In T.N., the Army scouts for T-shirts and chemical protection

Small and medium businesses are excited about the proposed defence corridor and the business opportunities it promises

Updated - March 25, 2018 06:33 pm IST

Published - March 25, 2018 08:16 am IST - COIMBATORE

Special garments for the Army made at a Coimbatore-based industry in Tamil Nadu. M. Periasamy

Special garments for the Army made at a Coimbatore-based industry in Tamil Nadu. M. Periasamy

If you thought that the Army, the Air Force and the Navy only buy rockets, aircraft and other such expensive capital goods, think again. There are scores of items that the guardians of our borders need and are always on the lookout to buy.

From T-shirts that can keep our soldiers warm in extreme cold weather to the drumstick powder used to make soup, small and medium-scale businesses (SMBs) are eying a business opportunity.

About 24 lakh T-shirts was the requirement of one of the segments of the paramilitary forces last year, says S.K. Sundararaman, who makes special garments like chemical protection suits for the Army.

To cash in on this opportunity, the Centre of Excellence for Industrial Textiles located in the PSG Institute of Technology and Applied Research campus here has been working on students’ projects on garments for extreme cold weather. It is now looking at developing these to specific standards and supplying to the Army.

Evincing interest

With the Ministry of Defence proposing a defence corridor in Tamil Nadu — covering Chennai, Tiruchi, and Coimbatore — SMBs in this region are evincing interest in the sector. “We get mails from non-engineering units too, asking us about opportunities in defence,” says V. Sundaram, president of Coimbatore District Small Industries Association.

Such is the interest in the emerging opportunities that a team from Karur recently met the Director General of the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), Lieutenant General Subrata Saha (retd.) in Coimbatore and discussed how SMBs can supply to the defence sector.

K. Shankar, managing partner of Shree Renga Polymers, who was part of the team, said the major items that Karur units can supply to the defence sector include bed sheets, mats, screens, mosquito nets, bus body building, and drumstick powder.

He added that he has developed a solar-powered gadget that can convert humidity in the air to water, which will be useful for soldiers. He also makes recycled polyester fibre, which can be used to produce pistol pouches.

A bus body builder in Karur for more than three decades, T. Muruganantham too has his eyes turned toward defence. “We have sheet metal and structural fabrication machinery. We can use it for defence requirements,” he says.

The vice-chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry-Karur, Mr. Muruganantham added, “Mr. Saha even asked if we can make unbreakable PET bottles.”

Creating awareness

Lack of awareness has been the stumbling block till now. “So far, units from Karur did not have exposure to the opportunities in the defence sector. We thought it is a tedious process. Now, we are learning about the potential,” said Mr. Shankar.

Lt. Gen General Saha told The Hindu that the defence sector does have a revenue procurement, which is mainly items for sustenance. These can be supplied by the small-scale industries. “The SIDM website lists the entire range of opportunities,” he added.

Who says small can’t be profitable?

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