THE lockdown imposed to contain the spread of Covid-19 has affected the valve industry as well. In an interview with Aparna Banerji, Vimal Jain, chairman, Atam Valves Ltd, and founder president of the Valves and Cocks Manufacturers’ Association, Jalandhar, talks about the challenges before the industry amid the lockdown. Excerpts...
How has the lockdown impacted the valve industry?
There has been a severe impact of the lockdown on the industry. At present, we can't get the raw material from outside and we can't even send our own consignments. The business depends on the availability of raw material and our ability to transport our manufactured products. But all units at various places, including Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Ahmedabad, where we ship our products have been lying shut. Our products are largely dependent on the demand from industry intensive cities and at present, there are none. Raw material has also been hit. For making a single valve, 40 to 50 items are required. We need teflon, rubber seals, hardware items and wheels. We have to do casting first, which has come to a halt.
How has the manufacturing capacity been hit?
Our manufacturing capacity has been reduced to 40 to 50 per cent. The industry is currently running at 50 per cent losses. Forget about profits in 2020 and 2021. We are incurring all regular costs, rentals and labour cost at a time when our activities and output have been drastically reduced. So, while we don't get dividends, there is no reduction in the regular expenditure. Additionally, the industries with less than 100 labourers are exempt from paying PF and we ask why not include those with more labour. This is giving some people a reason to fudge records or lay off employees.
What is the scenario of labour in the industry?
During the harvest season every year, 20 to 25 per cent labour leave for home. But due to panic this year, 30 to 35 per cent have left. Our industry runs with 50 to 55 per cent labour. Many of the skilled workers, who have expertise in one or other fields, have already left. This has broken the chain of processes involved in the making of valves.
Does the lockdown offer any hope to the industry?
I don't think so there is any hope due to the lockdown. However, some steps are necessary for industries to tide over the crisis. At this time, industries should not take any loan. They need to strengthen their customer base and cater to limited but reliable customers. Besides, they also need to reduce expenses as much as possible.
How much time the industry will take to come out of the crisis?
We hear that things will improve by September. It will take minimum six months after the lockdown for things to get back on track. We are not expecting normal functioning of the industry any sooner than March 2021. This will depend on the situation.
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