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Now still Coimbatore is a highly industrialized city though it has lost the dominance: SALZER Doraisamy

Lack of infrastructure can cause havoc to an industrial town- Coimbatore is yet to emerge though talent is abundant.

Coimbatore had emerged as Manchester of south India in early 20 th century  dotted with spinning mills when the  buzzling Bengaluru of recent years was known  for providing paradise for pensioners. Till about 1980 Bengaluru did not have a direct train to the National capital and a primitive airport run by HAL. Now the city has one of the largest Airport in the country. Railway infrastructure was given a big push by the then Railway minister C K Jaffersharif in 1990’s. The city has graduated as one of the leading Metropolitan cities overtaking Chennai. Bengaluru’s meteoric rise came in a matter of 20 years. Ironically Coimbatore at present hosts large number of old age homes.

The Coimbatore Airport expansion project conceived nearly 25 years ago has been put on hold since the district administration could not acquire land for the purpose. While nearby Cochin has a full-fledged International airport, very few international flights take off from Coimbatore.

 The doubling of railway line project from Irugur on the Chennai to Palghat railway line to Coimbatore a distance of hardly 25 kilometers took 25 years to be completed since the Railways was not giving adequate funds. Broad gauge line between Coimbatore to Madurai to provide connectivity to Tuticorin port took nearly 20 years to complete but the project has not been fully commissioned as yet.

With the result major trains running between Chennai and Cochin skipped Coimbatore diverted for completion of doubling project continued to skip Coimbatore even after the project was commissioned. A former Southern railway General Manager went to the extent of stating on record in an official letter to the city’s Member of Parliament that railways will not run trains to insignificant towns like Coimbatore. People of the city are fighting for a direct train to Bengalure for the past fifteen years.

Coimbatore continues to be leader in Textiles Engineering goods, Pumps. The nearby Tirupur town is a leader in Hosiery exports from the country, Sagar Sandesh has attempted to take up the cause of Coimbatore to the political establishment in the wake of reports about the flight of capital from the textile towns to low cost towns of Andhra Pradesh. In this context we have carried the views of leading entrepreneur of Coimbatore Mr Rajesh Doriaswamy.

 Interview with Mr Rajesh Doraiswamy

 Sagar Sandesh: Coimbatore was a pioneer industrial city since the 19th century. But Bengaluru has remained a pensioners’ paradise till 1980's. Now Coimbatore has been pushed to position of being a pensioners paradise  How did this happen : Shocking but true?

 Mr. Doraisamy: Coimbatore has a very special nature in the country.  The entire city has been made up of Private Entrepreneurs only and there has been no Government institution or large Govt investments in this city.  In spite of that, at one point of time, Coimbatore was producing

80% of cotton Yarn

70% of Motors & Pumps

90% of Wet Grinders

Is a Major hub of Foundries & Valves

 Now still Coimbatore is a highly industrialized city though it has lost the dominance.  Now going to the question of being a Pensioners paradise – i personally would call it a bad thing to happen.  If the city can continue to build on its Entrepreneurial reputation by building more industries and also grow as a pensioners paradise, that will be a good thing to happen.

 SS: 30 years ago there was flight of textile mills from Coimbatore to Dindigul belt. Ever since the formation of Andhra Pradesh, we hear reports of flight of capital from Coimbatore to AP, What are the steps TN govt should initiate to stop the flight of capital from the state?

 D: Yes true.  The number of Spindleage has dropped or, say it has not increased in the last decade or so.  The Spinning mills have moved to Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh due to availability of raw material and also closer to the Market.  However I can strongly say that the Ecosystem for running a spinning mill is Best is available only in parts of Coimbatore and surrounding areas.  If only the Govt. can come up with some innovative schemes on Labour front, continuous power supply and also lower Power tariffs, Make it easy for buying private power without the present cumbersome regulations & Cost.

 Another radical measure the govt. can do is to incentivize the employment by giving a portion of the ESI or PF.  Spinning industry is supposed to the largest employing industry in the country after Agriculture.  So any positive here will be a general positive for the whole economy.

SS: What the problems the exporters face in the Coimbatore region. Which is their preferred port for exports and imports Chennai, Tuticorin or Cochin and why?

 D: The preferred port is normally Chennai or tuticorin. 

 SS: Apart from yarn, Engineering goods, hosiery, Motors and pumps which are the other industries where there is growth possibility in the area?

D: IT is a new emerging field.  Foundry, Valves and related industry also has seen good growth in the last 10 years.  Knitwear Garment manufacturing has been growing steadily.  Tirupur exports almost 50% of the country’s Knitwear garments.  (Tirupur exports approx 25,000 cr p.a.  Total Knitwear garment export from country is around Rs 51,000 cr approx.).   With such large share, the support and incentives for the industry has been almost nothing from the state govt. 

 Though Central Govt. has been giving a lot support in terms of Duty Draw back and interest subsidies, there has been not much encouragement from the state government.

With the kind of eco system the City has for Knitwear Garment, Textile in General, Foundry, Valves and Auto components – the state should come up with a 10 year plan to imprive teh infrastructure and further develop the industries. 

 SS: What is the industry doing to expedite acquisition of land for expansion of the airport pending for the past 20 years?

D:  A lot of forums like ICCI – Coimbatore, CII, CODISIA and citizens’ forum have all been working with various authorities to get the Airport expanded fast.

 SS: Irugur Coimbatore doubling project took 25 years to be completed but now most of the trains bound for Kerala continue to skip Coimbatore. What are your suggestions for improving the railway infrastructure in the region?

D: Over the last decade, Coimbatore was mostly neglected in terms of new trains and connectivity.  More Day trains and fast trains to Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad are required on an urgent basis.  Connectivity to other cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Nagpur etc., is also to be increased.

 SS: reasons why the soft ware industry has not take off the way it should have been considering the quality of the work force in the region? 

 D: IT industry came up very well in Coimbatore.  However the cost of Land increased substantially and hence the cost advantage between Chennai/Bangalore to Coimbatore because very less and hence the growth slowed down.  Even now, the two major IT parks, one by Govt of Tamil Nadu and the first one initiated by KG Group has both excellent infrastructure and a lot of MNC have set up shop here.  I am sure IT industry has immense potential and once things balance out in terms of cost, it will pick up again.

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