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Open, but for How Long? Noida Factories Worry About Future

Poor demand, lack of skilled labour and reduced output has been worrying factories that have reopened in Noida.

Updated
COVID-19
2 min read

Camera: Abhishek Ranjan

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

“If we are operating at 33 percent, what will the rest of the workers do?” wonders Nikhil Thukral, as he mulls over resuming operations at his family’s apparel factory in Noida. A second-generation businessman, Thukral’s company named ‘Maharana of India’, has been producing PPE kits for the last one month.

But with negligible orders in the foreseeable future, the 35-year-old factory is among 3,000 apparel manufacturing units in Noida now staring at a uncertain future. Adding to his worries are fixed costs given that government guidelines have allowed factories to resume operation, with only 33 percent of the workforce.

“Whether you operate at 33 percent or 100 percent capacity the fixed cost remains the same. If you are working at 33 percent, the challenge of maintaining the remaining workers comes up. We don’t want to fire our older workers but if we are operating at 33 percent, what will the rest of the workers do? It is a big challenge.  
Nikhil Thukral, MD, Maharana of India

Nikhil’s father Lalit Thukral, founder of Maharana of India and the President of Noida Apparel Export Cluster, too, is worried about a weak demand.

He says that “there's lockdown in maximum areas and businesses are down due to coronavirus. All stores, shops and malls in Europe are shut. But, all other buyers have cancelled their orders. Now they are not taking goods and orders have been cancelled. How will we get the money to keep the work going?”

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It’s not just the apparel industry, those in other manufacturing segments are worried about their future. Yash Chopra, who is a partner at Authentic Designers in Noida, says that restrictions on inter-district and inter-state travel has led to a shortage of skilled workers. This, he says,has reduced the production capacity at his Noida factory by over 30 percent.

“You need electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and surface tool room workers for separate tasks. Because not all of these skill-sets are available to us now, despite 40 percent manpower, our actual productivity is down to only 30 percent.”
Yash Chopra, Partner, Authentic Designers

Adding to his problems are strict guidelines applicable to factories with a workforce of more than 50 people.

  • SANITATION OF ALL AREAS IN THE FACTORY
  • COVID-19 TEST FOR 5% EMPLOYEES BEFORE OPENING
  • COVID-19 TEST FOR 5% EMPLOYEES ON RANDOM BASIS EVERY 15 DAYS
  • ARRANGEMENT OF TRANSPORT FOR WORKERS IN RED & ORANGE ZONES

Chopra says that “testing fee of private labs has been fixed at Rs 4,500. Already, we do not have money and this is an additional burden on us. I would request the government to allow us to conduct these tests through ESI or government  hospitals and allot a special time for us or government doctors can come here and conduct random testing.”

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