It’s a scene straight out of a Transformers movie. Lined up outside an office building is a row of massive, bright yellow vibratory compactors and backhoe loaders with their huge black jaw buckets extended, as if an Autobot-Decepticon battle of epic proportions is about to commence. But these are just simple road rollers and excavators and Pithampur is actually very peaceful, a smiling Sunil Kalyankar assures us. “I have worked in Gurgaon-Manesar in the past. This is a much calmer place — unrest is unimaginable here,” says the head of manufacturing HR, Case Construction, which makes these beasts here at Pithampur, in the heart of Madhya Pradesh.
Case, the construction equipment arm of Fiat, came to India and Pithampur in 1999 through a joint venture with L&T. This plant, spread over 40 acres, belonged to L&T until 2011, when the Indian company withdrew from the partnership and the city. Case, though, has no intention of going anywhere. “We plan to increase capacity from 450 to 700 units a day. And it’s going to happen right here,” says Kalyankar.
That’s quite an endorsement for an auto and industrial cluster that’s never become as famous as Manesar and Pimpri. 30 km from Indore, Pithampur came into being in the middle of the Licence Raj when five companies — Eicher (now Volvo Eicher), Kinetic Honda (under Mahindra Two Wheelers today), Hindustan Motors, Bajaj Tempo (now under Force Motors) and L&T (now Case) — were issued licences in 1984 to set up industrial units here. Digvijay Singh, the then MP chief minister, is said to have been instrumental in pushing for the area’s development and bringing those companies to the region. In the same breath, he is now blamed by many for the state’s and the region’s industrial stagnation since.
Since 1984, roughly ₹80,000 crore has been invested in the region. Auto and pharma are the key industries and there are 700 industrial units here, of which 150 are large and medium sized. The Indore SEZ is also located in Pithampur and includes 42 companies, of which 32 are operational. Ask Manish Singh, managing director of the Madhya Pradesh Audhyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam (MPAKV