Rubber Park at Irapuram is a standing illustration to the success of a pioneering venture initiated jointly by Rubber Board, India, and Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) way back in 1997. Over the years, the Park has emerged as viable model of a sector-specific industrial cluster. In an exclusive interview to Rubber Asia, K A Santhosh Kumar, Managing Director, KINFRA, expresses satisfaction over the performance of the Park so far and hints at plans to start similar ventures elsewhere in the State. Excerpts from the interview:

Rubber Park, Irapuram, a pioneering joint initiative of Rubber Board, India, and KINFRA, is nearing two decades of its operation. How do KINFRA evaluate the performance of the Park?

Rubber Park India (P) Ltd is a joint venture company promoted and established by the Rubber Board and Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) with equal equity partnership of Rs.100 million each. The company was registered in December 1997 under companies Act 1956 for the development of infrastructure facilities for rubber and rubber-based industries. The first industrial Park under the company was set up in the 107 acres of land comprising 58 acres of Government land and 49 acres of land accrued from the public in Irapuram village, in Ernakulam District.
The foundation stone was laid by the then State Chief Minister E K Nayanar on October 7, 1997. The first unit of the Park commenced production in the year 2003. As on today, all the plots are allotted and 35 units are operating in the Park in a satisfactory manner. Performance of the Park is good.

Are there any plans to set up more such Parks in the State? What is the present status of the proposed Park in Kollam district?

The second Park is proposed in 16.18 ha of land of the erstwhile Travancore Plywood Industries Ltd. at Piravanthoor Village, Patahnapuram Taluk, Kollam District. However, vide notification dated 13.11.2013 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, the Government of India had declared the proposed land at Piranvanthoor in Pathanapuram taluk, Kollam, as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA). The initial activities like preparation of estimates and plans have been completed. However, the construction work of the project could not be started as the proposed land was declared as an ESA.
The Company had appointed M/s. KITCO Ltd. for the Environmental Impact Assessment study and file application for obtaining environmental clearance for the project from State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Kerala. Since the construction of building above 20,000 Sq.m is prohibited in an ESA Village, the SEIAA rejected the application for the prior Environmental Clearance of Proposed Rubber Park at Piravanthoor, Kollam. We are expecting relaxation of rules by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. The project will be commenced immediately. We are also planning to start Rubber Parks at Kottayam, Pathanamthitta etc.

What exactly is KINFRA’s role in the operation of the Park?

Being a 50% shareholder of the Company, KINFRA has an overall control in the Company at the Board level. KINFRA is also represented in the Technical Committee for dealing with technical matters, land pricing and allotment committees.
What are the challenges being faced by the Park of late and what are the prospects and opportunities ahead?
Availability of land contiguous to the existing Park is a big challenge for expansion of the Park to accommodate more industrial units for growth of the Park.

Are the units in Rubber Park satisfied with the infrastructural support provided? Are they facing any problems in terms of power/water supply etc.?

The industrial units in the Park are happy with the infrastructure provided by the Park authorities which is seen from their presence in the Park. The Company is the licensee for distribution of electric energy inside the Park, with own 110/11 kV – 25 MVA capacity Sub-station and ring main distribution net work. The Periyar Valley Canal is in close proximity of the Irapuram Park where water is available without any scarcity. The Company has developed a 3-MLD water distribution system for supplying water within the Park. Besides, a massive rain water harvesting facility of 25 million litres exists.

Is the operation of Rubber Park profitable? What’s the income it generates for Rubber Board/KINFRA?

The objective of the Company is not making profit, but providing infrastructure facilities to rubber and rubber wood-based industries. From the lease rent, maintenance charges, water and other charges the day-to-day expenditure for the operation and maintenance of the company is being managed.

Is the existing infrastructure sufficient and advanced to cope with the changed circumstances of modern technology and advanced production processes?

Presently yes. However, the units within the Park will have to keep pace with the changing technology to be competitive and sustain in the market.

Are there any plans to expand the Park to accommodate more units? If yes, please explain

Presently, all the allocatable area has been allotted to industrial units. The Company is in the process of taking over possession of the unutilized land allotted to the industrial units in the Park and allot the same to new entrepreneurs which is an ongoing process.

How competitive are the units in the Park and in what way can you help them improve their competitiveness?

All the units established in the Park are working satisfactorily. Competitiveness is reflected by their continuance in the Park. None of the units has been closed so far. The Company had established a testing & certification (R&D) facility — JJ Murphy Research Centre — at Irapuram Park at a cost of Rs. 30 million for the testing & certification of any Rubber / Polymer products. The industries inside the Park can easily access the facility and they can test their compounds/products on a daily basis so that they can assure/improve the quality of their products. This helps improve their competitiveness in the market.

What are the measures taken by you to check environmental pollution from the units?

The Company has constructed a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) for the treatment of effluents from the industrial units inside the Park. The capacity of the original plant is 250 Cu. M. which has been augmented to 500 Cu. M. Specific conditions are incorporated in the lease deeds regarding the pollution control measures to be taken by the industrial units.

Do KINFRA have any other ideas to promote the rubber processing and products manufacturing industry in the State, the home of Indian natural rubber?

KINFRA has been focusing on industrial infrastructure development, specifically aimed at the economic development of the industrially backward regions of the State, by setting up Industrial Parks which provide all the facilities required for the entrepreneurs to start an industry

How low NR prices have affected the profitability of the units in the Park?

The lower NR price is good for the rubber and latex-based industries, it is affecting the profitability of the reclaimed rubber units.

Any other points you would like to highlight?

KINFRA is in the process of implementing industrial infrastructure projects like the Mega Food Park at Palakkad, Defence Park at Ottapalam, which are in various stages of development. In addition, other projects like the Electronic Manufacturing cluster, International Exhibition-cum-Convention centre, Petrochemical Park, Pharma Park etc are in the pipeline.