From being a major segment in Kovai’s industry, manufacturing Rs 50 crore worth products daily, the sector faces a bleak future.
“It may not be an exaggeration to say that more than Rs 600 crore worth motor pumps and allied products have been stagnated over the last two months alone following economic downturn. Orders from construction sector and farmers, who form the major bulk of our clientele, have come to a standstill due to this,” said K Maniraj, president of Kovai Power Driven Pump and Spare Parts Manufacturers Association (KOPMA).
The manufacturers here had as much as 70 per cent market share of the Indian pump industry, earning Coimbatore the nickname ‘pump city’. But the latest turn of events has taken a toll on the industry and the people involved.
“The small and micro pump manufacturers, whose production units used to function round-the-clock to meet the demand, have started to give forced holidays over the last two months. Initially, the workers were given one or two days as holidays. But it has extended in the recent weeks up to three days in a week. They don’t have much work even on other working days due to poor orders. But they are still retained in the hope that the situation may get better in near future,” Maniraj added.
This has had a direct impact on the workers, like A Selvaraj from Singanallur who was working in a pump manufacturing unit in Singanallur area for a daily wage of Rs 600 per day. “As I was left without work for nearly 10 days a month, I had to get into laborious construction work and other casual jobs,” he said.
The pump industry began to face crisis over the past two years since GST was implemented. The slowdown in the market has only added further to its woes. “Earlier, the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Coimbatore were manufacturing pumps worth Rs 50 crore daily. But post GST, the production and trade volume has nosedived to barely Rs 5 crore,” said Maniraj.
This sharp fall has reportedly forced scores of manufacturing units that were producing pumps and spare parts to downsize – and even shut down in some cases.
“Until a decade ago, the trend was such that at least 10 new firms would begin operations every month in pump manufacturing and its allied sector in Coimbatore. Now this trend has reversed and at least ten firms are getting closed every month. Almost 20 per cent of the 3,000 odd pump manufacturers and a similar quantum of the around 15,000 job working units have shut operations. Thousands of workers have lost jobs and moved over to other sectors,” lamented R Palanisamy, a pump manufacturer from Uppilipalayam in Coimbatore.
Also Gujarat, which is emerging as a new hub for pump manufacturing, has been eating into the market share of Coimbatore pump units. “In Gujarat, the power tariff, cost of raw materials, transportation charges and wages are comparatively lower, which has brought down production costs. However, our pumps, though costlier, were of superior quality due to use of improvised technology,” he added.
The pump manufacturers have been seeking the help of both State and Central governments to address the problems they have been facing. But their efforts have not yielded any fruitful results thus far.
“The international market offered greater opportunities, where only China has made inroads. It is difficult for small pump manufacturing industries to market our produce abroad. So our earnest request to the State government, which has been taking measures to attract investments, to help us set foot in international markets for our survival,” said Maniraj.