The State of Business 2013

Slow and unsteady

Hosur is grappling with 14-16 hours of daily power outage, global slowdown and labour shortage

RA Chandroo

Tamil Nadu’s third highest revenue-earning industrial cluster, after Oragadam-Sriperumbudur, and Coimbatore, is just 40 km away from Bengaluru. In fact, the balmy weather belongs more to Karnataka’s capital than to Tamil Nadu’s sweltering plains, even though there’s no discernable ascent in the terrain, or it’s so gradual that it feels unnoticeable. But the transformative effects of mechanisation are almost immediately apparent in Hosur, 35-year-old industrial cluster, and one that rose from a sleepy countryside of rocky terrain and small temples perched atop scattered hills.

Today, a six-lane highway cuts through the town that still seems at odds with the marquee names appearing on discreet signages: Titan Industries, TVS Motors, Ashok Leyland, Exide, Carborundum Universal. These massive shrines to modern production share boundaries amiably with more than 1,500 more modest small and medium enterprises. Everywhere, the bustle of middle India gives way to tidy, expansive and tranquil industrial addresses, their irreproachable compounds maintained to withstand international scrutiny and much pride. 

“When we first came here, there were barely one or two trees to be seen — it was barren land,” says Rajesh Khanna, chief executive of the ₹100-crore Wendt (India), and also the head of Carborundum Universal’s ₹156-crore Industrial Ceramics division (CUMI has a 40% stake in Wendt). “Now, we have one of the greenest campuses in Hosur.” Wendt is one of the bigger companies in Hosur, and a leading manufacturer of highly specialised products like diamond and CBN (cubic boron nitride) grinding wheels and tools, and electroplated, vitrified and brazed bonds, 25% of which are exported.  Indeed, Wendt today is a “factory that looks like a resort”, with 4,500 trees and a stress-busting walking track. Most things, though, have changed for worse. If it used to take Khanna 40 mins to commute to Bengaluru (where he still lives) on a single lane road, back when he joined the company as a management trainee in 1982, these days he feels lucky if he can beat the traffic in 75-90 minutes, despite multi-lane highways.

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