Nikhil Mishra, Founder/CEO – NM Jal Maitreya LLP, Pune, Maharashtra

NM Jal Maitreya is a water and wastewater treatment manufacturing company based in Pune, Maharashtra. The company has been successfully providing ETP, STP, and water treatment services for the last 18+ years and serving 500+ customers pan India.

Let us hear from Mr Nikhil Mishra, CEO of NM Jal Maitreya, his “Thoughts, Reflections, & Opinions” on the water and wastewater treatment industry.

  1. How did you start the wastewater manufacturing business? Is it from the beginning to enter a wastewater manufacturing business or has it evolved into one?

NM Jal Maitreya was initially started as a chemical manufacturing company in 2004 supplying water treatment chemicals and chemicals for cleaning industrial machines such as boilers.  In 2009 we entered into a water treatment plant manufacturing business and in 2017 we expanded our portfolio into wastewater treatment plants and we have an in-house fabrication factory under the name NM Jal Maitreya.

2. Did the WWTP sector got hit during the pandemic?  How did NM Jal company survive?

NM Jal is a project-based company and water and wastewater treatment projects are part of large infrastructure projects.  Pandemic had a huge impact across all industries like chemical, food and beverages, paper and pulp and automobile sector and the non-industrial sector such as townships, residential and hospitals where most of our clients come from.  The pandemic has made both the government and the private sectors stall the CAPEX investment in any new projects which affected our business as well and our sales went down by 20% during 2020.  But it got better post-pandemic when there is the mobilisation of funds for new projects and we are also loaded with a lot of orders and our sales increased by 40%!

3. There are only a few big players like VA Tech Wabag, Veolia, Ion-exchange, etc in the WWTP field who do most of the projects. So how do small and medium-scale businesses like NM Jal compete in the industry?

The wastewater market is growing at 18% CAGR in India and it is still in a nascent stage.  All these big players do projects on a scale of 50 cr to 1000 cr.  So, wherever the project value is smaller, up to two crores, NM Jal would compete with local players.  We have recently executed 2 projects of 1 MLD and 2 MLD and we hope to do bigger projects in future.

4. Being a manufacturing company, do you get direct inquiries from clients or is it mostly through EPC companies?

NM Jal is a decade-old company with a vast customer base (500+) from industry and non-industrial sectors.  Hence, most of our inquiries come through direct clients and references.  And yes, we do have that edge in pricing as we have our fabrication unit which gives us better positioning in the bidding process.

5. Why the integration between a local university and a company is low for product development and R&D innovation? What are the challenges?

Developed nations have a very strong industrial-academic partnership, people who teach in universities also collaborate with industries to solve local societal challenges.  This type of industrial-academic integration is in place for many decades in developed nations and students get exposure and training towards practical problems and application-oriented research.  Whereas in India academic institutions and industries mostly work independently.  The collaboration between them is very low and happens on a project basis.  One way to address this challenge is to change the teaching methodology in India with a focus on current challenges and opportunities to create a space for the integration of Industries.

6. According to the National Inventory Sewage report published by CPCB in June 2021, the present sewage generation load of India is 72.3k MLD and the existing STP capacity units are only 31.8k MLD, an almost 56% gap exists. If there is huge demand there should be a boom in the industry or is the boom already happening?

In India, almost 35 to 40% of sewage flows into the Ganges which has made the govt. to initiate the Namami Ganga Project to set up large-scale STPs to treat the sewage before entering the Ganges.  Now, it is safe to say up to 75% of sewage is treated in STPs before entering the Ganges.  And the govt. also implemented a plan called one city one operator where all STPs operations in the city would be given to a particular contractor to monitor.  With these schemes, the quality of the Ganges has improved a lot recently.

This kind of project would be executed in stages throughout India and there is a limit to how much capital can be spent in a year.  So closing this 56% gap would take time and govt. is taking the required steps.

There is also a new scheme put up by the Delhi govt, for a 20 MLD tertiary treatment plant where the sewage water will be treated and converted into drinking water quality and supplied to residential areas.  Singapore has executed a similar scheme successfully for a long time under the name NEW water.

7. In Indian conditions, which technology gives great results for STP plants? And which technology customer trusts the most?

STP designing is one of the easiest as the inlet water quality is standard and many established biological treatment technologies work well with Indian field conditions.   But the major challenge faced in this sector is the lack of trained manpower to operate the treatment plants.   In Bangalore more than 90% STPs are SBR based, and in Pune mostly it is MBBR but these STPs don’t give the desired output water quality which is less than 10% of the designed capacity and most of these STPs are under-utilised.  It is not because of the chosen technology but because of the lack of skilled manpower in operating the STP plant.

Government and private institutions must come forward to train STP/ETP operators to address this challenge.