Interview: V. Lakshminarayanasamy, chairman, Suguna Group

‘Better connectivity needed to boost foreign trade’

Print edition : March 27, 2020

V. Lakshminarayanasamy, chairman, Suguna Group of Industries and Institutions. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

V. Lakshminarayanasamy, chairman, Suguna Group of Industries and Institutions, and president, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Coimbatore, is upbeat about the region and the industry scenario in general in spite of a few drawbacks. According to him, a responsive government, renewed focus on core sectors and Coimbatore’s never-say-die spirit are enough to surmount all obstacles.

This chamber is among the oldest in the region. How much has your base grown and what do you offer to your membership?

The chamber was founded in 1929 by R.K. Shanmugham Chetty, the first Finance Minister of independent India. This is an association that caters to many parts of Tamil Nadu and has 1,676 members. There are 96 associations of individual trade or industry that are also members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Coimbatore. This is an entity of many businesses, traders, professionals and institutions. Earlier, sectors such as agriculture did not need any support. Now, that is not the case. We have had three editions of “Uzhave Thalai”, an agriculture seminar. This seminar was to demystify agricultural science so that a non-farmer can understand the fruits of successful farming.

This is a major hub for automotive parts and foundries. How is the industry holding up in the current slowdown?

The foundries have been one of the growth centres for Coimbatore, not only for export but also for the indigenous manufacturer. It is because of the foundries that many other industries came into being here. Foundries have become modernised, mechanised and state-of-the-art. This is an ideal hub for engineering components. Since Chennai became a manufacturing centre for automobiles, Coimbatore automatically became the hub for auto components.

Because of the slowdown, we have seen a drop, probably from the September-October [2019] period. Ancillaries are also affected. It is not clear when the improvement in market conditions will happen. There was a policy problem, but it has been sorted out. Still, we are not seeing a revival. If the auto industry picks up, then the economy will pick up.

What problems do industries face?

The one problem we face now relates to international trade. Surprisingly, the airport has been in operation from 1940 when the Tatas owned Indian Airlines. Even then there was flight connectivity to Coimbatore. Today, too, the Coimbatore airport is the 18th busiest in the country and the 15th busiest in cargo movement.

In spite of that, the airport is not seeing many foreign airlines and flights. There were five airlines flying to Coimbatore until recently. Two of them have become defunct. Now, only three fly to Coimbatore. There are three international carriers operating out of this city. The lack of flights is a problem for the import-export trade. For a major delegation to come to the city, they need direct connectivity because time is of the essence for them.

Despite all the problems, Coimbatore is a good export hub with high sales not only in garments but also in machine tools, machinery and pumps. Floriculture is a major industry in this region. A lot of flowers are getting exported. Because of connectivity issues, the producers are forced to take their produce to Chennai or Kochi.

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