India: A Steel Giant With Clay Feet

India is the world’s fourth largest producer of steel, and under the auspices of recent action by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh it will soon take second place, overtaking Japan and the United States and leaving only China unconquered. Growth will only happen with more modern technology that will optimize resources, reduce environmental impact, and minimize waste. The decision to go for second place is an important step for the economic value of a strategic resource and to disprove the hasty claims that India is an economy based only on the service industry. The availability of more steel would have immediate repercussions on India’s productive apparatus. In fact, despite its position in the overall category, India’s per capita steel production is well below the world average: 59 kg versus 215 kg between 2011-2012. It is still a modest figure, despite the progress made since the 34 kg per capita of seven years ago. Both cause and effect, the availability of steel is one of the indicators of a country’s industrial power. If internally it still keeps an uneven pace, where the weight of backwardness is compensated by progress, India’s initiative abroad is widely recognized. The elegant and imposing outline of the ArcelorMittal Orbit can still be seen in London skyline, towering 115 meters over the Olympic Park. It is the tallest monument in Great Britain, built for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games. Nearly the entire construction was financed by ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company with headquarters in Luxembourg. ArcelorMittal’s president and 40% stakeholder is Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, an Indian businessman who started his career in the steel production business in 1976. Mittal reached the pinnacle of industry in the sector through a series of successful acquisitions and became the sixth richest man in the world, according to Forbes. Even the second largest steel plant in Europe is now in Indian hands. Known as Corus, an Anglo-Dutch company, until 2010, the name was changed for brand identity reasons after the plant was taken over by Tata in 2007. An quintessential symbol of industry and economic might is slowly slipping into Asian hands. China produces 44% of the world’s steel, while Japan and South Korea maintain positions of great prominence. India shows both growth and backwardness in the sector, focusing its and abilities abroad but still facing a long and difficult road towards quality and quantity production.