Paucity of hands: A facility of ‘Premier’ branded pressure cooker manufacturer Sivanesan and Co, at Gummidipoondi Industrial Estate (file photo).
Chennai, April 24:
Amid all the dusty lanes and dilapidated factory sheds there is one thing in the Gummidipoondi industrial estate that catches the eye — ‘workers wanted' sign boards.
Despite the worn-out look, the 31-year-old industrial estate bustles with activity within. The units here are all small and medium enterprises, that collectively produce goods worth Rs 1,500 crore. There is more business to be had, but a shortage of hands is spoiling the party.
Barring a few sick units, about 60, all the others are doing “reasonably well”, says Mr S.N. Balasubramanian, President of the Gummidipoondi Industrial Complex Manufacturers' Association. But, due to shortage of skilled and unskilled manpower, many units are not able to accept fresh orders, he says.
Currently, about 20,000 people work here, but according to Mr S.K. Jain, Managing Director of Jain Rubbers Pvt Ltd, there are 5,000 jobs waiting to be had on any day. This is even to execute the orders on hand. He himself needs at least 500 people. Jain Rubbers is manufacturing rubber products, such as stoppers, for medical and pharmaceutical industries.
The Gummidipoondi industrial estate lies on a 1,400-acre piece of land some 45 km north of Chennai on the Chennai-Kolkata highway — an enviable location, with a railway station and two ports at hand, and access to a clutch of villages — a veritable labour catchment area. But that last advantage is fast drying up, thanks to “several free schemes from the State and Central Governments”.
The minimum wage paid to unskilled entry-level worker is Rs 6,000-7,000, with all statutory compliances such as PF and ESI met. Even commutation cannot be a problem, as the industrial estate is well- connected by road and rail. The Gummidipoondi railway station is just on the other side of the main road, he says.
“We had to stop installation of an additional line in our facility because of non-availability of manpower,” says Mr G.M. Krishnamurthy, Managing Director of Sardev Friction Products Pvt Ltd. The company manufacturers clutch plates predominantly for earthmoving equipment.
Though there are more than half a dozen villages around the estate, no one is willing to come and work. If at all they come, “no one knows when he will bunk off and for how long”, he says. Mr A. Thandapani, Chief Manager (Human Resources) at Mitsuba Sical India Ltd, says the industrial estate could attract workers from Bihar earlier. But not anymore—thanks to availability of jobs in their home towns. Even today there are a number of workers from Odisha and the fear is that they might return too.
Should the industrial complex get enough work force, production will go up at least by 50 per cent, says Mr K. Swamiraj, Director of Abref Private Ltd, and Vice-President of the association. His company manufactures more than 900 tonnes of cordierite kiln furniture a year.
Mr A. Ravi, a labour contractor, brings hundreds of workers from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh in a fleet of trucks every day. He runs the Rs 18-crore A.R. Enterprises, which supplies 3,500 workers — unskilled to engineers — to industrial estates here. Right today, he is on the lookout for a thousand more.
So what's the solution to this? Mr Balasubramanian says the companies are going in for campus recruitment to ITIs and Polytechnic institutes. He believes that setting up a vocational training centre inside the estate will be of much help.