Balloon making is a cottage industry in Palghar, located some 90 kilometers away from financial capital Mumbai. “The industry is in bad shape, hit by imports from China and other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia and Thailand,” said Ashit Lathia, chairman-western region, All India Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA). The India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in goods works against Palghar’s balloon makers.
The industry has been on the decline for four to five years now, Lathia said.
Competition is hot, especially from China, where manufacturers are looking to export to India in a big way, said Lathia. “Chinese balloons are machine-made while the industry in Palghar continues to depend on manual labour. If required amounts of minimum thickness is not maintained, a balloon could burst in your face. Quality control is easier when production processes are automated. Which is why it is necessary for Palghar’s balloon units to adopt automated production techniques.
“But technology adoption comes at a cost and Palghar’s cottage industries cannot afford to invest in machines. Therefore, government subsidies; lower interest rates of around two to four percent on bank loans; and extensions in repayment periods, typically five to seven years, will help balloon makers,” Lathia said.