Sanjeev Gupta is being dubbed the UK's new “man of steel” after he emerged as a potential saviour of jobs if he were to acquire Tata Steel's UK assets, which went up for sale in March. 'India Global Business' caught up with the founder and executive chairman of Liberty House Group to delve into the crisis in the European steel industry, restarting mothballed steelworks and why he feels his GreenSteel model would prove more resilient. How has bidding for Tata Steel UK played out for you There has been a lot of pressure and my number of sleeping hours has definitely gone down. If heavy job losses comes out to be the price to pay, we would not be the ones undertaking the exercise. We will undertake this exercise if we can sustain jobs, which we feel is possible at this stage. The bid is based on Liberty's 'GreenSteel' business model and would involve a transition from steelmaking in blast furnaces to recycling steel in electric arc furnaces over time, while ensuring the company continues to meet key customers′ quality requirements. What sets your GreenSteel model apart Energy has always been central to our concerns. Steelmaking would be ultimately powered by renewable energy sources. Liberty believes the UK steel industry can achieve long-term viability if based on an agile, sustainable, non-cyclical model which integrates liquid steel-making from recycling with downstream production and the manufacture of advanced engineering products. The conclusions of a Cambridge University team also match our own industry analysis and GreenSteel strategy very closely and we believe their work will be hugely valuable to us in developing and refining our business model for the sector. Making liquid steel from scrap involves half the cost and a third of the carbon footprint of the equivalent blast furnace method of production, so making the transition over time to recycling will give us a greener and far more competitive industry. While we firmly believe the future of UK steel is in recycling, we are very conscious th at we need to protect the high-end customer base in automotive and other applications, so we will work with them [Cambridge University team led by Prof. Julian Allwood] to forge a transition plan that meets their expectations. Do you see the crisis in the European steel industry improving I don't think the crisis will abate any time soon as the main issue is excess capacity, which will continue in the world for some time. But based on domestic demand, each country can make an efficient industry out of it [steel]. Even if more was or is done, the model itself is to be questioned. The model based on countries (China) where there is no raw material and they are holding everything is the problem. Does re-starting Tata Steel's Scottish plants bring further confidence This particular deal was being negotiated since November last year. Now that we finally have the control and the possibility to get going, it's exciting. It marks a fresh chapter in efforts to begin work on the re-opening and recovery of the two mothballed plate operations at Dalzell and Clydebridge in Lanarkshire. Despite the current anxieties surrounding steel, I believe the sector has a future in the UK and, more particularly, a future in Scotland. Like in Wales and the West Midlands, where our business model is already at work, steel is very much part of the fabric of Scottish industry and we are confident we have the calibre of people here who will keep it where it belongs, at the heart of the economy. This is our first step in Scotland, based on our experience so far we are confident we can build on this positive relationship, leading us to further opportunities and investments that will benefit the Scottish economy. What is the underlying strategy behind re-starting mothballed plants
The steel ecosystem is at the heart of manufacturing, and the global oversupply of steel increases the need for the UK to refocus our industrial strategy around both reducing costs and adding value to steel. Without significant change we will lose the remaining cornerstone of manufacturing. Our plan is to restructure the sector around production efficiency, engineering integration, and innovation. Tredegar [South Wales Valley] will also once again supply steel tube domestically. This is great news for the UK steel industry and for skilled workers in South Wales. It is also another step in turning the tide for the UK's steel industry. Steel tube is a vital link in the supply chain and adds to the integration which is essential for the sector. Britain's outstanding skills, engineering and production knowledge and resources can re-invigorate the supply chain and bring about a new industrial renaissance. Do you think Tata Steel's UK exit would impact Indian investments into the UK The point is the industry needs investments and India has a natural affinity with the UK, which is why to begin with all these investments were done by Tata, and that will continue.