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India, with a population of more than 1.1 billion, is the world’s eighth largest consumer of plastic products. Last year alone, the country’s demand for polymers reached about seven million tons. This is expected to rise to 10 million by 2010, making it the third largest plastics consumer, after the U.S. and China.
The faculty of the Department of Plastics Engineering recognizes the need to showcase the Department’s world-class academic programs at major international trade shows in India. That’s why last December, Asst. Prof. Ramaswamy Nagarajan and Plastics Engineering graduate student Mithun Kamath went to Mumbai to represent the University for the first time at PlastiVision India 2007. This five-day show is one of the largest in Asia, featuring 700 exhibitors and manufacturers from India, Germany, the U.S., China, and Taiwan, and attracting around 500,000 plastics-industry professionals and visitors.
“The response from the attendees was great!” says Nagarajan. “The University’s booth drew a continuous, sometimes ‘overwhelming,’ stream of guests. Many aspiring students, both from regional academic and industrial circles, met with us and inquired about the Department’s on-line and graduate-degree programs. There was also a lot of interest from local companies and training institutes, such as the Central Institute for Plastics Engineering and Technology [CIPET], which caters to the needs of the country’s plastics industries through manpower training, consultancy and development services.
“Suresh Atre, chairman of the All India Plastics Manufacturers’ Association which organized the show, was very happy to have us exhibit in Mumbai because our plastics program has a great reputation in the country. UMass Lowell was the only American university present at the show.”
UML’s booth proved to be a popular destination for many high-level attendees, including top government officials. For example, B. P. Pandey, joint secretary of India’s Department of Chemical & Petrochemicals, was quite fascinated with the University’s work in the field of bioplastics. “He especially liked our samples of corn-based biodegradable mugs!” says Nagarajan.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the large turnout of UML alumni at the show, many of whom now own plastics product and equipment manufacturing companies in India,” says Kamath, whose family also runs a plastics business in Mumbai. “We had a nice dinner with some of the alumni after the show.”
Nagarajan and Kamath were also invited to visit and explore possible collaborations with several training centers in and around Mumbai, as well as large multinational companies such as SABIC (formerly GE plastics) in Bangalore. Nagarajan also traveled to Chennai to visit CIPET and then to Bangalore to present his research at the SABIC facility and get together with other UML alumni. “The trip was a tremendous success,” he says. “It’s a significant step in carrying forward UMass President Jack Wilson’s vision and commitment toward the University establishing international partnerships.”