With the ban on sun control films on vehicles, the future for manufacturers and retailers of the accessory looks far from bright. Prince Frederick reports

With a categorical ban on automobile sun control films firmly in place, stakeholders of the industry are peering into a future that appears as hazy as objects behind those films.

From manufacturer to wholesaler and retailer, all players in this Rs. 150 crore industry are stuck with a huge dead stock — sun control films that will remain unsold. “The ban has left me holding Rs. 1.5 lakh worth of sun films. If a retailer, which is what I am, can be hit so badly, just imagine the plight of wholesalers and manufacturers,” says Abhishek Kothari of Calcutta Car Decors. A. Sachin of Global Tradezone, who is an automobile accessories wholesaler, says, “The sun film segment of my business has come to a standstill.”

Hope — and probably ignorance, too — is the reason for some traders still holding on to sun films with lighter tints and higher visual light transmittance (VLT). When contacted, Sanjay Arora, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Chennai, dashes such hopes: “It’s a ban on sun control films. No distinction is made between light and dark films — sun control films of any tint can’t be used on windscreens and windows of vehicles. And the glass should come with specifications that meet the requirements of the Motor Vehicles Act.” The writing is clearly on the wall.

In this context, holding out for a better future does not make any sense. Sachin offers an additional reason: “Sun films with milder tints that allow for 50 to 70 per cent VLT don’t serve the purpose. At best, they will provide only around 25 to 30 per cent heat reflection. As a result, half the buyers of new vehicles will not go in for such films even if they are available in the market. And then, those who would like to install sun films only for the sense of privacy they give will not be interested in them. Instead, many will resort to heat reduction curtains for the windows, when the cars are parked.”

In fact, Abhishek reports a rise in the sale of these curtains. Will this offset the loss resulting from the ban? “No way. These curtains come at around Rs. 200 to Rs. 300. In terms of profits, they don’t compare well with sun films.”

It is easy to figure out that manufacturers are the worst hit. Says Hari Prasad, sales manager (South India) of Classic Stripes, which runs the auto accessories brand Autographix, “Trade analysts assess the loss of business for big manufacturers — such as Garware — to be around 75 per cent. The ordeal of players in the unorganised sector is just as poignant. They import sun films from China in huge quantities and the ban is a catastrophe for them.”

Sachin believes the ban will considerably alter the figures of the automobile accessories segment as a whole. His line of reasoning: sun film is the accessory that crops up first in the mind of anyone that has bought a new car. Hari Prasad agrees with him: “Sun film almost always takes precedence over other accessories.”

Autographix supplied sun films until recently, but never made them its main line of business. A reputed player in the automobile graphics market, it kept sun films supplementary to its main product line. “As the majority of retailers in the auto accessories industry trade in sun films, supplying them helped us gain footholds in numerous retail counters and sell our main products,” says Hari Prasad. “It was coincidence that the ban came around the time we decided to pull out of sun films and concentrate on our core competencies.”

In the months to come, many others may have no choice but to leave the industry.

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