Industries smile with rising export orders, but power woes snap the joy

Economy


Bengaluru: Jayalakshmi Poly Packs, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, is among the many small scale units that started getting orders from the US and Europe after several countries began to slowly move away from China.

The unit in Bidadi Industrial Area makes void-fill packaging and automatic pouching for the automobile and furniture industries, but the factory is unsure whether it can absorb all the orders that come its way from overseas clients. It blames its woes to the erratic power supply.

“After many European countries imposed anti-dumping duty on Chinese products, we have been getting export orders. We think twice now before accepting an order because our worry is whether we can supply before the cut-off date,” said Srinivas V, managing director at Jayalakshmi Poly Packs. The machines, he said, take an hour or two to heat up and start whirring every time power supply resumes.

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The 1,500-acre Bidadi Industrial Area is home to 183 industries including Toyota, Bosch, Coca-Cola and Britannia. “Whenever power supply is interrupted, the quality of our work deteriorates, leading to increased rejections. We have to redo the whole thing,” said AP Venkateswaran, whose Bidadi Metal Finishers does electro-deposition for automobile firms. “Our manufacturing costs have been going up with extra working hours for workers. If we had been able to save this cost, we would have probably hired more workers.”

The state government has been pushing for investments in rural Karnataka in a bid to decongest Bengaluru and create employment opportunities in rural areas so that the youths don’t have to migrate to big cities. But the lack of quality power supply has emerged as a spoiler, even as the manufacturing sector is recovering from the Covid-19 shock.

For instance, DP Dileep, a 26-year- old entrepreneur, had high hopes of scaling up when he set up a small manufacturing unit by the name Melukote Food Products near the temple town of Melukote in Mandya district two years ago. But he is regretting his decision now. “There has been absolutely no power since yesterday. Usually, we get power only for about six hours a day. At this rate, how can I grow or meet my orders?” He is now planning to shift his unit to Bengaluru.

Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association president KB Arasappa said about 90% of units are located in private industrial estates, and all of them are battling issues related to power. The government, he said, has not upgraded distribution infrastructure such as substations and lines.

Industries minister Jagadish Shettar, when contacted, maintained that Karnataka was a power-surplus state but some places may have had problems due to technical issues. “We are ready to solve if industries bring specific complaints to my notice,” he said.

“Our WhatsApp group is full of complaints about power supply. We have been writing to distribution companies, but the problem remains,” said KV Rajendra Hegde, president of Bidadi Industries Association.

Industries reckon that the electricity supply companies (escoms) have not bifurcated agriculture and non-agriculture feeders around industrial estates. The escoms shy away from continuous supply on fears that farmers will draw power to run pumpsets for several hours. “If the government can provide exclusive feeders to industrial areas, it will solve our problem and help escoms get higher tariffs in return,” said Hegde.



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