State of the Economy 2018

Back to the Grind

Industrial units in Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi area continue to grapple with poor connectivity but are getting over GST pangs

Photographs by Vishal Koul

At Roca’s plant in Bhiwadi, workers are busy giving faucets a final silvery finish. Roca Bathroom Products is a sanitary ware major, with global sales of $1.75 billion. Having set up its faucet plant in Bhiwadi back in 2000, the plant employs 324 people currently. ROCA’s India operations contribute about 7-8% to global sales. “2017 was the most challenging year for our industry,” says KE Ranganathan, managing director, Roca Bathroom Products, sounding like a soldier who is thankful that the war is over. The construction sector, which directly determines demand for sanitary ware, took a beating due to the introduction of several structural changes like demonentisation, RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) Act, and GST. “Conventionally, a lot of cash had been floating in this sector, which got hit by demonetisation,” he says. 

GST also took a serious toll on the business. “Ours is a very trade-dependent business. We have 15,000 shops retailing our products but 70% of them didn’t even have an accountant. They had been operating like this for the past 50 to 60 years,” says Ranganathan. With so many retailers, the transition to GST was tough for Roca. They organised training sessions to prepare traders for the new tax regime. Now, things are settling down.

That is pretty much the story of most businesses in Bhiwadi. The industries in Bhiwadi, a town in Alwar district of Rajasthan, started clustering in the 70s after the government created an industrial zone, closer to Delhi. The town of Bhiwadi is located at the border of Rajasthan and Haryana, 80 kms from the country’s capital. Sajjan Kumar Agarwal, who relocated his stainless steel strip making unit from Delhi to Bhiwadi, 23 years ago recalls, “It was closer to Delhi, land was cheaper, and power situation was also good.” There are around 25 stainless steel strip makers today in and around Bhiwadi. 

Seconds Ranganathan, “When we set up in 2000, the attraction was proximity to Delhi and good availability of labour.” Today, there are more than 2,900 big and small industrial units in the cluster. Ironically, infrastructure and connectivity

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