Monday, 19 May 2014

Roof tiles: The first generation of Ceramics in Morbi.

Morbi has been the epicenter of Industrial growth since years. It has a deep drawn history of consistent production of various products in mass capacity. One of the major aspects of Morbi being an industrial hub is the entrepreneurship zeal of the people here.

Ceramics was introduced in Morbi 60-70 years back. It is no news that all ceramics have the basic raw material as clay. So does roof tiles.

Small Beginnings

Initially, the industry started as a back yard production. Most of the now big entrepreneurs were then traditional home based part time businessmen. After working in one or the other factories as employees, they came back home to manufacture roof tiles. The whole family normally used to get involved in production. With no automation to support, most of the work was done manually. These start-ups were very challenging, but led to the development of an altogether new sector.

The processes were so primitive that wet clay was stamped by feet. Every member of the family stamped clay to give in proper mixture as well as grain structure and shape. Cutting too was done by hands. A 250 pcs per day production would have made a manufacturer proud to be one among the best.

As the demand for the product increased, mechanization started playing its role as well. The part timers soon became full time business owners and manufacturers. The first phase of mechanization was the Hand Press, which were easier to operate and also increased production. The capacity went up to 500-750 pcs per shift, which was excellent in those times.

The number of production units too started increasing, given the rise in demand. While most of these tiles were manufactured in southern India, (named Mangalore tiles popularly), Morbi soon came up as a fierce competitor.

The Big Boom

As time progressed, mechanization improved further to provide revolving press. The capacities went up to 7000 pcs per day, which was really great.

Most of the Old brand names of Ceramics today, that have made it big started with Roof tiles. There was a phase when Morbi was recognized with the caption “Naliya, Ghadiya ane Taliya” literally meaning, Roofs (Naliya), Clocks (Ghadiya) And Mosaic Tiles (Taliya: Flooring). The strong demand and easy availability of factors of production motivated other businessmen to invest in manufacturing and there was a vast mushrooming of manufacturers of roof tiles. At its peak, it is believed that there were about 300 small and big manufacturers of Roof tiles.

The Competition

Roof tiles had made their way into the market with astonishing demand. The rural housing as well as some constructions in cities too had the need for roof tiles. The going was one of the best.

With time, every industry was growing as so was India. The change was quiet slow initially, but it had its effect. There were better substitutes starting to make their way into the construction sector. Structured Buildings, cement roof sheets, Aluminium roof sheets as well as RCC roofs became an easy replacement. The better part was, these were more reliable on the long run.

Though roof tiles are much more health friendly to the skin, other replacements became very convenient to implement, had a better long term value and the purchasing power for the same had also increased.

With the advent of Multi stories, Roof tiles’ demand died quickly. Coupled with other replacements and technologies for their implementation, roof tiles faced a very stiff competition.

This discouraged most of the entrepreneurs who slowed down their productions and started planning diversification into sanitary ware or Floor tiles. The panic started taking place and a domino effect soon followed.

A Good Diversification Opportunity

As an addition of insult to injury, came the rising demand in other ceramic products, namely wall tiles and floor tiles. These products offered the technology and mass production advantage. They were capital intensive rather than labor intensive. It made sense to diversify. This opportunity helped the roof tiles manufacturers to fast change their lines of production as well as get into a new product line whose demand was increasing.

These new sub sectors of ceramics also offered much better profitability. They were the new trend products that made every entrepreneur get their plants redesigned to meet the new production requirements, leaving the roof tiles manufacturing altogether.

The mix of danger of demand slide in Roof tiles sector and growing demand and opportunity in other ceramic sectors, led to the downfall of the rule roof tiles industry in Morbi.

At present there are only about 60-70 string manufacturers in Roof tiles sector in Morbi. They too are fighting a battle of survival and there are challenges to the same as well. There have been no new comers for the last 15 years. This gives an indication of the challenge the industry is facing.

Major Challenges

·      Turnover is very low.
·      Cement sheet have become the ideal replacement.
·      Most buildings are multi-storied.
·      Demand is less and is falling fast.
·      New trends are emerging and we cannot keep pace with them.
·      Labor problems are increasing with many other industries coming up and demand for labor going skywards.
·      Automation Technology is not there, forcing manual work, which makes the production unviable.

The Hope for Future

There seem to be evidently some solutions to the slipping industry status. First is the radical revamp in technology to go for automation. This can lead to lowering of costs. The technology exists in China and Italy. However, the demand does not justify the investment in this technology and that too at a radical level.

The colored roof tiles are finding better takers now in the markets. With the trends changing and technology available to provide for this change it is but a small solution to the bigger problem.

Exports have to increase, as some third world countries as well as countries where single storey designer houses are a rage, can pick up a lot of these tiles that too at a good rate.

1 comment:

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