation.

Besides this, an important part of our sustainability strategy is to ensure the well-being of our employees as well as the communities whom we serve.  

What are the future growth strategies and areas of focus for Ion Exchange (India) in the coming years?

Ion Exchange (India) will continue investment in research and development to drive innovation and develop new products and solutions that address emerging market needs and technological advancements. Expanding into new geographic markets and industries through market diversification and international expansion will continue to be important for us. Leveraging digital technologies and data analytics, will result in improving decision-making, enhance operational efficiency and deliver value-added services to customers. 

We will continue to increase focus on sustainability initiatives, including offering eco-friendly products and solutions, promoting water conservation and supporting environmental stewardship through corporate social responsibility programs. 

Finally, investing in talent development and skill enhancement programs are key for us to ensure the company has the necessary expertise and capabilities to drive innovation, deliver exceptional service, and execute growth strategies effectively.

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