Coimbatore MSMEs face heat of COVID surge as raw material costs rise

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu are facing the heat as the second wave of COVID-19 surges ahead with each passing day.
Industrial worker working in a welding unit
Industrial worker working in a welding unit
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M. Senthilnathan, who has a foundry business in Coimbatore Industrial Estate, told IANS, "I was doing a business of Rs 12 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per month and it has fallen by more than 60 percent and our staff strength which was 16 has now come down to five with almost all the contract workers having left for their hometowns."

Another major issue faced by the small industries is the sky-rocketing prices of raw materials and without any credit being extended by the raw material suppliers, the industries face a major revenue gap as they have to sell the finished product with a credit period of more than two months.

Kumaradas, who is running a unit producing nuts, bolts, screws etc for the pump manufacturers of Coimbatore has felt the heat due to the Covid surge since 2020. While he was doing brisk business till March 2020 when the country went for a lockdown, the present situation is grim and bleak.

Speaking to IANS, the 44-year-old Kumaradas said, "I was doing brisk business and had no credit and no loans even though I had bought a few new machines but all the loans were paid back. I had more than 25 workers and was doing business to the tune of Rs 20 lakh a month but it's all gone now. After the lockdown was lifted, we were just recovering but the second wave of the pandemic has wrecked all plans and soon I will run into debts as business has been severely hit and no credit is being extended by raw material suppliers."

Coimbatore has nearly 50,000 MSMEs which employ more than 5 lakh people and a large percentage of these workers are from outside the state.

Thomas Vargheese, who is running a small unit making industrial gaskets, is facing a tough time. Speaking to IANS, he said, "We have 30 employees of whom 20 are from outside Tamil Nadu, mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. They wanted to go home fearing a second lockdown and I am trying to retain them by providing them everything, including extra salary, and am trying to inoculate them but most of them are young and hence not in the age bracket for vaccination."

The MSMEs have given several representations to the state and the Central governments urging them to form a price monitoring committee for regulating the price of raw materials. As many as 19 industrial associations have come together to discuss the further course of action to control the spiralling prices of raw materials.

C Sivakumar of Coimbatore Tirupur District Micro and Cottage Entrepreneurs Association, speaking to IANS said, "We cannot bear another lockdown and have taken all precautions to prevent it. We have made it mandatory that all workers wear masks, sanitise regularly and maintain social distancing."

The MSMEs in Coimbatore expect the government to intervene regarding raw materials and have launched an awareness programme among the workers about the Covid surge. The associations are using various platforms, including social media and caricatures, to convey the message of following Covid protocols, including mask, social distancing and sanitation, to the workers so that they stay back.

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