Business Standard

‘Consistent growth in India gives hope for two decades’

- Chief Executive Officer, Linde SANJIV LAMBA

Linde Plc is bullish on India’s growth story and has investment plans of $1 billion for three to five years. SANJIV LAMBA, chief executive officer, Linde talks to Amritha Pillay in Mumbai about the global chemical company's blueprint for India, which ranges from an AI campus and more manufactur­ing facilities, to service semiconduc­tor makers and plans to explore green hydrogen production. Edited excerpts:

What does the global picture look like before we get to India as a market?

Overall, the world is slowing. The US has been a very resilient market. I can see it flatten off. Mexico is a bit of a bright spot in Latin America. And beyond that, things are all stable. Europe is a story of a continued small decline but has been more resilient than expected. I don't see any catalyst that's going to change that. The Middle East is a different story. I see that as a growth story. I always say Asia is a story of two countries - China is somewhat disappoint­ing in its recovery, and slow growth, and India is reporting strong growth numbers. India is the bright spot. We're seeing consistent growth in India and that gives me a lot of hope for the next two decades.

How much of the China-plusone strategy has played out?

I see a China-plus-two policy or strategy. Essentiall­y China-plusone comes into Asia, and Plustwo goes into the Americas, primarily Mexico, and a little bit of reshoring back in the

US. As far as Asia goes, you hear about Vietnam, but it is not in the same league as

India. A bulk of these investment­s are coming into India, and that momentum will only grow. So, we are pretty bullish from that point of view.

What kind of investment­s are you planning for Indian market?

The growth trajectory in India is very strong for us. I'd be disappoint­ed if we don't make investment decisions of more than $1 billion in the next three to five years in new plants and facilities, creating employment and building the ecosystem. This would be the highest-ever investment we have made in that time span in plants, facilities, creating employment, and developing an ecosystem.

And which are the industries in India where you see this growth coming from?

Our traditiona­l end markets, and clean energy. India needs more steel, refining, and petrochemi­cals. I am also very excited about the potential for growth in electronic­s and semiconduc­tors. On the semiconduc­tor investment cycle, we will be right there and we are pre-investing in facilities to be prepared for that investment cycle. We are also in the advanced stages of prospectin­g for a global AI campus in India, our investment in that will sit outside the $1 billion investment plan.

On servicing the semiconduc­tor business, would most of your planned new facilities be in Gujarat?

Gujarat is very important to us. We were in Ahmedabad this week, and I'm excited about the prospects for us.

On the new energy segment, you have an interestin­g view, where you are not bullish on green hydrogen. Why so?

For our world, and in India, we should not talk about colours because it's misleading and misguided. We should be focused on carbon intensity and see hydrogen in two buckets, low carbon intensity hydrogen and renewable hydrogen. To build scale with electrolys­ers, there is some way to go. The capital cost of electrolys­ers based on the technology roadmap that we have needs to come down by about 60 per cent. Electrolys­is needs a lot of water; the world is headed for a water crisis. So, if you're going to produce renewable hydrogen with electrolys­ers, you have to be thinking potentiall­y of infrastruc­ture line desalinati­on and that's added to the investment cost.


India right now is heavily focused on green hydrogen, so where does Linde fit in?

My view is we will build smallscale electrolys­ers because it allows us to test the technology. We want to kick the tires and see if the thing is going to run long enough for us to get the confidence that we can invest and not worry about it. So, from an Indian perspectiv­e, we will invest in electrolyz­ers in India. We are happy to produce green hydrogen and its derivative­s for supplies to refineries, fertiliser, and others. As soon as we have an off-taker, you will see us announce investment­s.

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