Govt should intervene to push for exports: Sanjay Kirloskar

While India is pushing back imports from China, products exported by Indian companies are being blocked in West Asia and other parts of Asia as these countries favour products from developed markets, according to Sanjay Kirloskar, Chairman and Managing Director of Kirloskar Brothers Ltd.

Kirloskar told BusinessLine that despite meeting quality standards and being affordable, Indian products are facing challenges in market access. “There is a pushback when it comes to supplying products from India. Clients say we don’t want to buy anything from India or China and prefer to buy from Europe or the US,” he said, adding that countries like Egypt were blocking Indian products.

KBL makes pumps used in agriculture, water supply projects, firefighting pumpsets, suction pumps, which are used in large EPC projects. KBL exports its products to Oman, Kuwait, in West Asia and Thailand, Bhutan and Bangladesh in Asia, Netherlands and the US.

Even as the Indian government is pushing for “vocal for local”, in an effort to replace Chinese products with home-grown ones, Indian companies are seeking the government’s help to supplement its efforts at exports.

“We would like the government’s support there,” said Kirloskar, adding that he has sent letters to the Centre seeking intervention in getting the matter resolved through inter-government channels.

Kirloskar, however, maintained that this has not impacted his overall business and exports contributes 35 per cent of its overall business.

Kirloskar also said blocking any form of investment into India is detrimental at this point in time. “We should not block anybody if they want to come to India. They should be allowed to participate and told to set up a manufacturing unit with a defined threshold of value addition,” he said.

Overseas business

In Q1, KBL bagged a repeat order to supply 114 fire fighting pumpsets for a metro rail project in Bangkok. Similarly, it has bagged projects in Oman, Belgium, Kuwait, Bhutan and Bangladesh. All this translates to ₹1,597 crore worth of orders in the pipeline. Kirloskar sees business from the international market coming back to some sort of normalcy. “We see international business at the same level as what we had seen last year but are cautiously optimistic due to the continued uncertainties,” he said.

In the June-ended quarter, KBL reported revenues of ₹455 crore, a 38 per cent dip, when compared to ₹733 crore posted in the same period last year. The company also posted reduced net profit of ₹18 crore, compared to ₹6 crore in the same period last year. This was due to Covid-led lockdowns imposed, which resulted in business disruption.

Like all manufacturing companies, KBL faced challenges when the country went into a lockdown. “We cut down on production and kept inventory low till it reached a certain level and once sales picked back up, started resuming production,” said Kirloskar.

KBL’s plants were located in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP. “We ensured funds were used to help migrant workers,” said Kirloskar, adding that it was difficult to predict when the economy would turn around but expectations are that growth will return by next year.

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