The Federation of Indian Micro and Smalland Medium Enterprises (FISME), understanding this demand of the local manufacturers, most of them MSMEs, has come up with a roadmap for them. FISME, along with the support from the Ministry of MSME, Government of India, has established a direct linkage between global consultants and local sports gear manufacturers in Meerut, UP. The main focus of this initiative is on manufacturers of cricket bats and other sports goods.
This global exposure will help the local MSMEs modernise their production capabilities, enabling them to compete with global players.
These manufacturers are struggling to sustain their business growth in the face of the tough competition posed by Chinese products.
Speaking about the status of his market, Ravi Dubey, Director of RPR Sports, says, “We are not only suffering due to cheap imports from China, but also due to scarcity of raw material, increase in excise duty, and unskilled manpower. Instead of thinking about global markets, we are threatened and forced to concentrate on sustaining our businesses in the Indian market itself.”
Cricket bat manufacturers, dominated by families which migrated to Meerut and Jalandhar from Pakistan after the partition, may finally have something to cheer about.
The Government of India seems to have understood this situation of the manufacturers in the cluster. On his recent visit to Meerut, Vivek Rae, Ex Secretary, Ministry of MSME, stated, “The availability of skilled manpower and technical know-how is a necessity for this cluster. We must nurture the potential of clusters like the one in Meerut.”
Other than skillset availability, local manufacturers mostly consider policy framework as a challenge to their growth.
“We are disappointed to know that excise duty has increased significantly in the last couple of years. From 1% in 2011 to 2% in 2012, the excise duty structure has proved to be a huge blockage in our growth. On the contrary, the excise department does not recognise batting gloves, cricket helmets, speed balls and coaching shields as sports goods. We need some strong action at the policy-making level,” says Ravi. This cluster is known for the manufacturing of cricket bats from willow wood, found in the hilly areas of Jammu & Kashmir. The manufacturers largely import the wood from other countries, making it costlier.
The Process-cum-Product-Development-Center (PPDC) for sports goods and leisure equipment at Meerut lacks in the availability of facilities for developing high-quality leather for making cricket batting gloves, which is known as palm leather.
Arvind Kumar Singh, Meerut-based contract manufacturer of cricket bats and accessories, says, “Raw material is extremely important in the sports product manufacturing business. We have to source the best possible leather for the production of batting gloves and pads. Moreover, the cluster also does not have proper stitching machines for cricket balls. If we want to see the best products coming out of the Meerut sports cluster, we have to ensure the availability of advanced technology and technical know-how within the cluster.”