Standing in front of a machine for a really long time, staring at it work and listening to the constant churr daka daka churr daka daka… might seem boring; but I couldn’t take my eyes off that humongous piece of technology dishing out perfectly cut, blocks of clay tiles in Airson Ceramic’s factory. There we were, an hour and a half away from the city of Rajkot, in Morbi, or as one might call it, ‘the paradise of ceramics’.
The cluster, known globally for its ceramic industry, currently consists of 610 units. Presently, Morbi employees about 350,000 factory workers and notched up a turnover of Rs.28,500 crore in FY17. It is now the third-largest manufacturing hub for ceramics in the world, and accounts for about 90% of the country’s total ceramic production. Last year alone, production was about 1,800 million sq mt and this year, the expected figure is 2,000 million sq mt. Morbi is a leading exporter — shipping to South East Asia, Europe and South America.
In the past year, one government policy that shook up the entire country was the implementation of the Goods & Services Tax (GST). Though every ceramic tiles vepari (businessman) in Morbi agree that a uniform tax system was long overdue, no one escaped its negative impact, in at least in the first three months — when demand was severely impacted. Although the reduction from 28% to 18% brought great relief, there are some issues that are yet to be resolved. KG Kundaria, president (vitrified tiles division), Morbi Ceramics Association, explains, “The central government was supposed to refund the excess tax amount within two months, and it’s been four months now, yet there is nothing. About Rs.3 crore of my own money is stuck,” he says. Kundaria is not the only one, there are many like him whose money is stuck with the government till date.
Businessmen in Morbi are a resilient lot. Over the past couple of years, they have