Membrane Filtration Technology: An Insight into the Market with Dr B Chakravorty
- Dr B Chakravorty, Managing Director, Genesis Membrane and President, Indian Membrane Society

"Our market has enough potential and if we consider 30 per cent of Indians to be reasonably well placed in terms of purchase power and if they opt for safe drinking water, there is better business for the entire water based industry at large," states Dr B Chakravorty, Managing Director, Genesis Membrane and President, Indian Membrane Society while elucidating the membrane market in India.

Membrane filtration technology offers the flexibility to adjust the pore size and get the desired level of water purity and is widely used in a bevy of Indian industries. CEW asked Dr B Chakravorty to gain better insight about the membrane market in India. He stated that membranes used in India are all imported from countries like the US, Japan and Korea. The Indian membrane market is approximately 450-500 crores; there is, however, no reliable way to know the precise estimate of the entire market.

Membrane is a replaceable commodity which means that when a system is sold once, the membrane could be replaced again after 3 years or 5 years. The membrane replacement market is about USD 60 million.

Market Growth Rate
According to some estimate and market research, this industry is growing at a rate of 25-30 percent and in a few years, is expected to hit the 1000 crore mark. This is because of the emergence of new markets and the unhindered continuation of the existing one. Our market has enough potential as we are a population of 1.25 billion and we can safely consider 30 percent of Indians to be reasonably well placed in terms of purchase power. If they opt for safe drinking water, this immediately translates to better business for bottled water, increased usage of RO machines and for the entire water based industry at large elucidates Dr Charkravorthy. Currently, the market of membrane is mostly concentrated in water viz. for domestic purposes, drinking water, bottled water and RO processes.

Market Challenges
Dr Chakravorty said that though the market shows potential for growth, the lack of innovation in our country has compelled many Indian manufacturers to import membrane technology. Even simple equipment like dozing pumps, flow -metre etc, is imported from China because of cost and unfair government system where the bulk of benefits are passed to big business groups, making survival of small business groups and MSMEs difficult.

Membrane for Water Pollution
He further stated that we need to be conscious about water pollution and adopt ways to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. The main issue plaguing our ecosystem is over exploitation of ground water. In land locked states, the effects could be reversible but such an occurrence can spell disaster for coastal regions. Once ground water is brought to the earth's surface under pressure, the horizontal migration of water facilitates the sea water to enter the water system. Ground water reserves need to be replenished either by effectively treating sewage water or by artificially pumping natural water bodies with excess oxygen. With adequate research and capital investment, membrane technology can be applied on a wide scale to reduce the problem of ground water pollution and slowly restore semblance in the ecosystem.

Global Trends and Opportunities
The membrane industry is extremely secretive in its research and the main focus rests on material science that helps in the production of newer, improved membrane materials. The new class of membranes are extremely thin yet robust and exhibit high levels of stability in terms of chemicals, temperature and mechanical stability. This enables the deliverance of high productivity at low energy.

Apart from the widely used polymer membranes, the inorganic variant -ceramic membranes have a bright future in industrial application. Being a very stable material, it can withstand high temperature and pH levels. It is employed in microfiltration, ultra-filtration, nano filtration and reverse osmosis and even finds applicability in membrane bio-reactors.

Even though there is less membrane manufacturing activity in India, Dr Chakravorty opines that manufacturers can focus on other aspects like new process development, cheaper machines, energy efficient models, newer applications. If we can add value to membranes purchased from foreign countries, India can supply 30 - 40 percent membrane components and almost 70 percent equipment and paraphernalia to the Middle Eastern countries which are the biggest consumers of membrane systems.