Sharad Aggarwal, MD of Oaykay Tools, talks about the rising prices of steel, which are bound to affect the hand tool industry. As the president of the Northern Chamber of Small and Medium Industry, he throws light on the steps taken by him to bridge the gap between the business community and the government in an interview with Deepkamal Kaur. Excerpts:
How have your operations been hit so far? What are your future plans?
Our industry has been shut for nearly five weeks. We opened up on May 4 with 30 per cent staff. The problems of getting labour and raw material are affecting us badly as of now.
How will the manufacturing sector come out of the crisis?
The main issue with my industry is that we may not be able to get export orders as we had been getting earlier. We had been sending all hand tools like small screws, wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers to European countries and the US. We may be able to finish up with all export orders in hand in a month or so. We really do not know what will happen next.
How do you expect to resume operations at a time when labourers are returning to their native places?
Our 25-30 per cent labour has moved out. We had different sections of skilled labour such as some in grinding and some in tool room. Since the strength in some sections has fallen badly, the entire assembly line gets affected.
Did you try to convince your labour to stay with you?
All hand tool industrialists helped the labour in one way or the other. We paid their wages and provided them advances. Besides, we have also provided them ration. But when they came to know about a free ride home, they did not look back. Since we have all helped them, we expect them to come back soon. Owing to fewer activities as of now, we are not much affected. But as we pick up, we will need them back. By then, they might return.
What is the response of your vendors?
The biggest problem for the hand tool industry is an increase in the price of steel, which has gone up by almost 10 per cent. So, raw material will be costlier and hence, the finished product will also be costlier. Another problem affecting us is that the creditors have dried up. Vendors want us to make immediate payment while they had been earlier allowing a credit period of 30 days. So, things are becoming problematic as of now.
What lessons have you learnt from the crisis?
The spread of the coronavirus and the whole lockdown period came as a wake-up call for all. We hurt Mother Earth and took it for granted and it hit us back. But, the whole situation makes me realise that we must be gentle with nature. It has also become us habitual of interacting via video conferencing.
Do you see the current scenario as a challenge or an opportunity?
Of course, it is a challenge. But it has made me and all industrialists stronger. I can see them more determined to fight back. Sitting at my place for the first time for so long, I got a chance to interact with my family and talk to myself. I have once again set out new goals and analysed my strengths and weaknesses. This will help me in the longer run.