Paints there is more to it than you can see

Team Chemical Market

12 Feb 2024


Paints are the silent maestros of transformation. Residing in unassuming cans, wielding magical prowess when applied. The bulk of paints manufactured in India fall into the Automobile paints and the Construction Industry paints category. Its origins can be traced back to 1902, with the inception of a small factory "Shalimar Paints" in Kolkata. Over the years this sector has evolved dynamically, keeping in sync with the demands of our nation. With 70 % market dominance shared among  7 major companies, leaving the remaining 30% to around 3000 others, a seeming imbalance for a century-old technology.

Constituents and Process

The major components of a paint and their  function comprise :
  • Pigments
    These provide color and opacity.
    -Organic pigments. Includes Azo and pythalocyanine, which are synthetic. These are not plant-based. However, they yield the vibrant colors that are attributed to modern paints.
    -Inorganic pigments -  White in color, Titanium dioxide is very widely used.  
  • Resins act as binders. A few examples:-
    - Acrylic Resin.  This is a binder used for Construction Industry paints. Adds to the durability and enhances the adhesive property of the product.
    -Alkyds for oil-based paints. Gives good adhesion and a smooth finish.
    -Epoxy for paints used in harsh Industrial Environments and marine applications
    - Polyurethanes for UV ( ultraviolet )and abrasion resistance. Automobile paints fall into this category.
  • Solvents
    - Water. This is the most common solvent and is used for water-based paints. It is added to the paint at the site, before application.
    -  Turpentine / Mineral spirits. Acts as a thinner in oil-based paints. Added prior to application, it enables spreading. It evaporates leaving the mix of pigment and binder.
    -   Isopropyl Alcohol, Ketones, and Esters. These influence the drying rates which determine the quality of the end product.
  • Additives
    - Thickeners. To adjust the consistency and viscosity for individual applications.
    -  Anti-fungal Agents - Prevents the growth of algae and molds.
    -   Stabilizers. Retain the chemical properties of the product and enhance shelf life during storage.
  • Fillers - Calcium carbonate and Talc,  improve paint texture.
  • Chemical Intermediates -  Cater to specialty paints.

Paint formulation involves a precise mix of the constituents under controlled process parameters. The plethora of choices leads to diverse end products, each with its unique specialties. Describing each process associated with a  group would be voluminous, and thus beyond the scope of this article.   

Raw material Import

Post-1993 liberalization in India saw a  boom in the industry sector. Restrictions on the import of many items were lifted. The paint industry was among the beneficiaries. Today after nearly three decades of liberalization, we rely on imports for many items. Countries like China, Germany, the USA, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, etc are on our import list for the paint sector. The list is long as there are multiple sources for the supply of the same item. This is a good sign as it reduces dependency on a single source and fosters healthy competition.

Special mention is made here of Titanium dioxide, a chemically inert pigment. Its whiteness and opacity are of a high order. Further, its ability to scatter and reflect ultraviolet light protects the paint film from the damaging effects of UV radiation that cause fading and cracking. Titanium dioxide is extracted from Illeminite ore found in the southern beaches in the state of Kerala. Termed as a sulfate process, it involves electrostatic or magnetic separation,  digestion, purification, hydrolysis, calcination, and milling to the required particle size. It is a capital-intensive industry and subject to regulatory standards. Compliance with environmental regulations necessitates additional investments in pollution control and waste management systems. China is the world's largest manufacturer and exporter of Titanium dioxide. Indian paint manufacturers are heavily dependent on China. It should be noted that this chemical constitutes about 12 to 35 % of the final product. It is estimated that our indigenous requirement is 2.20 lakh tonnes against production of 0.5 lakh tonnes.  Volatile prices have further added to the woes of paint manufacturers.

Specialty Paints

Specialty paints are versatile and each is tailored to meet specific requirements in diverse settings. A few examples are listed below:-
  • Heat-resistant paints - They fall into the category of High -performance automotive finishes. Applied on surfaces exposed to high temperatures, like engine components, grills, and exhaust pipes. Prevents peeling and discoloration due to heat stress.
  • Reflective paint - Applied on surfaces like pedestrian walkways, road markings, bicycles, and rear sides of trucks. The paint contains reflective particles which enhance visibility in low light conditions and add to safety.
  • Magnetic paint - It allows magnets to adhere to the painted surface. It transforms itself into a magnetic board for notes and pictures. Can be used in classrooms and offices.
  • Rust-inhibiting paint - Contains corrosion inhibitors that prevent or slow down the formation of rust. Can be used wherever surfaces are exposed to external elements like fences, gates, and outdoor furniture.
  • Glow in the dark paint - Absorbs light during the day, and emits a visible glow in the dark. It thus provides illumination without an external light source. Used in theaters and safety signage.
  • Aircraft paints - Contain anti-corrosive agents that shield the aircraft body from the corrosive impact of salt, moisture, and airborne contaminants. Additional features include aesthetic appeal, longevity, and lightweight.

Compared to general purpose paints their volume is comparatively very small but with a significantly higher monetary value. However, in the future, you may see an uptick in their usage. There also exist some specialized paints for Construction projects.

Certain industries demand a special formulationdue to their requirements. Even though a small segment, they are catered to paints with advanced formulae for specific industries.  

The Future

India is poised to grow at a CAGR ( compounded annual growth rate) of 7 %. Much of this will be sectors of affordable housing, infrastructure, EV ( electric vehicles), and NCES (non-conventional energy sources). The demand for paint is set to surge, both for fresh and re-painting requirements.  Growth will be accompanied by increasing mobility. There will be a higher demand for durable paint solutions for vehicles.

However, a cursory look at the share prices of the top seven paint companies shows volatility within a price band of up to approximately +/- 15 %. This is mainly attributed to the fluctuation in prices of raw materials.  If the gains on higher volumes are to be accrued to the nation, then this aspect must be addressed for sustained growth.  


This article aims to provide a comprehensive view of the paint scenario in India. The magic of paints is not confined to the walls they embellish. They transcend their functional roles and mirror the ever-evolving tastes of endurance, change, and resilience. Advancements in technology have enabled a myriad of shades, finishes, and colors. Architects spend a significant amount of their time honing their skills to choose the right color, shade, and texture combinations.   Paints breathe life and aesthetics into surfaces, embodying the magic beyond the visible layers. This is much unlike the faceless modern glass and chrome structures,  that we see everywhere.    


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