For almost a year, people all over the world have been fighting with different measures and success against the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also hit India and its ever-on-the-start industry hard. Today I have the chance to ask a long-time friend and colleague some questions about the current situation in India.
Mr. Subodh Panchal is an excellent entrepreneur and leader of the industry and a profound expert in the foundry industry. As former IIF President, WFO member, BRICS board member and as an organizer of countless congresses he is recommended and well known far beyond the borders.
Subodh, in recent months, we have heard frightening figures for Covid-19 from India, with the second-highest number of infections in the world after the US. Since mid-October 2020, the numbers of new infections have been falling significantly. We sincerely hope you are healthy and safe. How is the situation in India currently in society and in industry in times of Covid-19?
Correct, India reached the second-highest level of cases of infection. In the first three months of the pandemic, from March to June, everything was under lock down. From June onwards, manufacturing units were allowed to work on a part time basis with safety controls. Schools and colleges are still closed and classes are taken online daily. Many offices are have allowed staff to work from home. The number of cases and mortality was reduced drastically in October.
Luckily in known foundry families all are safe. Thanks for your concern.
To what extent is the foundry industry affected and are there differences by region and in production of iron, steel and non-ferrous?
In India foundry workers are mostly from two states, UP and Bihar. They have started migration to homes by available trains, buses and even by foot when transportation was closed.. traveling up to 1000 kms!
Industries in all four regions of India suffered until June. Thereafter, returning back was started slowly. Now, it is almost normal as of September. Even workers coming from nearby villages of Metro cities could not come due to lack of public transportation.
One must praise the government for providing free hospitalization, food to the needy, deferring payment of installments, interest, electric bills etc. Even free trains were operated for migrant workers. However, social distancing, wearing masks, and other safety measures are still ignored by many.
How do companies cope with the impact in the domestic market and how are export-oriented companies affected?
Most of the MSME units are in severe financial crisis. The majority had paid workers at least for March and April, without any work. Production and sales were at zero, and no transportation was available even if the products were ready to ship. Similarly, there were no incoming raw materials. Ports movement was also stopped for the first 3 months, completely stopping import/export.
Is there government support for businesses or support on the capital market, and what does the pandemic mean for jobs and education in India?
As mentioned, for businesses the government extended bank borrowing limits, deferred various payments and taxes, reduced interest on borrowing etc. Unsecured jobs and daily earners were affected very badly. Education is given online to all students. Business travel is almost at zero, but webinars, meetings on zoom, etc. are in full swing.
In March of this year, during IFEX, the Indian foundry industry announced the paradigm shift towards more efficiency, higher quality, digitalisation, better working conditions, environmental protection. Is it now driven by the pandemic perhaps faster than expected?
Obviously nothing of that sort is feasible. But now production has reached 70-80% in foundries and other industries. It is hoped to be normal by December this year.
When will the economy recover and who will be left in the end? What´s about the next IFEX in 2021 or better 2022?
- The foundry industry had reasonable growth of 6-7% until 2028-19. But due to the downturn in automotive and other sectors, the foundry industry has taken steep downward trend. India’s overall economy is expected to grow by 8-9% in 2020-21.
- The government is fast-tracking infrastructure projects, and there are some green shoots in mining and earthmoving.
- The monsoon is good this year, so the demand for castings is booming in the agriculture industry, an unexpected demand which foundries are trying hard to meet.
- Demand from the export market is good, and routine shipments are started. The trend is expected to continue next year also.
- The 69th IFC and IFEX is scheduled in Kolkata in 2021, but a final decision will have to be made soon.
- The 70th IFC and IFEX will be in Mumbai in Feb, 2022. Dates will be finalised shortly.
- The WFO Technical Forum is scheduled in India in 2023.
WISHING YOU, YOUR TEAM AND FOUNDRYMEN AROUND THE WORLD, GOOD HEALTH. STAY SAFE, STAY IN TOUCH (KEEPING DISTANCE...)