(Bangladesh) — Akij Cement has leapt dozens of places to become the country’s fifth largest cement manufacturer after it became the first company to produce harmful fly-ash-free building material, a spokesman said Saturday.
Set up in 2002, Akij Cement has been languishing as a low-ranked cement maker before it poured billions of taka in October 2009 to set up the country’s first Vertical Roller Mill technology in its Narayanganj factory.
“After an investment of Tk4.50 billion in the plant, we now have the capacity to produce 4,200 tonnes of cement every day,” said Payar Ahmed Tushar, the Akij Cement brand manager.
“But due to energy crisis we can produce only 2,200 tonnes of cement a day. The amount is nearly four times of our initial production but still makes Akij Cement the country’s fifth largest cement maker,” he said.
Tushar said the success of the company, part of the tobacco-beverage giant Akij Group, lies in its ability to produce the harmful fly-ash free cement – thanks to installation of the costly VRM technology.
“Of the 41 plants producing cement in the country, we are the only company that does not use fly-ash to produce cement. Fly-ash lowers the quality of cement and weakens a building,” he said.
“Akij Cement has received huge response from clients. We are even failing to meet the demand, which has outpaced supply by three-folds,” he said.
He said most Bangladeshi cement companies produce composite cement, which contains 65 to 79 per cent clinker and the rest additives like-fly ash, slug and limestone cent. Gypsum accounts for up to five per cent.
Akij Composite Cement is the only brand in Bangladesh that contains 72-79 per cent clinker, a 7-14 per cent up from the mandatory standards set by the government.
“Nobody can question the quality of our product. Tests conducted by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) have found the strength of our cement unbeatable,” Mr Tushar said.
The company imports 48-53 grade clinker from Thailand, Indonesia and Japan, he said.
Mr Tushar said brand image of Akij Group – whose interests include jute, food and beverages, particle board, textile, paper, printing, computer, healthcare and tobacco – has helped the cement venture make an “easy foray” into the market.
“Consumers have faith in Akij Cement products and they believe that Akij Group never compromises with its quality. Akij is the name of trust and quality,” he said.
Akij Cement has employed 720 people directly and 1,200 indirectly and has plans to increase the capacity to 100,000 bags from the existing 82,000 bags a day to meet rising demand.
Mr Tushar told the FE that the company’s initial target is to utilise the existing capacity and get a maximum output, but the existing low pressure of gas and nagging power crisis are holding back its potential.
“Although we are running three shifts a day, our production has declined due to energy crisis,” he said adding that they get power supply for only 10-12 hours a day.
“If we had adequate power and gas supply, we would be able to meet the demand,” said Mr Tushar.
The company has installed a captive power plant with a capacity of 6.76 megawatt. It is also setting up another 10MVA, 33/11KV capacity power plant to ride out the energy crisis.
He said all industrial units have been suffering due to the current energy crunch. The recent weeklong strike by vessel workers has also affected the sector, he said.
Currently, 41 cement players are active in the country to produce 52 brands. Of the brands, only nine operate nationwide, seven in some parts of the country and the rest 36 cater to areas where they are set up.
Among the brands only six are Portland cement producers who use 95 per cent clinker and the rest are composite brand makers mostly using the government-fixed 65 per cent clinker.
At present, the country’s annual cement production capacity is 2.11 million tonnes, which is nearly twice the consumption of around 1.15 million tonnes.
According to Tushar, Shah Cement is the market leader with a production capacity of 120,000 bags a day, followed by Heidelberg, Lafarge, Holcim and Akij Cement.
Although the market is highly saturated, major companies are planning expansion to cut production cost and increase their share in the market as they are running at 60 per cent of their capacity.
Cement demand has clocked double digit growth last year after the construction sector posted an impressive growth of eight per cent, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
The demand would soar in the coming years as billions of dollars of remittance have fueled a construction boom across the length and breadth of the country