I am penning this piece in the midst of my travels to China, where I have returned to visit the ChinaCoat after a gap of over 5 years. Without getting into the intricacies of the Show in itself, what I want to share is the perception of business in India as seen from the eyes of the global industry, on the evidence of my interaction with the industry here.
While India has already become a global power to reckon with across the coatings supply chain, the last half a year or so has further reinforced this sentiment and if anything, taken it to a new level of strength and influence. This has been on the dint of the increasing ease of doing business in India as also the opportunities in the domestic market, and has been accentuated by the turmoil in China on account of both global trade concerns and the environmental clampdown within China.
The short-term outcomes of this phenomenon has now begun spawning a long-term thinking on the part of both Indian and global players to now look at India as the next growth engine, reducing gradually the over-dependence on China, even while trying to capitalise on the imminent growth in India over the next decade or two. The very simplistic outlook and feedback is that India is exactly where China found itself about 15 years ago, and is poised for an explosive growth. The prevalence of English as a common medium of expression and also the better security in terms of Intellectual Property Rights already alleviate some typical concerns that could be barriers in such a growth story.
However complacency and inadequate preparedness towards this opportunity could render it redundant. My mind goes back to the year 2005 and the textiles industry in the wake of the post-quota and free-trade regime. It was looked upon as a watershed moment for the Indian textile industry where the removal of country-wise quotas for textile and garment exports was expected to benefit our local industry. However, we were unable to increase capacities and develop world-class facilities to support the enhanced demands as a result of which China ran away with the leadership position, and other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam also built significant business for themselves in this sector.
Likewise, both from a raw material perspective, as also the finished formulated product, we must look at optimal capacities, product differentiation as also brand building so that we stand well placed (and yet not over committed) in the face of this new regime of opportunity. I personally look at a 24-month window for our industry to respond and rise to this situation before others also up their game, and China is also able to address their existing problems and bounce back. The time to act is NOW. As a service provider to this industry who mirrors its well being we on our part are also gearing up to capitalise on this wave. The more important question is whether our industry is also gearing up.
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