Lockdown has taken the shine off Othakadai stainless steel units

The Othakadai units are unique in that they rectify damage in vessels procured from Mumbai and send them for sale across the State and in Karnataka.   | Photo Credit: R. Ashok

The usual buzz on Suthanthira Nagar First Street of Othakadai, a place known for its stainless steel industry, is missing for the past six months owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the business has slightly improved after relaxation of lockdown norms, disruption in supply of raw materials from Mumbai, Delhi and Jodhpur and a slack demand for the products have crippled this cottage industry.

Unique industry

There are separate units for tinkering, welding and polishing utensils, employing around 3,000 people. The tinkering units procure stainless steel utensils with manufacturing defects from factories in Mumbai and Jodhpur, rectify the defects and sell them throughout the State and in Karnataka. “This process of rectifying damage in utensils and reselling them is unique to Othakadai,” says N. Pandi, president of Yanamalaiyaan Eversilver Re-Manufacturers Association.

But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the units in Mumbai are yet to resume operation as many migrant labourers who have gone home are yet to return, he says.

Before the pandemic, the Othakadai units used to procure utensils with damage for up to ₹1 crore every fortnight, says B. Sridevi, another manufacturer. “But, now, we are able to get only 25% of it,” she says.

In the absence of suburban railway services due to the pandemic, dealers are unable to reach the manufacturing units to collect the faulty utensils, says Mr. Pandi.

There is also a sizeable number of units in Othakadai which procure stainless steel sheets from Delhi and manufacture utensils. They also face difficulty in procuring the sheets from Delhi owing to the pandemic, says G. Gopu, another manufacturer.

Moreover, there is not much of a demand for stainless steel utensils now. “One of the main reasons is cancellation of temple festivals. Also, the number of utensils bought for wedding ‘seer varisai’ has drastically come down as people do not have money to splurge as before,” he adds.

Jobless and struggling

With fewer orders, hundreds of labourers are out of work and have lost the only source of income for the past six months, says S. Malai Kannan, president of a labourers’ association. “Many small units have shut down and the jobless labourers are struggling to pay house rent and meet day-to-day expenses,” he says.

Though the government has announced that bank loans would be given to industries, none of the units in Othakadai are able to get them, says Ms. Sridevi. “Many have accumulated debts and only banks can help revive the business,” she adds.

Lead District Manager K. Arivalagan says he would hold discussions with the banks in Othakadai in this regard.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 7:01:03 AM |

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