ICCL makes a defiant comeback from the brink
Jan 18, 2001
The New India Express

It has been a comeback from the edge of a cliff for Indian Charge Chrome Ltd. (ICCL). And what a defiant comeback it has been! After touching the nadir during the mid to late-Nineties, ICCL, the largest ferro chrome producer in Asia has made a significant turnaround in its operations.

Almost all facets have shown remarkable improvement, starting from charge chrome production to power generation during the last calendar year. The total production of charge chrome, the company's core product, touched 60231 metric tonnes (mt), which marked a 32 percent growth over the previous best achieved in 1998. Similarly, the captive thermal power plant recorded its highest ever power generation of 768 million units during the year. No wonder, the charge chrome company is all charged up.

UNFORESEEABLE DEVELOPMENTS: But it was almost a distant dream when the integrated ferro chrome producer, based in Choudwar, was on a gradual slide in the Nineties. "Those were unforeseeable developments," says Subhrakant Panda, Joint Managing Director of ICCL . When he joined, the company was passing through its lowest ebb.

Though the captive power plant was commissioned in 1989, followed by the charge chrome plant in 1991, the company did not get captive mining lease till 1999. "We had to be dependent on ore from external sources and this raised our internal cost of production. " Panda said, adding, this is where things started to go wrong.

Then came the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union which compounded the woes of ICCL. As chrome offtake from Indian market declined after the disintegration, the chrome prices crashed through the floor causing a revenue burden on the company. The sub-optimal power generation by the CPP only worsened matters.

"But two things kept us going." the suave-yet firm JMD says, "ICCL's commitment to the share-holders and the dream of my father, Dr Bansidhar Panda to make ICCL a world class ferro-chrome complex. We never wanted to run away from the scene saying enough is enough."

The management and its workers never gave up and managed to resolve a number of key issues including supply of ore, optimal power generation capacity and improved mining operations.

IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY: After it bagged the mining lease for captive consumption in Sukinda Valley in 1999, ICCL was assured of a steady ore supply of consistent quality. By improving mining productivity, the company is now able to meet its raw material requirements from its own sources. Against the rated capacity of 62500 mt, ICCL now produces at near peak. This is in stark contrast to the production of 35000-40000 mt during 1998-99.


Subhrakant Panda,
Joint Managing Director, ICCL


The resolution of technical issues at the CPP has also ensured that it generates power at optimal level. The company has already started repaying its defaulted amounts to the Industrial Development Bank of India and other financial institutions. "These were not willful defaults and the steady repayments have made a big difference to the company's credibility. During the last calendar year, we have paid back about Rs 25 crore under this head," Panda informs.

Despite the slump in the ferro alloys market, the company has bagged a long term contract with Pohang Steel of South Korea and its Far East commitments have strengthened. Exuding confidence about a good faring ahead, Panda says: "Earlier, when we used to produce about 4000 mt every month, the workers were happy, But now they strive for more."

However, "the company is still not out of the woods," he says, adding following the turnaround, ICCL has submitted a rehabilitation package to IDBI to augment its position.

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