The Indian rubber industry has the best of brains, technologists and manpower available in the country. With a little more push from the Government of India by way of assistance for upgrading technology and availability of funding at lower cost, etc, Indian rubber industry can be on the top of the world, says Vinod Simon, Chief Convenor, Organising Committee, IRE 2017.
In an interview to Rubber Asia, Simon says the large-scale import of cheap rubber products from other countries, especially China, poses the biggest challenge to the rubber products manufacturing industry in India and calls for anti-dumping duty on rubber products to save the domestic industry. EXCERPTS:

Vinod Simon

What is special about IRE 2017 as against its previous editions?

IRE is the largest exclusive rubber expo in Asia and one amongst the largest in the world. For the first time, rubber products manufacturing industry will have a prominent place in the Expo. The focus so far has been on raw materials, machinery etc. For the first time, there will be a Domestic Reverse Buyer-Seller meet in which large buyers of rubber products within India, not only from the private sector but also from Government establishments like the Railways, the Defence and PSUs like BHEL, will participate. Apart from these buyers visiting the Expo, the rubber product manufacturers can also have one-to-one meetings with these buyers.

What do you think of the growth prospects of Indian rubber industry in the context of India emerging as the fastest growing economy in the world?

Rubber industry has been a part of India’s growth story. The Indian rubber industry has been growing in tandem with the growth in the country’s economy and of the automotive industry. The automotive sector has great potential for growth and it augurs well for the rubber industry as well.

What are the major challenges faced by the rubber products manufacturing industry in India?

The large-scale import of rubber products from other countries, especially China, poses the biggest challenge to the domestic rubber products manufacturing industry in India. Of late, the import of rubber products to India has gone up by 25 – 30%. There is an imperative need to impose an anti-dumping duty on these products. Upgrading technology is another major challenge. Since the rubber products manufacturers operate largely in the unorganized sector, there is lack of awareness among them about the latest technology. They also don’t have the financial strength to invest in the new machinery and technology hence they continue to use their old and outdated technology whereby making their product less competitive in the global market. I hope the Government can assist by giving technical and financial assistance to rubber products manufacturers to upgrade their technology.

How far has the volatility in prices of NR affected the rubber products manufacturing units?

Volatility in prices is a major issue for the rubber products manufacturing units. It adversely impacts their profitability. NR price is mainly dependent on the demand-supply situation. There could be less imports in the present scenario where international prices are ruling higher than domestic prices. But what is most important is the quality of rubber and availability. The domestic producers have to improve the quality of rubber to stay internationally competitive and also find
innovative ways to improve the yield thereby improving availability. The Rubber Board of India is doing its best to ensure better quality and availability of rubber for the future.

What is the impact of demonetisation on the rubber industry?

It may have a temporary impact on the retail sector like tyres, footwear, but I do not think that it will have a long-term effect on the industry. Sectors like the automotive are unlikely to be affected as purchases are mainly through loans and digital means.

What will be the impact of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on rubber products industry?

GST will benefit the entire manufacturing sector as it will simplify taxation and do away with multiple taxes and the rubber industry will also be a beneficiary. The final implementation model is also not very clear yet, but I am sure that this is a positive way forward.

In what ways can the rubber products industry support the Make in India initiative of the Government of India?

The Indian rubber industry has the best of brains, technologists and manpower available in the country. With a little more push from the Government by way of assistance for upgrading technology and availability of funding at lower cost etc, the Indian rubber industry can be on the top of the world.

As the Chairman of the Rubber Skill Development Council (RSDC), please explain the recent initiatives taken by RSDC to bridge the skill gap in the rubber sector.

To overcome the issues of non-availability of skilled manpower in the rubber sector, RSDC has developed a strong eco-system for the sector at various levels. The initiatives taken by the Council include developing National Occupational Standards (NOS), affiliating training providers, revamp of curriculum aligned to NOS, certification of trainees and trainers, and setting up Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS) to assist in the planning and delivery of training, besides identifying skill development needs of the sector.
The different training models launched by RSDC give various benefits to the industry such as access to trained workforce equipped with technical skills, lower or negligible budget for training, re-training and re-skilling, greater productivity with improved alignment of workforce with job requirements etc.